Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 16th, 2012

And even the ranks of Tuscany
Could scarce forbear to cheer.

Lord Macaulay

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


Every year at the beginning of March, the English Bridge Union runs their ranked master pairs' events. Whatever your ranking in the EBU's masterpoint scheme, there is a pairs event for you. The highest ranking of these is the Grand Masters Pairs. Today's hand is from that event and shows that sometimes even the least promising suits can be set up to advantage.

With a singleton spade, South had little choice but to overcall two clubs rather than doubling, and now North’s good distribution persuaded him to raise pre-emptively to the five-level.

Apparently several pairs went down in five clubs after a diamond lead, failing to see the possibilities in the spade suit. The correct line of play is to duck the diamond and win the continuation. Now you must play a trump to hand and discard the diamond losers on the heart ace and king. But what next? It is important to see that you need to ruff two hearts and a diamond in the dummy, but do not have the communications to do so without giving up the lead. When you do this, the opponents will surely play another trump, and now you will be a trick short.

After discarding your diamonds, you must play a spade and duck it in dummy. Win the trump return in the dummy, ruff a spade, ruff a heart, and ruff a spade. When the ace and king come tumbling down, you can ruff another heart and cash your spade winners for 11 tricks.

The hearts can wait. Your priority here is to lead trumps to prevent declarer from ruffing his spades in dummy. The typical dummy will contain a small spade or two, and the best defense will consist of keeping declarer from setting up the spades successfully. Whenever declarer plays in his second suit, you should think about a trump lead.


♠ A 10 4 2
 9 6 4
 10 7 6
♣ Q 8 4
South West North East
1 1♠
2 Pass Pass 3
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


Iain ClimieJuly 30th, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

A good example of grabbing extra chances but may I be forgiven a literary intrusion? An earlier part of the poem you quote (Horatius) features the hero volunteering to defend a bridge with 2 companions against overwhelming numbers. He says something like “for how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the houses of his fathers and the temples of his gods?”

Sure enough, somebody (a bridge or possibly poker player, or was it P T Barnum?) said “it is a good way to die but a lousy way to gamble!” I can’t remember who though – any ideas?


Iain Climie

bobby wolffJuly 30th, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Hi Iain,

I am flattered since you, our resident LG (literary guru), have asked guidance from one of your admirers.

I have really no real clues, but do remember (and have previously quoted) two supposedly valid quotes from Americans, although the below possible versions may not be verbatim:

The idea is not for you to die for your country, but rather to let the other guy die for his–General George Patton. (during World War II)

The battle is not always to the strong, nor the race to the swift, but that is the way to bet-Damon Runyon-popular gambler, writer and poet, (about 50 years ago).

And what famous French leader, before the critical battle beginning at dawn, would go council with his soldiers during the night trying to prepare them for the necessity of being off-the-charts brave to honor their beloved homeland? (it seems the above account was detailed by Shakespeare in one of his famous plays).

As Bob Hope used to sing with his theme song, “Thanks for the Memory”.

Iain ClimieJuly 30th, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Hi Again,

Henry V methinks where, on the eve of the battle of Agincourt, the English King checks morale of his men after disguising himself. He finds they are sick, exhausted and expect to be massacred en masse by the much bigger French army, while their leaders will be taken alive then ransomed home. Oops, although the English somehow win (a mix of longbows and French cavalry getting bogged down) but a salutary lesson for over keen leaders.


bobby wolffJuly 30th, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Hi Iain and everyone,

It seems, by the latest London Olympic news that money and sponsorship are conflicting each other, causing much concern among the athletes who needed financial help during their training and secured a sponsor for their glorious endeavor, which they claim is enabling for them to be able to compete, with no other substitute possible.

Trying to repay the individual sponsors of the random athletes has caused conflicting problems among the sponsors of the games themselves causing significant (seemingly impossible to remedy) conundrums which appear ready to be dynamited rather than compromised.

Isn’t this problem similar to only fair playing sponsors or worse. representing countries (with playing requirements required in bridge, which renders Olympic competition (top of the sport) which could be interpreted as knowingly done in spite of being obvious to all.

Of course, some will say it is as necessary as the night following the day, while others will deny that comment as totally ridiculous.

What say the majority, with friendship, self-interest, politics and other corrupting influence left out of the opinion (which may be impossible for many)?

I tried to also submit this important discussion to Bridgewinners, but because of problems with my password am not computer savvy enough to overcome

Iain ClimieJuly 30th, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Hi again (my wife is getting the gag for me),

Interesting points and timely as I believe a team of 3 different expats plus a sponsor were recently the Monaco team at an international event. Bridge seems to be unique as sponsors will hardly make the grade at soccer, basketball, rugby, US football, golf, cricket etc or even at other mind sports like chess.

There have been many recent cases where countries have offered citizenship to top athletes e.g. African runners representing middle Eastern states. It is all a bit dubious although I must admit that South African cricketers taking several years living with our weather before qualifying for England were perhaps acceptable; rushing through Zola Budd at high speed for the 1984 olympics much less so.

Sadly I think money and glory (and TV rights) talk too loudly and it is merely a question of which can of worms you open. Still, bridge hasn’t reached the attitude exposed by sports illustrated magazine some years back. They polled around 100 nearly top-flight athletes and asked if they could take an undetectable drug which would give them a gold medal but would kill them by around 35 (I think) would they take it? Around 95 percent said yes.

At least it puts bridge sponsors in perspective. There have even been cases in the UK where athletes have lost their funding and, presumably incensed, have climbed rankings as a result. Make of that what you will.



bobby wolffJuly 30th, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Hi still again Iain,

Your last comment is both heart rendering, but also rings true as to what it means to do an Olympics version of scaling Mr. Everest.

I also believe that most all humans leave much on the table, rather than climb the heights some of them are capable of climbing.

Bridge, being a game one can play almost all of his life even if he lives deep into his eighties (I’m of course hoping for that) and not lose any of his quick wit and general ability, it makes wonderful advertising for avoiding dementia and while accomplishing that, having great challenges and exciting competition long past what others experience.

Also and even more important, it seems like it lends itself to improving oneself in mind and spirit, if not in body, by not relaxing one’s ability to concentrate and perform. I, for one, would be lost in not being able to play the game I have now played for almost 70 years, and only wish I had 70 more to contemplate.

Seek and thou shall find which to me, means never give up in one’s ability to learn. I appreciate your friendship and one day would look forward to meeting you in person.

BTW, I (just one hour ago) put up a very controversial theme on Bridgewinners, a Canadian site dedicated to reasonably high level bridge and mostly from up and coming players. I expect some flak to the point of strong language, but since I believe what I say, I hope to be tough up to follow up any and every objection I may receive from it.

Always best to you and warm regards,


Iain ClimieJuly 30th, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Thanks for this and I’ll look up the site. I also hope you’ll be playing and writing for many years yet, while I completely agree with your comments on the benefits of bridge – Myrtle Bennett’s spouse was a very rare exception of course.

bobby wolffJuly 31st, 2012 at 12:58 pm

“Bang, Bang you are dead and that should teach you a proper lesson for ruining my evening by mangling that hand” said Myrtle sourly, as she contemplated the bridge shame of it all.

Iain ClimieAugust 1st, 2012 at 4:29 pm

You might even want to do a column one day on THAT hand (I recall it being simple but instructive) and possibly why playing with your spouse requires caution.

I recall one very nice girl at university whom I played with but (I realise now) treated very badly at the table and possibly not well elsewhere; she would probably have been justified in going for the nearest weapon but was too civilised. I hope I’m kinder to partners now and I apologise some 32 years on.

As a very minor nitpick I think the column on Aug 1st should be building a trick in spades not hearts. Well recovered by Sally though.