Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Victory comes late,
And is held low to freezing lips
Too rapt with frost
To take it.

Emily Dickinson

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


The final deal from last year's European Open Championships was played by Vitas Vainikonis in four hearts. Consider it first as a single-dummy problem. You sit South, and no doubt when dummy comes down, you regret not doubling four diamonds. But you have to make the best of the spot you are in.

The good news is that when the defenders lead three rounds of diamonds, West has six and East can only ruff in with the heart six, not the jack. You overruff and draw the remaining trumps in two rounds. Now what?

You know that West has six diamonds and two hearts together with very short spades. The auction strongly suggests that he has five clubs, given East’s revealing pre-empt. So East has only two clubs, making the club finesse unnecessary — if East has the club queen, it is dropping.

Therefore, you cash the club ace and king, then lead a spade to the jack; East must duck his ace or it falls on empty air. Next you lead a spade to the king, and East must duck a second time, since if he wins he is immediately endplayed. With only spades left, he will have to play into the tenace.

But now you exit with a club. When West wins the club queen, he must give you a ruff and discard with the lead of one minor or the other, and your last spade goes away. Contract made!

It looks natural to bid two hearts now, but bear in mind that your partner should have shape and an opening bid at least. You should instead compete to three hearts immediately (only a fractional overbid). Your initial pass limited your high cards, and the fact that you are jumping (rather than cue-bidding ) means that your partner should work out your hand-type as shapely rather than based on high cards.


♠ J 6 2
 10 9 8 7 5
 6 5
♣ A J 3
South West North East
Pass 1♠ Dbl. 2

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 21st, 2012 at 11:29 am

Feeling literary today!

The true hero of this hand (in the Robert Darvas – Right Through the Pack – sense) was the 9S.

And all it did was — a la John Milton in his sonnet “On His Blindness” — “Those also serve who only stand and wait.”

Or, the hand could be thought of as “The Tale of Two End Plays,” in which East avoided one but that meant West could not.

bobby wolffJuly 21st, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Hi Jim2,

Those also serve who only reminisces and reminds us of the romance which bridge continues to represent.

Thank you Jim for supplying us with both the melody and the lyrics to prove it.

Counting, counting and counting still. And then executing.

David WarheitJuly 22nd, 2012 at 2:53 am

“Strongly suggests” does not mean that east is 100% to hold all 6 spades. Therefore, after drawing trump, south should lead a spade to his jack. If west shows out, then continue as you suggest. But if west has a spade, then east has 3 clubs, and south should take the club finesse.

bobby wolffJuly 22nd, 2012 at 6:38 am

Hi David,

While acknowledging your suggested improved line, it is a moral certainty that East has all six spades. If East had only 5 spades to the ace he would never have jumped to 2 spades, especially when his RHO doubled 1 diamond, nor would he have only 4 clubs to no top honor and volunteered 3 clubs over his partner’s preempt.

I fully realize that your play would be technically superior, but it is doubtful it would be worth mentioning since it is off-the-charts impossible and consequently might be confusing for less than top-level analysts to even consider providing for it. Bridge is tough enough, even without perfection expected.

bobby wolffJuly 22nd, 2012 at 6:41 am

Hi David (again),

In the 5th line of the first paragraph I should have said West having only 4 clubs………

Beat you to it.