Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 15th, 2013

To fear the worst oft cures the worse.

William Shakespeare

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


What would you do with the South cards after a one-heart opening to your right?

In one room the Bulgarian South overcalled one no-trump, and that got his side to the no-trump game.

Against three no-trump West led the heart 10 to the queen and declarer misguessed diamonds, playing low to the king and ace, because he needed his RHO to have the club king and spade queen if he was going to make his game. Back came a heart and South won and cashed one top spade before leading a second diamond. West rose with the queen and the defense cashed three hearts before East exited with a spade, trying to talk South out of the finesse. It didn’t work, and declarer claimed the rest for down one.

In our featured room four spades received the same lead of the heart 10. Declarer, Louk Verhees, won cheaply, cashed one top spade, crossed to the club ace, played a low spade to the 10, drew the last trump, and guessed well in diamonds by playing low to the nine and ace. The defense could cash two clubs, but Verhees finished with 10 tricks for plus 620.

Declarer’s play in diamonds was based on the idea that if the club king was right, he did not mind losing two diamonds; if it was wrong, then this play in the diamond suit was the one most likely to hold his losers to one, since if West had the club king, East surely had the diamond ace.

Your partner has shown a strong hand, typically with four hearts and five-plus clubs. (Assuming you use four-suit transfers, then with a weak or strong hand and just clubs, your partner would transfer into clubs and not use Stayman.) Despite your minimum hand, it feels right simply to raise clubs and hope partner has a diamond control — in which case he will show it, and you are off to the races!


♠ A K 10 7
 A Q
 8 3 2
♣ Q 6 3 2
South West North East
1 NT Pass 2♣ Pass
2♠ Pass 3♣ 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


jim2March 1st, 2013 at 11:55 am

Apologies in advance, Dear Host! Delete if you wish.

It is not well known outside Europe, but the Greater Slobbovian Bridge Federation obtained permission to duplicate the hands being dealt in this contest that day and use them in a side game: the Slobbovian National Championship.

I did not know it either until the arrival of EMTs caught my attention and I (unwisely) wandered over to see what was happening. A heavily be-wiskered man was being wheeled out on a stretcher amidst a bunch of others frantically plying their cell phones. It turned out the afflicted individual was a member of the Lower Slobbovian 6-man team, game time was minutes away, and their third pair had fled as far from the venue as they could during their time off.

I asked what had happened, and was told, “it must have been something he bid.” Or, maybe “ate” — with the cellphones jammed into their beards it was hard to tell. Then another one turned towards me.

“You play bridge, yes?”

“Well, yes. Sort of.”

“Have you ever represented your country in an international match?”


You will do.” At that he turned and bellowed that he was invoking some emergency rule with lots of letters, some of the Roman.

Anyway, that’s how I ended up playing this hand as South.

The bidding was a disaster. It started innocently enough, I thought, when partner (North) first passed, and I had an easy double of the Upper Slobbovian East’s one heart call. North’s double of West’s raise scared the crap out of me. You see, we’d had only a few moments to discuss bidding. “Just make correct bids!” was most of our dialogue. Nearly all the rest was: “Take out my takeout doubles, yes, but never ever EVER take out my penalty ones.”

He had said nothing about responsive doubles! So, which double was this?

In a frightened funk, I passed, and two hearts doubled became the final contract.

What to lead? I chose a diamond as the least likely to cause a cataclysm. Board played a higher card, partner played a still higher card, and declarer won with the ace.

After muttering for a few moments in Slobbovian (Upper or Lower?), East advanced the JC. I knew I should not cover, but I was terrified of being snookered with a Jx of clubs (remember, I “knew” North could not have four spades, meaning East had 9 or 10 major suit cards). So, I covered, and the trick went J-Q-K-A.

I felt things were improving then, especially when pard produced a small heart. I won the QH. Now what? Still thinking East had lots of loser spades to ruff, I cashed the AH and led a diamond to tap declarer who stubbornly refused to be tapped by following suit when pard produced a card high enough to beat the one played from the Board!

At this point, pard led the JH, declarer won the KH and moments later we were +500. Since game failed in the other room (the Slobbovian who could make it has yet to be born!), I was able to escape unharmed out into the corridor while the others screamed what I presumed were curses at each other in one Slobbivian or another, or maybe both.

bobby wolffMarch 2nd, 2013 at 11:40 am

Hi Jim2,

Since bridge news travels faster than the speed of light, I had heard of a substitute being chosen in the Slobbovian championship, the winner of which was to represent their beautiful country in the upcoming Bridge World Team Olympiad (WTO) and he had met with great success by merely doing what was in front of his nose, instead of blindly paying attention to his partner’s intentions.

His well considered judgment told him that partner would not hold 4 of the other major and then opt to make a responsive double when the TO doubler was usually also long in that particular suit so he boldly converted his partner’s double into strictly business.

After securing +500, the result he was entitled to, his partnership continued on and easily won the tournament and qualified for the WTO. By the demand of the higher ranking officials of Lower Slobbivia (LS) he was sentenced to remain on the team for the world tournament and because of his presence the odds jumped from 4 million to 1 against their team winning to only 3 1/2 million to 1, an amazing drop which became the talk of the gambling bridge bookmakers world. But because of reasons unknown, those same bookmakers have yet to have some knowledgeable bettor place any action on those new odds.

However, the odds dropping on the prospect of LS winning the WTO were still slightly more than LS’s most famous world person, Lena the Hyena, winning the LS most beautiful female award during their upcoming national beauty contest, but by only a slight adjustment of 3.4 million to 1, perhaps enhanced by the rumor of Lena having been seen searching for various cosmetics.

The only negative arising from the winning team’s remarkable win was that a rumor (verified by the LS secret bridge police) started that the cell phones were ringing every few seconds from where the championship (playing those same hands) was being held probably though only checking on the health of thousands of relatives and friends from the site of the other championship. Since some of the lesser known players finished very high in the other championship, some suspicion has arisen as to the propriety of using duplicated hands, however far away while a major championship was going on playing the same hands.

Although the evidence of possible wrongdoing seemed to mount, the powers that be, merely decided that those suspicions were paranoid and that nothing that sinister could possibly have happened.

Thanks for your interesting tale in what the late and great Paul Harvey (if he had lived) would have undeniably related as “The rest of the story”.

jim2March 2nd, 2013 at 1:14 pm

🙂 🙂 🙂

The dress code made it even more challenging, especially the itchy false beard.

(Thank you for taking it in the spirit that it was offered)

bobby wolffMarch 3rd, 2013 at 11:58 am

Hi Jim2,

Your spoof, although a fantasy, is a constant reminder what Zia has always preached, “Bridge is the master and the players must only play along and accept their results.” While amusing, the frowned upon converting a take-out double to penalties for no good reason (not trumps stacked), has nothing to recommend it in any bridge book even those written by lower Slobbovian bridge writers.

Still, the result of +500 would stack up nicely in any IMP contest. We cannot always predict what may happen and although the very best players around try and follow what they think are the percentage actions, dame fortune will always have the last say (laugh).

Thanks again for reminding us.