Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Men of genius do not excel in any profession because they labor in it, but they labor in it because they excel.

William Hazlitt

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


This column attempts to comb the civilized world for bridge deals to titillate the readers. Today's comes from a South American championships, where Diego Brenner (a Brazilian now living in Spain) and Agustin Madala (an Argentinean living in Italy) were playing together. Truly a cosmopolitan line-up!

Agustin and Diego are not a regular partnership but they are both inspired card-players, and Madala –who is still a junior — may well become the strongest player in the world in the next decade. He currently plays with Norberto Bocchi on the Italian squad, and is capable of ingenious flights of fancy. As witness today’s deal – where declarer was none other than Marcelo Branco (the only player ever to win two world pairs titles with different partners).

Against four spades the lead was the heart ace. When this card held the trick, Madala switched to a club; dummy played the 10 and Diego won the second trick with his king. Now Brenner returned a heart, and declarer, Marcelo Branco, ruffed with the spade eight. On this trick Madala followed unhesitatingly with the heart king!

Now, please sit in Branco’s chair… If he took the trump finesse and lost the lead to East, the danger hand, that player would be able to return a heart to give his partner a ruff with the missing trump honor. So Branco played what was the best percentage line – in abstract – in the trump suit. He cashed the spade ace, and now could no longer avoid losing two trump tricks, for one down.

Double by you is card-showing with the emphasis on take-out. You hope partner will produce three-card heart support, but if he bids two spades or three clubs you should probably pass and hope he can make it. You expect partner to have a minimum hand if he has any extra shape at all, since otherwise he would not have passed at his previous turn.


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


John Howard GibsonDecember 19th, 2012 at 9:40 am

HBJ : Hi there again.
I miss be missing something ? After the heart Ace and the club king all declarer needs to do is ruff small. Why ? Well West surely has more than two hearts and certainly not AK doubleton. If he had than surely the king would have been led at trick 1.
Now repeated play on spades brings home the contract ( even more so if the heart king was jettisoned at trick 3).
This play of the king has the the hallmarks of a huge bluff or the misplay of a critical card.

Shantanu RastogiDecember 19th, 2012 at 11:36 am


If Spades are 3-1 with East having singleton honour and hearts are 5-2 with West holding AK then declarer’s line of play is correct as if declarer finesses in Spades then West’s honour can be promoted by East playing hearts. But you are correct declarer should ruff the second heart small and then decide on line of play. Double dummy if declarer goes up with club Ace and discards a club on fourth diamond (if west ruffs) he would also make his contract.



Lurpoa BegijnDecember 19th, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Beautiful !

jim2December 19th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Diabolical defense by Agustin Madala!

I would not be at all surprised if it were Marcelo Branco himself who spread the word about this hand.

bobbywolffDecember 19th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Hi HBJ, Shantanu, Lurpoa and Jim2,

Thanks for all your comments.

In much of the world, perhaps more than 50% of it, the ace is led from ace, king with the then advantage of the lead of the king denying the ace. Of course, with the singleton ace plus the decision to lead it, hoping for ruff(s), that speaks for itself.

While bridge genius often refers to a lightning fast mind, attuned to making quick accurate decisions, often designed to fool declarer (or sometimes while being declarer, to upstage the defense), it also includes superior analytical skills as well as consistent bidding and playing qualities without error (or almost, since bridge is so very difficult).

Marcelo Branco, the declarer, ducked the club since West may easily be leading from the king and, if so, Branco might have needed to duck the ace in dummy in order to make the hand.

Jim2 is also likely to be right since Marcelo, being the great player he is, not to mention being from the same continent Agustin was born in, probably was very proud of his great falsecard of the heart king. Remember, from Augustin’s viewpoint, Marcelo had not shown up with any major honors in spades, hearts, nor clubs, so what else could declarer have but all the top diamonds (all with a mind grasping that information with warp speed).

Yes, we know that life itself can be beautiful, but Agustin has now proven that the human mind, when trained to totally concentrate on what he is doing, is capable of mighty things.

It is a pleasure for me to report these kinds of plays, as seldom as they may occur, but when they do, it is proof what is possible for the human mind to produce.

Thanks again to all four of you for your comments, interest and deserved kudos.