Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Time reveals all things.

Desiderius Erasmus

South North
Neither ♠ Q 5 4 3 2
 7 4 2
 5 3
♣ A 8 5
West East
♠ K
 9 8
 K Q 10 7 6 2
♣ J 9 4 2
♠ 10 9 8 6
 6 5
 A J 9 8
♣ 10 6 3
♠ A J 7
 A K Q J 10 3
♣ K Q 7
South West North East
2♣ 2 Pass 4
4 Pass 5 Pass
6 All pass    


A decade ago, Michael Rosenberg, considered to be one of the game’s greatest technicians, wrote an extremely interesting bridge autobiography called “Bridge, Zia … and Me.” It’s a fascinating trawl through his bridge life, and his partnership with the charismatic Zia Mahmood.

The hands are fascinating (but are not for the beginner) and his novel outlook gives food for thought. Michael is known as one of the finest card players in the world as well as one of the slowest, and you can guarantee that he will never fail to solve a problem because he has not pondered it long enough.

He claims that today’s deal is his favorite in his book. You are in six hearts, and your only chance of making it appears to be if East holds the spade king either singleton or doubleton. Yet even though West holds the critical card, you should still make the contract!

West cashes a top diamond and plays another, which you ruff. Now play the rest of your hearts, discarding two small spades from dummy. Then come the three clubs, ending in dummy. In the three-card ending, you have reduced to queen-third of spades in dummy facing ace-jack-third in your hand. If East has not discarded a spade, you finesse. But he does. Now consider that no-one would discard from king-third of spades in this position. Therefore, he must have started with four. If they include the king, you are sunk; so you take your only chance and play to the ace.

In this auction, when the opponents compete, your partner's reverse shows real extras, with four hearts and at least five clubs. You do not need to repeat your spades here, since partner will introduce three-card support if he has it, and if he doesn't, you do not want to play spades. A simple three-club call here is natural and nonforcing and sums up your hand perfectly.


♠ Q 5 4 3 2
 7 4 2
 5 3
♣ A 8 5
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1♠ 2 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


John StoreyJuly 25th, 2013 at 10:26 am

Hi Bobby – there seems to be a glitch with the RSS feed for your column again. All of your columns have disappeared, however, all the other ones are still visible. Could you please ask to have this looked into?

Thanks, John

Bobby WolffJuly 25th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Hi John,

Ditto for me as the one and only visible column is this one dated July 25th, though the one which appeared in newspapers on July 11th.

I’ll try and both solve and hopefully correct the problem at the source. Many thanks for the information.

Iain ClimieJuly 25th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Hi Bobby,

I hope things sort themselves out quickly but two stray thoughts from today’s column. Firstly, suppose that NS were in 5 spades and dummy was forced at trick 2. The contract is safe with spades 3-2 or singleton K onside but cashing the Ace first still gives a small extra chance due to the poor spots. This applies without the forcing attack too.

Secondly, I know one player who might have beaten Mike R by accident. He is in dodgy health, fairly short sighted and on heart tablets which can make his concentration go AWOL late on in a session; he revoked the other week when we had a one-off game, but I’m more concerned that he gets better than his bridge play.

On current form he might well have thrown a spade from (say) K86 xx AJ98 109xx through having the S8 in the clubs, at least if he had forgotten his glasses. against such a Mollo-esque coup, even MR might not prevail.



Bobby WolffJuly 25th, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, your cashing the ace of spades first, while being in 5 spades, may be a percentage play assuming West did not now win the second spade with his original Kx and lead one of his 4 little hearts for partner to use his best judgment.

However, since they could have always defeated you by leading a heart on opening lead, it may be well for the NS pair, instead of concentrating on better declarer play, to rather look to find their most advantageous trump suit and if so, hearts look tolerable.

Also, your not so well friend, straight from either Victor Mollo or perhaps related to SJ Simon’s Mrs. Guggenheim, should try and cut in games frequented by brilliant players, in the hope of a windfall result which could be a worthwhile salve for all the money he leaves behind and, at the very least, provide pleasant memories.

Bobby WolffJuly 25th, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Hi Iain,

I should talk since I meant East won his king of spades, also holding 4 hearts. You cannot tell the players without a scorecard.

Iain ClimieJuly 26th, 2013 at 8:49 am

Hi Bobby,

No worries although it is a reminder to check out the whole hand. Playing the Ace first with AJx opposite Qxxxx (small x’s) gives a 2.8 % gain from singleton King offside. A 4-0 break in a side suit is 10% and needs the hand with the 4 hearts to have SKx to be able to give partner a ruff. Hence S3-2 with the SK doubleton would be 27.2% a priori but is influenced by the 4-0 side suit break, the King must be onside and the defender still has to play a heart when in. This may still give the safety play the edge but it is a useful reminder that suit combinations must be considered in the context of the whole hand.



Bobby WolffJuly 26th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Very well explained and educational, particularly to the ones who applaud numeracy and therefore prefer a scientific approach to our unique game.

Your comment about the global aspect of our game instead of just the one suit distribution applies on most declarer hands as well as to finding the best defense for the defenders. Little by little we make progress, slow?, sure, certain?, yes.