Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.

Vilfredo Pareto

West North
Both ♠ 5 4 2
 A K J
♣ A J 9 8 5 3 2
West East
♠ A Q 6 3
 A K Q 10 5
 7 5
♣ K 7
♠ J 8
 J 9 8 6 3 2
 Q 6
♣ Q 10 6
♠ K 10 9 7
 7 4
 10 9 8 4 3 2
♣ 4
South West North East
1 2♣ 4
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass
4♠ Dbl. Pass Pass
5 All pass    


The fifth session of the 2011 Cavendish began with Levin-Weinstein (who had won the title in three of the last four years) having what seemed like a nearly insuperable lead over the pack. The tournament had thus far featured wild deals, but the first three deals of the final session were quiet. Not so for the fourth.

At one table an American international player sitting North made the mistake of overcalling two clubs, then, after his opponents had reached four hearts, reopening with a bid of five clubs. He was doubled there, and the defenders collected an easy 500 — not bad, since four hearts had no play at all because of the defense’s club ruff.

Of course it was possible for North-South to do better than defend four hearts or go for a big penalty. Look at what happened to the eventual winners. Kit Woolsey, South, heard his partner, Fred Stewart, bid two clubs, then double four hearts for takeout.

He removed to four spades and, when doubled by West, ran to five diamonds. Nobody doubled that contract — which was just as well, since it proved to be unbeatable! After a top-heart lead, Woolsey ruffed in dummy, played the club ace, ruffed a club, then crossed to a top diamond and ruffed another club. East followed suit, while West could not overruff the diamond 10. Then declarer drew the last two trumps, ran the clubs, and had 12 tricks for a remarkable plus-620.

There are two reasons to bid just one heart and not jump to two hearts. The first is that with bad hearts and scattered defensive values, you are unsuitable for a pre-empt. The second is that using a jump by a passed hand as weak when you did not pre-empt initially seems a poor use for the call. I prefer to use it as fit-showing — five decent hearts and at least four clubs with a maximum pass.


♠ J 8
 J 9 8 6 3 2
 Q 6
♣ Q 10 6
South West North East
Pass Pass 1♣ Dbl.

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMay 23rd, 2012 at 9:47 am

Dear Mr. Wolff,

While West judged well not to double 5D, how much did the double of 4S cost in practice as a pass would have been profitable?

Perhaps one way to improve matters is to use redbl (of the takeout double of 4H) to show some defence and pass to show none – always noting that you might have to play there! Perhaps vice-versa is better although such judgement calls are always tricky. On the other hand, perhaps this case was just isolated very bad luck for EW and there is no need to worry unduly – any thoughts?


Iain Climie

Ernie HammMay 23rd, 2012 at 2:33 pm

In the last paragraph should ‘Then declarer drew the last two trumps’ be ‘Then declarer drew the last trump’ ?

RogerMMay 23rd, 2012 at 2:37 pm


Each defender should have one at that point.

bobbywolffMay 23rd, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Hi Iain,

Even if you flew into the swamp as did hero, Luke Skywalker, did in the series of “Star Wars” to counsel with 900+ years old Yoda and his major was bridge instead of life in general the advice you would have been probably given by the old guru would have been, “There are no shortcuts to success in bridge, only players with excellent judgment and they, in turn, are wrong a large percentage of the time, especially when playing amongst their peers”.

On this hand, if the queen of diamonds would have been in the short club defensive hand (even with exactly the same distribution) down would have been 5 clubs to give a significant swing the other way instead of to the eventual winners. North at both tables was aggessive with one deciding on his own clubs and the other enlisting help in the eventual trump strain which although traveling through a marked inferior suit (but not lingering there), either daringly (since it worked) or foolishly if it hadn’t, only proved that dame fortune was very much evident.

All I can offer is to say that this real life Cavendish column hand and its result only proves that faint heart rarely wins important tournaments and regardless of system, specific opponents or other mundane factors, sometimes luck is a lady and other times not.

Please keep your philosophies coming since discussion is very much a plus factor in a better understanding of our often quixotic game.

bobbywolffMay 23rd, 2012 at 2:54 pm

To Ernie and Roger,

Since declarer, after the opening lead, still had a losing heart left (after ruffing in dummy with the jack) and in order to establish the clubs had to ruff the second one with the 8 in order not to be overruffed was lucky with the location of what turned out to be the benign queen of diamonds which was with the long (3rd) club. This enabled the diamond ace to be the entry for all those contract making clubs.

To the victor go the spoils and my guess is that this column hand is likely Kit Woolsey and Fred Stewart’s all-time favorite hand but if not, I’d like to see which one is.

Iain ClimieMay 23rd, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Thanks for this especially as I’m a star wars fan (or big kid to quote my wife). In terms of bad luck or bad judgement, I goofed last night though at my lower level.

At game all after 2 passes, partner opened 1H and RHO bid a strong natural 3C. Holding SA109x HJ9xx DQJ10x Cx I felt he wouldn’t have wasted club strength so 4H was the pressure bid instead of 3H even though 4441 should be a tipoff not to. As he had Sx HAKQ10x Dx C1098xxx (he plays strong 2s) he agreed but not in a good way. Soft defence and trumps 2-2 let him set up the clubs (which were 6-0) for a very undeserved 620. No justice, just like the column.

Iain Climie

Iain ClimieMay 23rd, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Sorry, “… Just like the column hand.”
at the end. The column is fine!

David WarheitMay 24th, 2012 at 2:25 am

Everyone seems to assume that south was super lucky in finding trumps 2-2, clubs 3-2 and the hand with the 2 clubs not having the queen of diamonds, but there are other favorable lies of the opponents’ hands: 1) west has singleton queen of diamonds, and one opponent has king-queen doubleton of clubs, 2) east has doubleton club and doubleton queen of diamonds and either both spade honors or just one but south guesses which one. It’s still pretty lucky, but we’ve all seen luckier.

bobbywolffMay 24th, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Hi David,

Yes, as usual you give an accurate, though somewhat guarded, analysis of the luck involved with being (or choosing, though roundabout, the final exciting contract which made and was the difference).

Like all event changing competitive endeavors, the magic of what happened here was not so much the amount of luck needed (many high-level competitions are decided by such things) such as eagles in golf, half court shots in basketball, Hail Mary’s in football etc., so it really is not the luck involved, but rather the timing which will be remembered for so long by so many, particularly the benefactors, their friends and sadly their close competitors.

To the victor go the spoils is quite often a summation when something out of the ordinary enables a sudden victory and reporters often focus on such occasions. If you believe as I do, that luck over a long career tends to balance out (law of average at work), and random important victories are deserved, whether specific luck intervened or maybe it was just their time in the sun. In any event, bridge lends itself to such experiences and now with the magic of technology the whole world is in close communication and what better than to recount the excitement which bridge creates to, at least for a mind game, rather than for a physical one, to describe it for all who want to share.

Thanks for your pertinent descriptions which add to bridge history, for all to enjoy.