Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 21st, 2012

No bugle breathes this day
Disaster and retreat!

Thomas Aldrich

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


The line between triumph and abject failure at Board-a-Match scoring is often finer than at any other form of the game. The scoring works like that in pairs but with only two tables in play. You either win or lose the board no matter what the difference in score might be unless the result is an exact tie. In other words, if your opponents make six spades, you win the board for making six no-trump, but lose the board by just the same margin if you miss slam or go down in the grand slam or play six of a minor suit.

In this deal from the 1993 Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams, Al Rand found a way to set a slam contract two tricks when declarer failed to see what was going on.

The bidding had convinced Rand that one of his opponents had a void in clubs, so he led his singleton diamond instead of a top club. Of course a club lead (or even a heart lead, which would have been my choice) makes declarer’s task impossible, but one can understand Rand’s thinking.

Declarer took the diamond lead in dummy and passed the spade nine, which Rand ducked smoothly. Declarer, suspecting nothing, took a second trump finesse, and the roof fell in. Rand took his king and quickly cashed two clubs.

If declarer had read Rand’s mind and gone up with the ace on the second trump lead, he would have taken all 13 tricks. But he wound up with only 10.

Dummy rates to have length in both majors and a weak hand. A trump lead looks sensible as least likely to give away something. A deceptive heart jack might persuade declarer to misplay the suit — and can hardly fool partner dramatically.


♠ Q 9 2
 Q J
 A 10 5 4 2
♣ J 8 2
South West North East
1 NT
Pass 2♣ Pass 2
All 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 WarheitJune 4th, 2012 at 10:14 am

But if west wins the first spade and then leads a high club, he also defeats the contract by 2 tricks. What is so brilliant about making the only play that gives declarer a chance to make his contract?

bobby wolffJune 4th, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Hi David,

From your point of view of results, you are nothing less than 100% correct. However with East doubling (why he doubled will always be a mystery), Al Rand’s strategic duck could have been the only way to defeat the hand and is probably worth a mention, when by doing so only reports an imaginative bridge mind, with an overall plan, at work.

Real life hands, this one being one of those, are usually less contrived than what a bridge author reports, wherein brilliancy may include your requirement of finding the only way to be successful.

There are more, what in bridge slang would be called, napkin players (made up fictional hands) than there are real life dame fortune hands (courtesy of computer dealing), played by full blooded players while actually sitting at a table.

However in bridge reporting there is certainly room for both.

Iain ClimieJune 4th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Hi Gents,

Interesting how bidding styles have changed here, looking at West’s opening pre-empt. If the hand had occcurred last week and West had led a top club, wouldn’t declarer be near certain on the bidding that West “couldn’t” have the spade King as well, especially given the double.

By today’s standards, West’s pre-empt is practically obese, especially at favourable vulnerability. Still, the shock effect of occasionally chucking in a good one may be worthwhile – at least provided partner has a sense of humour about missed 3NT contracts.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffJune 5th, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Hi Iain,

You have said it all, complete with strategy and current style and vital final rejoinder.

Fool the opponents, fool your partner, and leave it up to just luck who bites and pays the price.

Strike up the band to “Luck be a lady tonight”.