Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Nothing to breathe but air,
Quick as a flash ’tis gone;
Nowhere to fall but off,
Nowhere to stand but on!

Benjamin King

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


The European Championships, which take place every year, just wrapped up last week in Dublin. The championships run on an alternate-year cycle, and the events that have just finished decided who will get to represent Europe in next year's world championships. However, last year's events were open to everyone, and players from all over the world participated.

England’s Gunnar Hallberg is a Swedish expatriate who has won two world titles since moving 20 years or so ago. He participated in the senior events with a Swedish partner of his from a few decades ago, Hans Gothe, and was full of praise for the defense his partner had encountered in today’s deal.

Against Gothe’s contract of three no-trump Wlodzimierz Ilnicki led the club three, and his partner Stefan Cabaj smoothly inserted the jack.

When Gothe took the trick, the contract could no longer be made. Declarer had six diamonds, one club and one heart, but when South crossed to the diamond 10 to lead a spade toward his king, Cabaj went up with the ace and ran the club suit.

In the other room three no-trump made nine tricks on a spade lead. But note that if East wins the club ace at the first trick and continues with the jack, declarer can duck and needs simply to guess the spades to make his game.

Of course, in a perfect world South would have ducked the club jack at the first trick –far easier with all four hands on view!

Your LHO might have jumped to slam with a void, figuring Blackwood would not help. or he may simply be gambling, not wanting to give anything away to the opening leader. Either way, a small-diamond lead looks right. When in doubt, go active against small slams.


♠ 9 7 4
 8 3
 K J 8 5 2
♣ J 7 2
South West North East
Pass 2♣ Pass 2
Pass 6 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


jim2July 16th, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Cabaj seems to have gambled that South did not have a solid seven-card diamond suit and … almost … lost the bet!

On the lead quiz, the Theory of Card Migration suggests that if I led a small diamond, the E-W handsd would be:




GalJuly 16th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

“But note that if East wins the club ace at the first trick and continues with the jack, declarer can duck and needs simply to guess the spades to make his game.”
Or note that the defence can switch to hearts after two rounds of clubs and no spade guess saves declarer. Looks normal for west to overtake the club jack and play a heart. Declarer’s singleton heart is probably no surprise.

bobby wolffJuly 16th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, but look at it this way: Against that slam, TTOCM only cost one trick.

Without trying to be funny, sometimes just jumping to slam, without giving one’s hand away in the bidding (subject to opponent’s dogs who sometimes bark and sometimes timely do not bark) gets the job done and the slam made. At least up to now, and as far as I know, no duck comes down from the ceiling, warning opening leaders to be on their toes and not make a mistake.

One day your ship will come in and all your future opening leads will get golden results. However, having said that, be prepared to look around and plan on seeing a number of harps, clouds and beautiful scenery.

bobby wolffJuly 16th, 2012 at 4:07 pm


Bingo, you certainly suggested the right defense and particularly so when West (opening leader), follows to your Jack of clubs by either overtaking (recommended and of course a switch to the jack of hearts) or even playing his now 5th best club (declarer would probably have covered the jack of clubs with the queen if he had that card instead of the king).

Thanks for your excellent and complete analysis.

jim2July 16th, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Nice Groucho reference!

As you might suspect, the member of Mollo’s Menagerie with whom I identify the most has always been Karapet ….

Bruce KarlsonJuly 16th, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I might stumble into the right play based on very basic reasoning: Experts hate to lead away from aces in NT.

bobby wolffJuly 16th, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Hi Bruce (long time no hear),

Just a word of caution to the wise.

Even experts will lead from aces against NT part scores or games, if their best suit (or longest) happens to be headed by an ace.

However, your advice does directly apply to experts almost never leading away from an ace against a suit contract unless, in rare cases, the strength in the led suit figures (strongly) to be in dummy whereupon declarer may not guess how to play that suit correctly.

Bruce KarlsonJuly 17th, 2012 at 12:23 am

I have read that experts will go to great lengths to avoid leading away from an ace at 3 NT. Obviously I am reading the wrong stuff!!! Thanks. Always read it and usually enjoy the back and forth although it sometimes becomes too granular for the great unwashed. I am happy to note that lots of experts and beyond retai a great sense of humor. No point in living without one…

bobby wolffJuly 17th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Hi Bruce,

Because of your comments, I am dropping my Post Toasties from my breakfast menu, stopping my weekly bath from my agenda and furthermore, do you call this living?.