Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 25th, 2013

You cannot make a revolution with silk gloves.

Josef Stalin

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

*Minors, invitational


There are almost as many different ways to assign conventional meanings to three-level responses to one no-trump as there are calculations of the World's Top Player. (Only kidding: everyone knows that he would be the world's top player if he could just find a competent partner.)

In today’s deal North-South was using three-level calls to show both minors, in different ranges, with specific shortages, and thus reached a delicate game. For the record, three diamonds would have been forcing with both minors, three hearts and three spades would have shown shortage in the other major, 5-4 in the minors.

On lead against three no-trump, Migry Campanile (West) led a natural but unfortunate spade against three no trump, and declarer’s trick count was now up to seven. South, Mark Bompis of France, then made the natural, if potentially unsuccessful, play of the diamond queen from hand, trying to establish his eight-card fit, and Campanile won the king. If she had routinely returned a heart or spade, as was the case at many tables, declarer would then have had no problems both establishing diamonds and returning to dummy to make use of them.

In fact, where the board was played between two world-class teams on Vugraph, one West played a spade, the other played back a diamond. But Campanile returned a club to disrupt the entries to dummy, and now declarer had no chance when neither minor behaved.

That was a well-deserved 13 IMPs to the Israeli team.

Your partner's sequence shows four spades and the values for game, so you should correct to four spades. If your partner did not have a major, he would have simply raised to three no-trump. And since he clearly does not have hearts, you are safe to assume that you can work out which major he has!


♠ A K J 4
 A Q 10 7
 Q 9 3
♣ 8 7
South West North East
1 NT Pass 2♣ Pass
2 Pass 3 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


David WarheitMay 9th, 2013 at 9:29 am

You say “declarer’s trick count was now up to seven” after the opening lead. Actually, it’s only up to six (3 spades, a heart & 2 clubs). If I were south, I would have led the nine of diamonds at trick two. As the cards lie, it’s possible that west would play the king–end of all problems. If he didn’t, I would have let it ride to east’s ten. If east now returns a club, same result. But I strongly suspect that east would have returned a spade. After all, south could have Jx of clubs, and west could have much better spades. Now 3NT rolls with the successful heart finesse. Interesting: Bompis played west for the ten of diamonds and went down. I played west for the ten of diamonds and (probably would have) made!

jim2May 9th, 2013 at 11:21 am

David –

We know the hearts are friendly, but the declarers did not and, so, likely saw West as the “danger hand.” The QD lead essentially forces West to win the trick.

I wonder which club Campanile returned (and now declarer had no chance when neither minor behaved.)”. If it were the JC, declarer may not be able to prevail but can challenge East a bit.

bobby wolffMay 9th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

Yes, there were only 6 sure tricks insured and should have been said, but in reality, and from declarer’s point of view, one of the minors needed to be established for success.

Migry’s opening lead, assuming 4th best leads, might have suggested her to be more likely to hold 3 diamonds since East appeared to have 3 spades, therefore also at least 4 and likely 5 or more hearts.

Sometimes, and more often than many of us realize, deciding to not lead one’s longest suit, may pay dividends in an unusual form, this time misleading a very good declarer as to which opponent is more likely to have longer diamonds.

Both of you contributed accurate insight in describing the choices. However, I do disagree with West playing her king of diamonds on declarer’s play of the nine, especially because of the opening lead meeting with very bad fortune together with her holding of such poor heart spots, making that switch not at all attractive.

Also, since East should know after the opening lead, that his partner eschewed leading from a 5 card heart suit, but instead led from a very broken and mediocre spade holding, that it likely would take a club back (possibly the queen) in order to defeat the hand.

This particular hand is ripe for high-level bridge discussion, and for that matter, the sometimes advantage of 4th best leads, not for the immediate success of one (far from it), but for, as in this case, the recovery after the lead has gone awry.

David WarheitMay 10th, 2013 at 1:51 am

You say west “led from a very broken and mediocre spade holding”. Well, if west had K952 of spades instead of Q952, it may still be broken, but it is definitely not mediocre, and a spade led by east after winning the ten of diamonds will defeat the contract. Of course, as you point out, the return of the club queen will also defeat the contract, even if south has the jack. But I still maintain that although perfect analysis by a world-class opponent should lead to declarer’s defeat, if it turns out that both Bompis and I find, to our dismay, that east has the ten of diamonds, my line is more likely to bring home the bacon than that of Bompis

bobby wolffMay 10th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Hi David,

Yes, most everything you say is correct, except perhaps the definition of mediocre in the context it is given, since K952 could also be thought of as a “mediocre” holding for an opening lead.

“But, Watson, when the fine declarer we are playing against wins the jack, instead of the queen from the holding which your supposition suggests, he is doing what no excellent declarer does, by rote winning the trick (given equals), with a more or less telltale card, when more obfuscation is possible.” “And furthermore, ethical bridge tempo does not lend itself to creating immediate double, double crosses which are sometimes present, because to think a length of time before winning the trick in order to figure out all the possible tricky nuances available is just not ethically feasible”.

None of the above is contradicting what you are saying, just meant as a guide to the wise in order to improve card reading by an aspiring highest level player to which you certainly qualify.