Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 24th, 2013

It was, of course, a grand and impressive thing to do, to mistrust the obvious, and to pin one's faith in things which could not be seen!


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



The NEC tournament from Yokohama, held this time last year, featured a Swiss tournament followed by a knockout for the eight surviving teams. The quarterfinal matches started with a defensive problem on the very first deal that might look easy — but at the table these things are never as simple as you might think.

In one room, where the auction had petered out in two no-trump, declarer won the spade lead and cashed his other high spade to unblock the suit, before playing a club toward dummy — perhaps making the position easier to defend than was necessary. East made the critical play for the defense when he ducked this trick, won the next club, and cleared the diamonds by playing ace, king and a third round. When declarer won the diamond queen and played a heart, West climbed up with the heart ace and cashed out the diamonds for down one.

Ducking the club might look like an instinctive play, but it was not one that was found at many other tables. For example, when defending three no-trump after a spade lead and a club play at trick two, East in the other room fell from grace by winning the first club and returning a low diamond. Declarer won in dummy and unblocked spades, crossed to the club jack, and cashed out dummy’s spades, then ran the clubs with the aid of the finesse and had nine tricks.

Did you feel compelled to bid by doubling or bidding one diamond – because you had enough points for an opening bid? That is understandable, but when fixed, stay fixed — for the time being. If the opponents come to a stop in spades, you can balance with a double; otherwise, stay silent, and don't make a bad situation worse. Overcalls should be five-card suits or much better four-carders than this.


♠ 8 6
 Q 9 5
 A K 6 5
♣ A 10 8 7
South West North East
Pass Pass 1♣

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 ClimieFebruary 7th, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

In the 2NT case, did south go one off? He took the SAK, played a C to the J and then the CQ. East won, and played 3 rounds of diamonds. On a heart lead, west played the ace and cashed his diamond – but that is only 5 tricks for the defence and the HK is an entry for the spade winners, with CK as well.

Am I missing something here?



bobby wolffFebruary 7th, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Hi Iain,

You are right, meaning something was lost in the translation and either 3NT was also bid in the other room, the board was scored wrong, or some other gaffe occurred.

When compiling reports of tournament hands, it is not uncommon for results to be skewed or for errors to be made by the table recorder, and for us sometimes, in our zeal to report the hand, we sometimes do not check the accuracy of the final score reported to which we only have ourselves to blame.

Incidentally, when this happens in the very important World Championship and could easily and in a timely way, be corrected sometimes the rules stand in the way of blatant wrongs and undeserving teams sometimes go forward, because of lack of equity which should always stand paramount in the rules, as long as other innocent teams are not disadvantaged.

Check The Lone Wolff for at least one such incident.

Thanks for your accurate observation.

Iain ClimieFebruary 7th, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Hi Again,

Thanks for this, although I’m staggered that such things could happen at such a high level. Even with a recording error, there are surely spectators while don’t the players themselves keep score, and could point out such errors? It may not be Lance Armstrong type misbehaviour, but it is still disappointing if anyone tried to hide behind such a mistake.

I think I can sense your disapproval here – my usual pet reference (the complete book of BOLS tips) flags your commitment to bending over backwards in the cause of ethical behaviour. Who on earth would want to be remembered for taking advantage of a clerical error? They would never get the full credit for their seeming success whereas someone who refused to accept such a gain, even if they lost out, is surely worth much more respect.


bobby wolffFebruary 8th, 2013 at 12:14 am

Hi Iain,

I’ll try to make the description painfully brief. In the semifinals of the Rosenblum Cup in Geneva a score from the final 1/4 was scored up as -1100 instead of the real score of -1400. The real losing team was declared the winner until in the middle of the night the real winning team realized its error and that they were actually +1400. It was then reported as +1400 and all the players and captains agreed to it. However, the committee, of which I was not called to serve, although on the appeals committee, ruled to uphold the -1100 since, at least to them, the rules could be interpreted that the protest period had expired. The rules suggested that the protest period had expired unless there was a manifestly incorrect score correction and so the committee decided that the -1100 was not a manifestly incorrect score.

The unjustly enriched team then went on to win the finals and was proclaimed the Rosenblum champion. The winning team was asked, before they started the final, if they wanted to forfeit their semi-final win and they said “They do not”!

Alex AlonFebruary 8th, 2013 at 7:16 am

I was not aware of this outrageous behavior that you describe, i teach bridge and on the first lesson i talk in length about bridge being the purest of games, an honest game and a game that has a set of rules to keep it “clean”. It passels me each time why would a bridge player lie and cheat or as in this case take advantage of a writing mistake AFTER agreeing that it was a mistake…

Iain ClimieFebruary 8th, 2013 at 10:21 am

I remember playing one club session with a really nice regular partner whose concentration tended to lapse late in the evening due to his medication. He was playing the hand, I wasn’t paying attention but then at the end realised he’d revoked. He was a bit put out and annoyed (the tablets again) at first when I pointed this out, and said we had to call the TD, but I apologised for MY error – I knew this could happen so it was my fault as dummy. Opponents were impressed, partner forgave me and we’ve always been welcome at that club (Hitchin BC in Hertfordshire).

Grantland Rice’s comment about “how you played the game” may be worth quoting here.


bobby wolffFebruary 8th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Hi Iain,

The bible and religious message long ago from Mr. Rice, a noted and much honored sports writer, was something very close to, “When the great scorer in the sky comes to mark besides your name, it is not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game”.

Until something better and perhaps, more poignant, comes along, Grantland seems to have said it the best it can be done.

Thanks for the memories.

bobby wolffFebruary 8th, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Hi Alex,

Obviously I totally agree with your teachings.

Thanks for joining in and adding a respected voice to what should be the absolute direction of our off-the-charts great game.