Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair.

Thomas Nash

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


In this deal, from the 2002 European Championships, Peter Schaltz, South for Denmark, ended in four hearts on the auction shown.

After the lead of the diamond king, taken by dummy’s ace, declarer played a trump to the jack and ace. Norberto Bocchi cashed his diamond queen and continued with a third, letting Duboin ruff in with the heart queen to promote the setting trick in trumps via an uppercut.

In the other room, after the same opening, although North-South identified their heart fit, the Italians chose three no-trump as their final contract, played by North, Lorenzo Lauria.

East led the diamond 10, West played the queen and Lauria ducked. North won the diamond continuation and played a heart to the jack and ace. He won the third diamond and led another heart, allowing East’s queen to hold. As East had no diamond to return, Lauria ended with 10 tricks. The critical moment in the defense was that on the third diamond, East had to discard his heart queen, and that would have left declarer without resource.

Curiously, if West ducks the first diamond (normally sound technique in these positions), Lauria can always make the hand. He wins cheaply, leads a heart up, and East cannot unblock his queen — or West later gets endplayed in diamonds to concede a second heart trick. And if East plays low on the first heart, declarer puts in the jack, wins the second diamond, and ducks a heart to East’s bare queen, as happened at the table.

The choice here is between a simple preference to two diamonds, which understates your values while insuring the plus-score, and the aggressive call of two no-trump. The no-trump call is my choice, while the rebid in diamonds would be an underbid, but both are better than rebidding the hearts, which would guarantee six or a better suit than this.


♠ Q 6 5 4
 K J 9 7 2
 8 6
♣ A 6
South West North East
1 Pass
1 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 ClimieJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 11:34 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

A small extra point here – against 3N East could play the HQ on the first round of the suit after declarer has won the second diamond. Declarer now has to duck to stop West having another H entry.


Iain Climie

Iain ClimieJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 11:40 am

PS As the play went vs 3NT east dozed off – the HQ is no use regardless of the H10’s location and she could be a hindrance.

Patrick CheuJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Hi Bobby, think north’s hand being 4333 and xxx in hearts, three no-trump is quite a good contract,diamonds AJ9.If west has KQ10xxx diamonds, the ten diamonds is still the correct card cos west has only one certain entry.I concur with two no-trump in Bid with The Aces, as it is a similar problem,that I once upon a time sent!Best Regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, after Lauria’s initial duck, East, as you deftly pointed out, should rise with the queen of hearts, enticing declarer to swallow it with the king, to his ultimate demise.

However, can declarer be severely faulted for falling for that ruse. Suppose North would also have possessed the jack of spades to go with his ace and king. He would then be delighted to cover with the king of hearts knowing now he had his nine tricks, 4 spades, 1 heart, 2 diamonds and 2 clubs and partner, particularly ones who have neither the manners nor the expertise to already have figured what partner was trying to do, might then chastise his partner for making it so easy for declarer and why wouldn’t he make it more difficult for him by playing low instead of the queen?

East then, might have thought this to himself rather than to admonish partner, “Better to remain silent and thought a fool, then open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”.

We have all heard and probably experienced such conversation, but, as you have often expressed words to the effect that you left have left your “A” game at home sometimes and, in the heat of battle (which, when playing against a great declarer, occurs often) is more difficult than it seems away from the table to think as fast as is necessary and in a tempo which does not give the show away.

All the above, tends to make matchups between top players worthy of spectating and makes writing about them very worthwhile to those who seek mind concentration together with the experience of figuring out exactly what is involved.

Why early schooling involving these types of mind challenges food for a lifetime, is beyond me and much of Europe, together with now China and its 200 million eligible students, have made giant leaps in teaching what amounts to be simple numerate logic and fast thinking.

Not every child is equipped to compete in such a task, but for those who are (more than one would think) is, at least in my opinion, the single most important mind exercise any youngster can experience and will cause the mind to develop in a very positive way which encompasses much more than the playing of bridge, but rather the logic of what intense concentration will bring to almost every important endeavor requiring fast, accurate and thorough, thought.

bobbywolffJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Hi Patrick,

Obviously, Lauria’s play of ducking the first diamond (when 3rd seat has not seen fit to duck it), while not 100% now guaranteeing 2 diamond tricks, at least, inferentially is close to it at 99.9%).

I do agree with 2NT with the BWTA hand. Again, for the umpteenth time, bridge is not anywhere near an exact science, particularly so in the bidding and while no one can be sure whether a NT game will be a decent contract, or even have any chance against the proper defense (depending on the upcoming dummy), sometimes the unknown hand partner may have will fit well, making 9 tricks in NT even likely if not laydown, so this is where “running to daylight” (seeking the game bonus) should become paramount in an aggressive player’s quiver, so on with it and let the devil take the hindmost.

Iain ClimieJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Hi again Mr£ Wolff,

Many thanks for the detailed thoughts and there is also a slight error in my analysis – suppose declarer in 3NT had H10x and decided (oddly I admit) to lead a small H first – play the HQ then and you look very silly indeed. Of course it would “never” happen – unless North was a beginner and East found the expert defence to help his partner with HA108(x).


Iain ClimieJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 5:51 pm

PS I’ve seen a variant on the poem saying “Beauty is but a flower which age will wither then devour”. Even speaking as a person nearer the gorgon end of the scale (please can I lose my looks) it is stilla touch depressing. Just don’t watch the first few minutes of the film “UP” if you need good cheer for 2013.

bobbywolffJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for all the candid history

It seems that the violence in movies and especially on very popular shows currently on TV, are depressing enough without graphically depicting the details of such goings on.

Undoubtedly what is shown for public consumption is popular and attracts viewers, but what happened to the romance of yesterday in both movies and early TV which emphasized innuendo and anticipation rather than shocking reality.

I will take your advice and not see “UP”, although movie going has basically stopped for me, because of my greatly impaired hearing.

Although significant technical advances and special effects have undoubtedly enabled, subject matter has, IMHO, more than offset that gain with the unnecessary uncensored gore and/or pornography seemingly always presented.

Iain ClimieJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Actually “UP” is a kids film – but it has a heart-rending first few minutes although it perks up later and finishes optimistically. I just caught the start of it the other day and found it too close to home. Ouch!