Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Hairbreadth missings of happiness look like the insults of Fortune.

Henry Fielding

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

*Clubs, 10-15 points


Today's deal comes from the Cavendish Teams of a decade or so ago, and it features the use of suit preference on defense.

It is bad enough to stay low and miss a cold game, but when your opponents beat you in the safe partscore you have reached, it hurts even more. After Peter Weichsel’s natural but limited opening of two clubs, Paul Chemla did not have enough to overcall in diamonds, and when Christian Mari reopened with two hearts rather than a double, Chemla decided not to explore for three no-trump, but to take the safe positive … not so fast!

Weichsel led the club ace, an incisive shot, then carefully played the club seven for Alan Sontag to ruff. Sontag now found the fine move of underleading the diamond ace (Peter’s middle club clearly indicated that he had no preference between the pointed suits; hence he was likely to have the king of both suits). Weichsel won his king, then gave Sontag a ruff with a high club. At this point, Sontag led the spade two to ensure one down, setting up the defense’s spade trick before declarer could establish the diamonds for discards.

At the other table West’s opening bid of one club let North overcall one diamond and South could show hearts, then raise his partner’s call of one no-trump to game. Declarer found the club jack and had no problem in making nine tricks.

Your soft 10-count might have been better suited to a one-no-trump call on the previous round. However, once you bid two diamonds – which is forcing but does not guarantee a second call and can’t tempt partner to a second call, what game can your side possibly make? Your partner must have a minimum hand with at least two spades, and without a diamond fit; pass two spades and hope to beat it.


♠ Q 9 4
 Q 8
 Q J 10 7 6
♣ K 4 2
South West North East
1 1♠
2 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


Patrick CheuJune 2nd, 2013 at 8:43 am

Hi Bobby, the 7C to likely show either kings in the pointed suits(!),wonder how many of us would still be thinking about which suit to signal for,spades or diamonds?!Would have thought it would be a guess,depends which ace East held?What would you have played if the 7C is not available,only 3C or 8C?Best regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffJune 2nd, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Hi Patrick,

You make an interesting point. It is true that this hand in question is a nigh perfect example, allowing partner to under lead from whichever ace he had (by signalling an easy readable card), so that his partner would not have to take a chance, after ruffing the next club to enable declarer to get rid of, in this case the key loser, which, indeed spelled out paid to the contract.

Sometimes, since bridge is very much a partnership game where each partner has the responsibility to perform, a difficult to read card (the 3 or the 8 in your example) is led back, and by then, the 3rd seat defender may have forgotten the clubs played earlier on the quitted trick, not living up to his (or her) responsibility of being there for the whole hand.

Aspiring players must understand the time to concentrate as against not, and only experience, (yes the talent to do it, but the timeliness as to when it arises). Without that, the partnership will not come close to rising through the ranks to good enough to win consistently and then, in very rare cases, to eventual world class.

Is it worth it? Heavens, yes, if one has the time to devote to it and the inclination and talent to succeed, but, as everyone knows, that status does not need to be achieved in order to just enjoy bridge for whatever it is worth, the greatest competitive mind game that has ever been invented. At least that is my opinion.

In answer to your direct question about the 8 or the 3, a good (and expert) partner will realize (after your 2 club opening generally showing 6 clubs) what your spot card meant and thus be prepared to defend well.

All the above means, if one’s goal is to get good, he needs to bring his A game, rather than lesser, to the table.

Patrick CheuJune 2nd, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Hi Bobby, this hand shows how much trust, discussion and concentration an expert partnership needs in order to succeed at the top.I believe this partnership was at the top of their game in the late 70’s and early 80’s,and having read Power Precision by A Sontag,one can appreciate the work needed to forge such a successful partnership.Thanks again for your enlightening thoughts.Best regards-Patrick