Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

There are no second acts in American lives.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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


In today's deal from the Yeh Tournament held five years ago, both tables reached five clubs, Fredrik Nystrom from the South seat after West had doubled a diamond call, Alfredo Versace from an uninformative auction from the North seat. Versace received a heart lead and simply played ace and another spade. Then he played a trump to hand and the East won the ace and played another trump. Versace ruffed a spade in dummy, and discovered he had two spade losers now since he was out of trump and had nowhere to park them. Down one.

Nystrom, part of the Swedish team that is currently holder of the Olympiad title, received the lead of the heart jack. He won in hand, played the ace, and ruffed a spade. Next he took the heart king and ruffed a heart.

When East followed with the heart queen Nystrom drew the sensible inference that West’s presumed length in the red-suits would leave him with short spades. So Nystrom ruffed the next spade with the club king.

Had both opponents followed, he would have played on trumps to make 11 or 12 tricks. As it was, when the bad spade break came to light, declarer ruffed a diamond to dummy, then ruffed a spade with the club eight. His second chance came when West could not overruff. Now declarer simply lost the long spade and the club ace.

If you play New Minor Forcing, you have the option of checking back for a 5-3 spade fit, but my instincts are simply to raise directly to three no-trump, giving away less information to the opponents about your shape and not giving the opponents the chance to double an artificial call.


♠ K Q 10 8 7
 Q 7 3
 J 6
♣ A 9 5
South West North East
1 Pass
1♠ Pass 1 NT 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


Michael BeyroutiMay 7th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,
Nystrom’s line looks like a dummy reversal. Can’t declarer play to ruff diamonds in dummy? East can overruff with the ace and return a trump… But declarer can still ruff his heart loser in dummy and will only lose the long diamond in the end.

jim2May 7th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I ducked a diamond at the second trick. It appears to me to be a much better line than playing on spades, and the chance that the JD is not fifth makes it even better.

Iain ClimieMay 7th, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Hi Bobby,

This sort of hand is a frequent trap – only one obvious loser, but 4C, 2H and a trick in each pointed suit. Two ruffs are easy enough in the South hand but not enough unless spades are 4-3.

Can you give any general advice on this sort of hand to avoid winding up a trick short? Mixing strategies is probably an easy way to fail.



bobby wolffMay 7th, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Hi Michael, Jim2 and Iain,

For exact percentages one needs to consult a bridge robot who has been programmed to proceed along the right theoretical line.

Off the top of my head, it looks to me that Jim 2 has found the right line by leading a low diamond to the queen and increasing chances to guard against bad breaks by having only the jack to be with the short diamonds.

Iain, if you mean by mixing strategies to not have a specific line in mind, but mix and match as one goes along, I agree that this process is not to be recommended and will probably fail more than we could expect.

The irony of it all is that since very few, if any, of the top players make a serious study of right percentage lines, often we overlook the higher percentage effort, but in the very long run, the players who make the most contracts while playing difficult combinations are the ones who should do the explaining.

Sorry for my delay in answering but I have been gone all day and earlier when I awoke, my computer was down.

No doubt this hand was an interesting one and cause for discussion.