Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 27th, 2013

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same….

Rudyard Kipling

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


When this deal came up at the very end of a match between the two Italian teams in the Yeh Tournament of 2008, Italy Two had just enough of a lead over their counterparts to be able to survive today's disaster.

At one table East balanced with three hearts over South’s three diamonds. West tried three no-trump and East corrected to four clubs, raised to five. With trumps 2-1, five clubs played like a dream for plus 600.

This figured to be a nice pickup, since three diamonds doubled looked destined for down one. However, instead of leading a top spade, Valerio Giubilo went for the brass ring by leading his singleton heart, covered all around. Declarer, Agustin Madala, returned a heart, and West pitched a spade rather than a club. Declarer took the heart ace and led the heart 10, discarding his club when East, Alfredo Versace, covered. The spade jack was ducked all around, then came a spade to the ace.

Declarer now led a winning heart to pitch his last spade, and West ruffed in. South ruffed the next club and passed the diamond eight successfully, holding his trump losers to one and making plus 470.

In the ending, West had to fly with the diamond ace on the first round and play a second club to get his second trump trick since South is locked in dummy with the diamond king. Whether South leads a heart or spade from dummy, West re-promotes his diamond jack to the setting trick.

This is an easy one. You are facing a passed hand. Which game do you think your side can make? It seems you have no decent fit in either major, but you do have a playable fit in diamonds. Therefore you should try to stop as low as possible since you have no values to spare. Pass two diamonds, and hope partner can make it.


♠ A 7 3 2
 A 10 8 7 4
 K 2
♣ 6 4
South West North East
Pass Pass Pass
1 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


jim2May 11th, 2013 at 11:03 am

It looks like West had several ways earlier in the hand to defeat the contract, besides the one mentioned in the column (“in the ending”).

Once West sees the North hand, can there be any doubt that TO doubler East holds the AC?

Thus, why didn’t West ruff the 9H (w/ 3D) and lead a low club to get a third heart led?

Defensive tricks:

– 3D (ruff)
– AC
– 7D/JD (ruff or over-ruff)
– AD
– eventual spade

And the Defense still has some chances for another trick.

Alternatively, can Declarer succeed if West ruffs the second heart and lead the KS? If Declarer wins the AS, the Defense now has three black tricks ready to cash and West still has the AJ7 of trump. If Declarer tries to pitch on the AH, West can ruff and cash the other two black tricks for two ruffs, two black tricks, and the AD.

bobby wolffMay 11th, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, you are, of course, right with 3 diamonds doubled, going set in several different ways, but West at that table made several costly gaffes, including the opening lead, which kept that from happening. Of course, by setting it one trick NS would still gain a significant swing.

No, declarer cannot succeed if West ruffs the second heart instead of discarding and then leading a spade, losing in total 1 spade, 1 club and 3 diamonds

Sometimes the reporting of actual hands is a difficult situation, involving unwanted severe criticism of a player or a partnership.

Jeff SMay 11th, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Hi Bobby,

I am a little confused by the comment that West “discarded a spade rather than a club” presumably leaving him with the KQ, but that later the “spade jack was ducked all around”.

I feel for West on this hand. Sometimes you feel like you had to walk a very exact path in order to blow the hand. Being a world-class player, I feel confident he shook it off a lot faster than I wold have.

bobby wolffMay 11th, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Hi Jeff,

Yes, of course, since West had discarded a spade, he, by force, would have had to cover the spade jack with his queen, but, except for a proof reading gaffe, no harm no foul.

On a more correctable (at this time) subject, while I do not know the West at this table or, of course, whether he is world class, (probably not, since, at least in my view, very few deserve that accolade), it is more important than you realize, if bridge expertise is desired, to be able to condition yourself to ward off the evil spirits associated with bad luck (and often with less than excellent play).

All players, including even world class ones, which I have just said that I hold in high esteem, make mistakes and relatively often (my guess is that the very best players ever, whoever they are or have been, make at least 10+ card play errors per session (usually around 26 hands) and untold bidding mistakes, although that statistic is hard to measure, much less prove, since individual judgment within the system chosen, plus partnership tendencies are vitally important.

At least to me, a player’s supreme ability should be measured by the infrequency of his technical errors, his individual psychology of judging what his opponents will do (poker element) and probably most important, his resiliency in bouncing back from either bad luck or just doing the wrong thing which turns out to be costly.

The above has influenced me to regard experience (many years of playing against the very best with a lot on the line and in the later stages of crucial matches) as THE most important factor in determining not only world class, but even more so, the ability to win more than others (of course, this statement has to be tempered by one’s partner and teammates talent level, without which, the whole above process could be sheer fantasy).

What I am trying to say is that you, in addition to be determined to work hard on your game, need to develop a mental toughness beyond which the opponents cannot penetrate.

It well might be that to do so is just not worth it, and to that I understand, but, since others may also be listening, at least I am speaking from my heart (not to mention my 68 years of knowing how to play the game)

Patrick CheuMay 11th, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Hi Bobby,a simple one no-trump(12-14) hand by South which produces a variety of results ranging from one off to three off (some in three),to making 2NT:South holds J53 K873 K832 AK and North Q874 A92 Q6 Q874,West leads ten diamonds,I play the QD which holds,and now plays a low heart from dummy and 10H from East..eventually goes -1,not the best line.West K1062 6 A10954 1053 and East A9 QJ1054 J7 J962.Pard suggest playing AK of clubs and heart to Ace and exit with 4th club which has merit or ducking the heart 10 on second trick is better,there was suggestion of a spade on trick 2,cannot quite see that…your thoughts would be much appreciated.The second question concerns bidding:North 7 AQ862 AK10 Q632 opens one heart(4 card major)-South one spade,North 1NT(15-16) do you think 2C is better?Is there any merit in playing 1NT rebid as 12-16 here with 2C enquiry? If that is the case would you rebid 1NT or 2C?Our opening no-trump being 12-14.Regards-Patrick.

bobby wolffMay 11th, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Hi Patrick,

Let’s start with the first hand and assuming South opened 1NT (12-14) and it went all pass.

When opener may be long in his opening lead suit (and is) chances are that he is short in spades (he isn’t) but I would lead a club to the king (more deceptive than the ace) and then a low spade and play the jack losing to the ace. Let’s now assume East continues with the jack of diamonds which I would cover (also assuming that East did not drop the jack under the queen at trick one, a possible play). I would guess West would continue the nine and then another diamond with East shedding one heart and a much slower discard on the next diamond. Let’s assume he throws a spade probably best since he needs both the 4th heart and even more vitally the 4th club (certainly room for the defense to get sloppy). With the nine of spades being discarded, I would now lead the queen of spades (knowing east is holding on to exactly 4 clubs and 4 hearts. If East now wins the spade he will cash his long diamond and if he then cashes his high spade East will cry in pain by being squeezed in clubs and hearts, making seven tricks with the defense cashing 3 diamonds and 3 spades.

There are, of course other versions of the play, but we discussed the more likely one and +90 should be about 70% on the board.

On your second problem hand I would always rebid 2 clubs, announcing at least nine cards in the rounded suits, whether playing 4 or 5 card majors and partner should then suspect shortness in spades although you could easily be 2-5-2-4.

There is little to no merit to have such a large range attached to your 1NT rebid (12-16) so i would eschew such a thought. Sure, sometimes while playing matchpoints, a totally bastardized bridge game, it is sometimes wise to always at least hint at a higher scoring part score and basically, when given a choice, steer away from the minors, but, at least to me, that is a losing overall strategy because of the distortion, consequently I would have no trouble always rebidding clubs with the opener’s hand.

Somehow, by perseverance and determination in staying on the right bridge track, justice stays with those with the discipline to do that, and one’s scores measure up in the long run.

Do not distort and if the right bridge glove fits, you will make a winning hit.

Please excuse the poor poetry, but good luck!

Patrick CheuMay 12th, 2013 at 7:28 am

Hi Bobby,many thanks again for your help which is greatly appreciated,recall you once mentioned about getting out of bed in Vegas to answer my bridge questions posted on this blog..:). Returning to the play of that one no-trump,QD was played,RHO follows low(not the Jack),was it wrong to try a heart on trick 2 and play for 33 break?Too simplistic perhaps.Your line of club to king and low spade to Q,keeps the position fluid in terms of suits breaking badly and squeeze possibilities against East.Your 68 years of know how is the key here!Best regards-Patrick.

bobby wolffMay 13th, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Hi Patrick,

First of all, whenever I get out of bed (which is always early because I prefer it that way) in LV it is because I appreciate you and many others asking intelligent questions, which in turn leads to improvement for us all, myself included.

No you are not necessarily wrong, when, of course, the jack of diamonds doesn’t drop when the queen is led and you then lead a club to the king and a low spade to the queen in order, as you say to keep the position fluid. My 68 years of playing or even if I am lucky enough to ring up 168 years of so-called know how I, like most, am subject to taking the wrong percentage plays, but if so, I just hope I am close to doing the right thing. To expect more is not realistic.

Always thanks for your kind words, your thoughtful questions, and your very pleasant attitude.