Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Opinions cannot survive if one has no chance to fight for them.

Thomas Mann

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


After the teams medals were settled at the 1st World Mind Sports Games in 2008, there were further events to occupy the Juniors — a Pairs Championship and an Individual. This hand is from the Pairs, and not many pairs reached slam.

More often than not, if there is a choice of fit, contracts — especially high-level ones — play better when trumps split evenly. This hand is an exception: Six spades, a 5-4 fit, is the place to rest, not six hearts — the 4-4 fit.

After Radu Nistor and Bogdan Vulcan of Romania had landed neatly in their best contract, West led the diamond ace — nothing else is better. Nistor ruffed in hand, then played a low spade to the queen, whereupon the 4-0 break came to light.

With no possibility of 13 tricks, declarer needed to secure 12. There would be no problem if hearts broke 3-2, but, if possible, he had to guard against a 4-1 or 5-0 break. There were two straightforward chances — clubs might be breaking 3-3, or the hand with four or more hearts also held four or five clubs.

So, Nistor’s next step was to duck a club. Back came a diamond, which Nistor ruffed with the jack; then he drew the rest of the trumps by cashing the king, finessing the nine, and cashing the ace.

At this point he played dummy’s last spade, which squeezed East out of his heart or club guard, and so the slam came home.

The two-heart call is forcing for one round since your cue-bid set up a force until a suit is agreed uppn. Over this bid it looks sensible to invite game by raising to three hearts; this is natural and invitational. If your partner passes, you surely won't have missed game.


♠ A Q 9 8
 Q 9 7 2
 8 2
♣ K 5 4
South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 2 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


David WarheitMay 29th, 2012 at 11:06 am

Sllight misstatement at the end: the ace of spades was dummy’s last spade. It is interesting to note that declarer could have cashed the king of spades at trick 2 and still succeeded on exactly the same line.

bobbywolffMay 29th, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Hi David,

Yes, of course you are correct in your analysis.

When your robust trump suit includes the four top honors and also the nine and the eight (with the four card holding in dummy) which tends to ward off the bogeyman (in case of a backward finesse necessary against all four of the elusive trumps with RHO, instead of LHO) at least some flexibility is present instead of sometimes the horror of every suit behaving the worst it can be.

Again, keep in mind that the above is a real hand, played in an important championship tournament. It calls to mind a statement once made to me when I was still in my youth but enamored with my adventure with bridge. At one remembered moment I proclaimed to, who at that time, was a very good and experienced player, “I made very few mistakes during this particular session” whereupon my sometimes mentor replied back to me, “I think you meant to say that you made very few mistakes during that particular session that YOU KNOW OF”.

Alas, I suspect he was right and his admonition lives on for others to learn and therefore benefit.

angelo romanoMay 29th, 2012 at 6:44 pm

What if West leads the club Q ? I think you have to duck it!
It could be a beautiful problem: “which side do you take the lead ? A) in the dummy B) in the hand C) other”

bobbywolffMay 30th, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Hi Angelo,

My guess, in order to arrive at the same squeeze ending, the declarer has to duck the first club, if the queen of clubs is the opening lead. However to do so, risks going set at trick 2 with a club ruff by East and furthermore from declarer’s viewpoint, all that needs to happen to make the hand is a normal heart break (or some 4-1 breaks) and nothing worse than spades 3-1.

The above makes the club duck daring instead of the foolhearty designation which would be given if one now suffers the setting club ruff.

Our game sometimes tempts us into going for the dramatic instead of what appears in neon in front of our face, but, being a bridge columnist, I like that feature since it gives my ilk more to write about.

What you are trading on is what bridge lovers and good analysts besides, thrive on, discussing the many what ifs present in hands which are both close to making and/or going set. It is indeed a beautiful part of our off-the-charts game, but for some, it becomes tiresome to spend so much mental energy trying to play double dummy and, of course, learn while so doing.

I appreciate your inquisitive approach and wish you happy hunting. To answer your specific question and without spending much time thinking, it would appear more flexible to win the second club in dummy, if I decided to go for that route to success.