Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 4th, 2013

In the newspaper office — who are the spooks?
Who wears the mythic coat invisible?

Carl Sandberg

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


The bridge press has an association, the IBPA, and I came across today's deal in an IBPA bulletin from a tournament 30 years ago.

Against six clubs West led the spade jack, and declarer’s normal approach was to take this with the king and play a trump; down one against the cruel trump split.

Whatever declarer does, West will score two club tricks, sooner or later.

However, one player took the spade king and then crucially played the diamond jack to the ace and ruffed a diamond before playing a trump. The timing had now been corrected to give him a chance to make the contract. When the bad trump break came to light, declarer, in dummy with the club king, decided to play West for three cards in each of the side suits. (His choice would have been to play West for two spades, three hearts and four diamonds, but East’s decision to pitch a diamond on the first club pushed him in favor of the correct decision).

South ruffed another diamond low in hand and cashed the heart and spade winners ending in dummy. Now he had reduced to an ending where dummy had the doubleton club jack and the diamond king, South and West their three highest clubs.

Remarkably, when South ruffed the diamond ace with the club queen, West’s sure second trump trick had vanished. Whether he overruffed and led into the club tenace, or underruffed, and then let the club jack score in dummy, he could take only one further trump trick.

If you play negative doubles it is important to agree that any time you pass as responder then double a natural call at your next turn, it is geared toward penalties not take-out. It suggests a trap pass of one heart here, since a penalty double was not available. So pass, and plan to lead a top heart if the auction ends here.


♠ Q 8 4
 10 9 7
 A K 8 7
♣ K J 5
South West North East
1 1 Pass 1 NT
Pass Pass Dbl. 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 18th, 2013 at 9:45 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

South did well but was he slightly lucky in turn? If east held a singleton CA and 6 diamonds, then a diamond back at trick 4 would have scuppered his
chances when everyone else made it!


Iain Climie (testing from a winter wonderland – we’ve got a good snowfall at least by uk standards)

jim2January 18th, 2013 at 12:50 pm

West also could have held:

S J10972
H 8543
D 6
C 1086

Nonetheless, the absence of a diamond lead probably reduces the chances that West has a singleton diamond.

I confess that if I had played this hand that way and saw that it had been printed, I would have secured a dozen copies and hung one mounted and framed on a wall in my abode. I can see it now: every person would inevitably find him/herself seated within sight of it during each visit. If they failed to make mention of it, I would stand near it.

I might even arrange for a spotlight to be on it, perhaps triggered by motion. It would be a small and tasteful light, of course, no more than 300 watt or so ….


John Howard GibsonJanuary 18th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

HBJ : What a hand….what a player….it’s almost like a trump coup of a kind with a throw-in to boot. Running out dummy’s side suit winners and trumping in to reduce declarer’s own trump holding, before the masterful ruff of the diamond Ace with the club queen was brilliant.
How some players envisage the end game like that is truly a hallmark of class.

bobbywolffJanuary 18th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Hi Iain, Jim2 and JHG,

“Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the snow is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”.

“Well what do you know, she smiled at me in my dreams last night, my dreams are getting better all the time”. You need to move your mounted masterpiece into your bedroom so you could do just that”.

“You’re the tops, you’re the coliseum, You’re the tops, you’re the Louvre museum”.

However the group thinks about this coup, even noting the possible realistic pitfalls, a farsighted talented declarer may (and often does) prepare for an unexpected bad break, by putting nuts away for the winter.

After all, if clubs break, even Mrs. Guggenheim might make it, but, with this break, only you would, by performing tricks (or if you will, magic) with trumps.

And even more important, who would be interested in reading about this hand if trumps break?

Patrick CheuJanuary 18th, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Hi Bobby, a minor point perhaps, the number of times when trumps do not break,the hand with four trumps seems to have 4333 shape.Declarer can often play for this shape unless there is bidding by the opps to prove otherwise.Best regards-Patrick.

Patrick CheuJanuary 18th, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Hi Bobby,in BWTA, if East did not bid one no-trump,opener will ‘automatically’ reopen with a double on this hand,unless he has a hand with heart honours.This way responder can pass it for penalty if he held good hearts or bid one notrump(5-7)with a heart stop,presumably.

bobbywolffJanuary 19th, 2013 at 1:11 am

Hi Patrick,

It is far from automatic to reopen a minimum opening bid, when LHO bids a suit and it goes pass, pass, back to the opener, especially when opener holds three cards in the overcaller’s suit. My preference is not to reopen, but while wrong every now and then, the gain by passing seems, at least to me, to outweigh bidding.