Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 10th, 2012

As with the Stream our voyage we pursue,
The gross materials of this world present
A marvelous study of wild accident.

William Wordsworth

South North
Neither ♠ A 5 4 2
 10 3
 A Q 9 3
♣ K J 3
West East
♠ 10 9 6
 J 8 5 4
 J 6 4 2
♣ 10 2
♠ 8 7 3
 Q 9 7 6
 8 5
♣ A 9 8 6
♠ K Q J
 A K 2
 K 10 7
♣ Q 7 5 4
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1♠ Pass
2* Pass 2♠** Pass
3 NT Pass 4 Pass
4 Pass 5 NT Pass
6 All pass    

*18-plus HCP and three-card spade support

**Four spades, 11-plus HCP


Today's deal shows that even experts (and especially those playing complex systems) can have expensive accidents. In this deal from the 2011 Cavendish pairs championships, North and South disagreed about whether the four-diamond call followed by five no-trump — to pick a slam — suggested four diamonds or five. Put me in the camp that says four, though perhaps North could have bid five no-trump over three no-trump to avoid that problem.

In six diamonds declarer Alex Smirnov misguessed the trump suit, naturally enough, and that was a double disaster since the field had generally been restrained enough not to reach slam. (Some players had quite sensibly opened the South hand a 15-17 no-trump to stay low.)

Zia Mahmood was not one of the cautious Souths. He and Bob Hamman bid to six no-trump. Zia won the low-heart lead (best for the defenders, else a squeeze develops) and knocked out the club ace, East winning to return a low heart. Now the timing for the double-squeeze had gone, but Zia simply cashed off the spades from hand, led the diamond 10 to the diamond queen, then took the spade ace and club queen. At this point he decided that the opponents had been telling the truth in hearts, so the suit was 4-4. Since West was known to hold precisely three spades and two clubs, he had four diamonds. So Zia crossed to the diamond king and finessed in diamonds for 12 tricks. Five pairs made the no-trump slam; two went down.

I think the choice between one spade and one no-trump is closer than it might appear. With bad spades, only a 4-4 pattern, and a good stop in the unbid suit (clubs), I think one no-trump is the more descriptive call. You can always find spades if partner has enough values to invite game by using new minor or checkback Stayman.


♠ A 5 4 2
 10 3
 A Q 9 3
♣ K J 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass

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