Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 1st, 2013

This mean and unrefined stuff of mine
Will make your glistering gold but more to shine.

Anne Bradstreet

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

*Balanced 15-17 with three spades


Today's deal was played by the Canadian great Sam Gold in the 50s. Sam has just been inducted into the Canadian Bridge Hall of Fame for his services to the game in Montreal.

Have a look at today’s deal, and count the top tricks. It looks like 10 — five spades, three hearts and two aces — with an 11th trick looking to be something of a struggle. Sam was in six spades on an unfriendly diamond lead — let’s see how he set about making 12 tricks.

The diamond eight went to dummy’s ace. A diamond ruffed high let declarer lead the spade 10 to the jack, allowing another diamond to be ruffed high. Now came the spade six to the eight, and a third diamond ruff, denuding both opponents of the suit.

Gold led a heart to the king, and the spade nine drew the opponent’s last trump as Gold threw a club. The heart ace and queen disclosed the bad break in that suit, but Gold now calmly threw East in with his heart jack to lead away from his club king into dummy’s tenace. Contract made!

This is a perfect example of what the experts describe as a dummy reversal. Declarer ruffed three times in the long trump hand and drew trump from the short hand, turning five trump tricks into six. One of the requirements is decent trump spots in dummy and of course a 3-2 trump break (but that is heavily with the odds).

When you elected to bid one no-trump, you opted to treat your hand as balanced. There does not seem to be a good reason to redefine your hand as unbalanced by bidding three diamonds. Both the hearts and spades look as if they will be subject to overruffs. Pass, and hope you can find a way to come to six tricks.


♠ 7 3
 J 9 6 5
 K J 9 3
♣ K 6 3
South West North East
1 Dbl. 1♠
1 NT 2 Pass 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


David WarheitMarch 15th, 2013 at 10:08 am

Thank you so very much for your kind words about my friend, Sammy, and showing him at his best. It was my privilege to know him towards the end of his life when I lived in Montreal (1974-76) and worked a mere few blocks away from the bridge club he owned and ran. I distinctly remember playing one hand against him where he wound up in slam. As soon as dummy hit the table, his usual pleasant self disappeared, replaced by immense concentration, followed by cards seemingly flying out of his hand in a manner that seemed to make no sense, except that, of course, it was only way to make the contract. Let’s see, at 2 cents a point, that cost me about $20. Of course, those were Canadian dollars, but that was the one time Canadian dollars were worth more than American ones. God bless you, Sammy!

bobbywolffMarch 15th, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Hi David,

Thank you for the touching tribute to one of Canada’s all time greatest players.

Although I was playing bridge, though quite younger (and less prominent) during his greatest days, I, for one reason or another, did not get the pleasure of playing more than a few hands against him.

His fame is well established and your description of his natural talent, concentration, and devotion to the game corresponds with all that has gone into his highest level reputation.

Again, thank you for chronicling who he was, so that all who came after him will now never forget what he represented to Canadian bridge particularly, but, even more so, for all the world to share.

jim2March 15th, 2013 at 12:51 pm

This is one of those hands where the winning line would be easier to see if the hands were weaker!

That is, replace the diamond queen and ten in the North hand with spot cards, and the dummy reversal is easier to spot.

I kept trying to engineer a fourth round heart ruff if hearts did not break, and then throwing in East with a fourth-round diamond loser-on-loser play at the end to lead into the Boards club tenace. Sadly, that line was doomed by the short heart holder holding the long trump (which, admittedly is the more likely case).

bobbywolffMarch 16th, 2013 at 7:37 am

Hi Jim2,

Actual hands come in all shapes and sizes, but column hands are more likely to be, at least, slightly edited for more effect.

Not unlike in today’s major sports world for TV commercial timeouts to be more the order of the day than secondary to the game. In both cases media rules, according to the money trail.

I guess we all need to learn to live with it, since there is little we can do to change it.

jim2March 16th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Perhaps I was unclear. I was not criticizing the hand construction. Rather, I was extending further kudos to Sam Gold for spotting the best line despite the real-life presence of extraneous and potentially confusing high cards.

bobbywolffMarch 16th, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Hi Jim2,

You were not at all unclear.

Bridge, like so many of the major sports, caters to special talents indigenous to the particular competition itself. Sam Gold, like only a few others, had a superior aptitude to where it was at, and immediately went toward that direction.

I especially admire those, like you, who love the game, work hard, sometimes succeed, other times not, but accept not only the game, but appreciate born to it players, who are blessed with special how to, bridge radar.

Without your initiative, enthusiasm and interest the game would never have thrived and allowed others to pleasure themselves by being able to compete at a very enjoyable pastime.