Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.

Alvin Toffler

West North
Neither ♠ 10 9 6 5 3
 A K 8 5
♣ K 8 7
West East
♠ —
 K J 10 7 4 3
 Q 7 4 3
♣ 5 4 2
♠ Q J 4 2
 8 5
 J 10 6
♣ A Q 6 3
♠ A K 8 7
 Q 9 6 2
 9 2
♣ J 10 9
South West North East
2 Dbl. Pass
3♠ Pass 4♠ All pass


In today's deal from the semifinals of the NEC tournament in 2007, even if West pre-empted to two or three hearts, South became declarer in four spades. What do you think his chances are?

In one room Justin Hackett led the diamond three. Declarer Huub Bertens rose with dummy’s ace to play a spade to his ace, then ran the club jack to East’s queen. Jason Hackett now made the critical error by returning a top trump. Declarer won, played a diamond to the king, ruffed a diamond, crossed to dummy’s heart ace, and led the fourth diamond, scoring his spade eight. (It would have done East no good to ruff high in front of him.) He then ruffed a heart, exited with a trump, and had to score two of the remaining tricks for plus-420.

The play went the same way in the Closed Room to the first three tricks but at trick four Martin Schollaardt returned the diamond 10. Declarer, Geir Helgemo, won in dummy and played a top spade. Schollaardt did very well to duck. Helgemo won cheaply in hand, played a heart to the ace, the club king to the ace, then ruffed the diamond return, ruffed a heart, came to hand with the club 10, and led a fourth heart, ruffed and overruffed. The trump return now left Helgemo with a heart loser; minus 50, and 10 IMPs to the Dutchmen.

East’s ducking the trump prevented declarer from ruffing two diamonds in hand without creating an extra trump winner for the defense.

Since a direct call of two hearts by your partner would be natural and forcing, you should assume he has long hearts (typically six) and not enough values to follow an invitational sequence to game. Typically, you would expect about an eight-count here, so it feels best to pass (albeit reluctantly) on the grounds that anything else may be worse.


♠ 10 9 6 5 3
 A K 8 5
♣ K 8 7
South West North East
1♠ 2♣ Dbl. Pass
2 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 2nd, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Would a small trump from East when he won the CQ have had a similar effect to the successful defence in the other room? I must admit that I’d have had the SQ on the table as well, although I admit that I’m a far weaker player than either Hackett twin (or their dad).

On the BWTA today, one agreement I have used is that “disturbed” responses e.g. 1D (1S overcall) 2H where the response is forced up a level (as opposed to 1D (1S) 2C where the overcall doesn’t make a difference, at least if responder was going to bid clubs anyway) are limited and non-forcing so a stronger hand starts with a negative double then bids hearts; this seems to be quite a useful treatment – any thoughts?

Lastly, where are Greater and Lesser Slobbovia relative to Elbonia – see Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoons. I suspect their people may have common backgrounds. This could be a horrrible faux pas of course, as there could be historical deadly enmity.


Iain Climie

ClarksburgMarch 3rd, 2013 at 1:27 am

Do the Elbonians sit at the Bridge Table with those big coats and hats on?

bobby wolffMarch 3rd, 2013 at 6:40 am

Hi Iain and Clarksburg,

I only remember Slobbovia???? by Al Capp, the genius who created Lil Abner (cartoon character) and his referral to Lena the Hyena to contrast with Lil Abner’s sexy girl friend, Daisy Mae.

Question of the day: Would it be bad table manners for Elbonians to put their elbows on the table, or leave their hats on while indoors?

And that remembrance by me may be totally confused with something else in my youth which reminded me of Lena. Only The Shadow knows (aka Lamont Cranston a 1940’s radio good guy who had the ability to make himself invisible).

Jim2, we need help, if you can give it.

Patrick CheuMarch 3rd, 2013 at 10:33 am

Hi Iain, Your suggestion of a small trump at trick 4 will work, as the problem of the fourth diamond loser cannot be solved, I am sure our host will correct me if otherwise. Best regards-Patrick.

bobby wolffMarch 3rd, 2013 at 11:42 am

Hi Iain & Patrick,

Yes, I agree with both of you as I cannot see a way home for declarer if East leads a small trump at trick 4.

Perhaps, especially in the play, both declarer and the defense need to follow JATE in order to be successful at a high-level. Judgment, Analysis, Technique and Execution. This defensive problem emphasizes A&E.

jim2March 3rd, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Our Host is, of course, quite correct.

Lena – whom Al Capp never actually drew:


Elbonia is, as Iain stated is a Dilbert comic invention:

I mentioned the name of the country that dragged me into the match (Slobbovia) because I knew Our Host would be familiar with it. Yes, it dates me too, as does the fact that I knew of Lena. I may even have met her that day but, if I did, her visage was so extreme that I blocked out its memory!

Iain ClimieMarch 3rd, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

The trouble with A and E is that in the UK we all think of Accident and Emergency departments in hospitals. The way I was playing on Friday, my partner felt that interpretation would have been more appropriate than analysis and execution – although I killed several good scores stone dead by mistake, usually after confused thinking.



bobby wolffMarch 3rd, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Hi Iain,

You are always way too modest in your assessment of yourself, however it could have been worse for you on Friday, if you are speaking about playing badly. Your partner might have interpreted execution with a different, but more lethal definition. Thank heaven for moderation.

Iain ClimieMarch 3rd, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Your comments are too kind. What was perhaps rough on my partner was my mixture of plays and bids – some good, some dreadful, although I was fairly tired after a wearing week. If playing with a known bad player, he can make allowances. Playing with someone who is all over the place, but is capable of playing soundly, can be much harder – a Russian Roulette feeling from his viewpoint.