Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 27th, 2012

Human subtlety … will never devise an invention more beautiful or more direct than does nature.

Leonardo da Vinci

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

*Keycard asking

**One, counting the four aces and the trump king (an error)


One of the nicest-played hands I saw all last year was declared by the Italian superstar Giorgio Duboin. Given the East-West cards, six clubs looks somewhat ambitious, but if you bid them up, you have to play them accordingly.

Repeated trump leads will defeat this slam because these disrupt declarer’s entries and force him to rely on the spade finesse. But Duboin reached the slam after a tangled auction, where North miscounted her aces, then moved on over a sign-off.

Still, West gave declarer a chance when he led the diamond jack and East won her ace and returned a heart. Now, Duboin could win in hand, lead a trump to his 10, ruff a diamond, cross to the spade ace, ruff the last diamond, and overtake his remaining club with dummy’s ace to draw the last trump.

Now, on the lead of the diamond king, declarer’s last small heart was thrown (blanking the king) and West had to find a discard. He was down to the Q-8-6 of spades and Q-J of hearts.

A heart was obviously impossible, as declarer would cash the heart king and ruff a spade to dummy to cash the heart 10. However, on a spade discard, declarer simply cashed the spade king and ruffed out the spade queen, using the heart king as the entry for the established spade jack. Well played and a fully deserved pick-up for Duboin’s team.

Your partner has suggested reversing values with the red suits. With a minimum for the auction and no stopper in the other major, just bid three diamonds and let your partner take it from there. A two-spade call here would suggest a spade stopper and a nonminimum, worried about clubs.


♠ J 4 3
 K 4
 8 3 2
♣ K 9 6 3 2
South West North East
1 Dbl.
1 NT 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


Iain ClimieAugust 10th, 2012 at 9:50 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Very nice play by declarer especially the inferential count on the majors. The layout of the minors is clear enough while the heart switch (the 8 I assume) shows hearts are 4-2 or even 5-1. The latter seems contradicted when west throws only 1 heart and then 1 spade but supposing west had started with HQJxxx and S108x but didn’t throw 2 hearts – couldn’t this persuade declarer that spades were dropping at the end when the finesse was right all the time?


Iain Climie

bobby wolffAugust 10th, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes indeed, Duboin needed to guess the ending, but the table action and by whoever the opponents happened to be, apparently were all in favor of the declarer.

While the negative side of World bridge are the have not players who compete vigorously against the best but not yet as close to the standards of either tennis, golf or probably soccer in ability, one day in the far off future (and hopefully sooner) the gap will close with more fierce competition.

Until then great players will continue to “guess” where the cards are (particularly at the death of the hand) much more often than they would against their peers.

John Howard GibsonAugust 10th, 2012 at 1:17 pm

HBJ : The best hand for declarer play I’ve seen in weeks.
The ruffing of diamonds to set up dummy’s trumps and diamond King for pitching away two of his losing hearts….. creating in the process a major suit squeeze on West. Brilliant.
Now if I could play like that I wouldn’t be fannying around writing nonsense blogs on how ZT could take disciplinary control and sanctions a step to far.

Iain ClimieAugust 10th, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Table presence is a huge asset here I suspect. If West discards one heart fairly smoothly then starts squirming horribly over the next card, declarer’s life is a lot simpler. I wonder how often smooth play beats strictly correct play – I remember being bamboozled by Zia many years ago though, partly through trying to keep up. Not a good move!

bobby wolffAugust 10th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Hi JHG and again Iain,

Together you have blended the state of the current worldwide bridge world, together with the table presence which separates the wheat from the chaff.

JHG, please do not underestimate the balance you seek in trying fiercely to halt the abuse of power which so-called administrative bridge tyrants too often try to wield sometimes with so-called Zero Tolerance as its weapon.

I, too, have merely assumed a spectator’s position as I watch the current WBF championships begin to unfold in Lille, France on BBO. Already this morning (and I started to watch at approximately 4AM here in Las Vegas, it now being 7:45AM) I have seen players I do not know, nor probably have never played against, trip the light fantastic on many hands. Although with some obvious misgivings on not being in the player’s mix, I applaud the improvement shown almost everywhere I see.

All the three of us can do is be happy bridge talent is growing, and by bounds and leaps around the world, which, by its very nature verifies the WBF powerful slogan, Bridge For Peace, which with the constant respect bridge players give to their worthy opponents counteracts what is basically lacking in real world relationships.

For my money, nothing is better for overall improving feelings, especially for rival political nations, than to come together at the bridge table and enjoy each other for who they are, how they first love and then play the game, and then the commonality which immediately and inexorably continues to grow.

If we could only bottle those feelings and get the word out to everyone who would listen, hate and war may soon leave the room.

John Howard GibsonAugust 11th, 2012 at 5:44 am

HBJ : As an observer of human behaviour and a person who believes in natural justice I can never accept that when players accuse opponents of cheating ( based on an instantaneous gut response ) that the situations are all the same , demanding the same ZT responses and sanctions.
Each case has to be judged on its merits. The accusations albeit out of order may be true or false , justified or unjustified , measured or vitriolic , polite or threatening. They may be mitigating circumstances which offer both sympathy and support for the accuser , despite his/her reluctance to call the TD. Stress or personality changing side-effects from prescribed medication. Earlier coffee-housing antics or provocation by the cheater perhaps ?
ZT by definition takes every transgression on face value , applying sanctions and punishment in an instantaneous and universal way , seeing incidents only in shades of black and white . Unfortunately , the world is an infinite mass of SHADES OF GREY , required each case to be judged on its unique and particular set of facts. I applaud those who expose cheats and who publicly humiliate them. Yet I condemn those who make false accusations. Therefore, I would always advise victims of any obvious or even suspect wrongdoing to report the facts to a higher authority. Nevertheless , I would have loads of sympathy for someone who temporarily lost it , having been the innocent victim of a shocking highly provocative form of blatant cheating.