Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 26th, 2013

As Tammie glowered, amazed and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious.

Robert Burns

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


At last summer's nationals, the winners of the von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs were Alan Osofsky and Alan Sontag. This board came from the final session. Against the uninspiring contract of one heart, West led a diamond. Sontag won, cashed his other diamond, and exited with a spade. East took this with his queen and shifted to a club, West capturing declarer's 10 with his queen. West returned his second club, dummy's seven winning.

Declarer called for the diamond queen, and now East erred. If he had ruffed low, the defenders would still have been in control. But he ruffed with the 10, and South discarded a spade. West ruffed the third club, cashed his spade king, then led his last spade. Sontag carefully ruffed with his heart five and made his second nice play when he led the heart eight to dummy’s queen. East won with his ace and played his last spade, but South ruffed with his heart three and could overruff with dummy’s heart four, since West was reduced to nothing but diamonds and could not overruff. Now a club lead executed a trump coup, declarer’s K-9 of hearts being poised over East’s heart J-6.

That brilliant play by Sontag for plus 80 was worth 49.5 matchpoints out of 51. If the contract had gone down one, he and Osofsky would have received 38 matchpoints – a difference of 11.5. And they won the trophy by just 11 points!

Even though your partner's double may be more focused on the majors than the minors, you should compete to two clubs at once. If you don't bid now, you may feel obliged to bid at your next turn when the stakes will be higher and the auction more risky. Bid now and tell your story in one go.


♠ J 10 9
 Q 4
 Q 10 9
♣ J 9 8 7 3
South West North East
1 Dbl. 1

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


Iain ClimieAugust 9th, 2013 at 9:13 am

Hi Bobby,

If East makes the seemingly beginner’s play of covering the 2nd club then declarer has no entry – south’s play of the C10 is neat but shouldn’t prevail. Alternatively, if East plays SAx after the SQ, the defenders are much bettter placed provided west then exits with the CQ. All credit to Sontag for creating his chance and taking it, though.



David WarheitAugust 9th, 2013 at 9:13 am

Am I missing something? Seems as though if E plays the CK on the second round of C, S goes down one, since he can never get to dummy. I suppose E was thinking that S had A10 doubleton of C, but this seems very unlikely, since he had already shown that he had only 2D. By the way, great play by S in playing the 10 on the first lead of C!

Iain ClimieAugust 9th, 2013 at 9:17 am

Hi David, SNAP – a simpler card game.

Bobby WolffAugust 9th, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Hi Iain & David,

Yes, your combined analysis is on target, especially giving Alan Sontag credit for playing the 10 of clubs, at the least, creating the possibility of declarer only having 2 clubs, thus persuading East from killing the entry to the dummy by playing his king.

Sometimes this proper technique from declarer enables a pair to finish 59th instead of 62nd, but this time it brought the gold. My guess, that is well within the spirit of competition, which measures ability in most every important sport, especially including bridge, on a lifetime career, rather than an individual flash.

Only then may we list, if only for posterity, the necessities for renown:

1. A long enough, physically and mentally healthy, time period of participation.

2. Determination, attention to detail, and a perfectionist bent.

3. Especially in bridge, but certainly a critical factor in all team games (2 or more on one side) a capable partner or teammates, who are good enough to achieve the results needed.

4. A never give up philosophy, shared by your side, to never relax or become selfish, if only to accommodate others on your team, not necessarily oneself.

Poisoned flowers along the way:

1. Allowing bad luck, bad play or whatever, to lose one’s enthusiasm.

2. Selling out to professionalism, especially in bridge, which often destroys #3 above.

3. In spite of having enough of what it takes, to lack the proper attitude to succeed.

4. To prefer a different lifestyle or direction, therefore too casual an approach to get the above done. Iain alluded to this with his SNAP.

The above may represent most of the factors. Does anyone want to add something to which I have overlooked?

jim2August 9th, 2013 at 1:12 pm

On BWTA, it would never occur to me to bid 2C.

Going up one level, bad suit, no A or K, no shape, both red Qs of dubious value, wrong number of diamonds — contraindicators all! Even with those 10s and 9s, that’s probably not really a 6-point hand.

Yes, it’s a bidders game I hear, but seriously! 2C on that with an unpassed hand?

(jim’s footsteps echo down the bare corridor as he paces back to the lurker room shaking his head)

Iain ClimieAugust 9th, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this, and can I add another poisoned flower – trying to be a good player instead of trying to play well and helping partner to do so. It may seem pedantic, but the mindset can misfire. The other night I was having a good sension (even with the club hand in yesterday’s blog) and let my mind wander between rounds – why had I stopped playing for 25 yrs, I seemed to be playing well tonight, what if I’d worked at the game having had fair tournament success long ago etc etc. I goofed the next board!

On today’s quote, I recommend reading the start of Tam O’ Shanter if you are planning a night out without suitable warning (or possibly invitation) to one’s spouse. Burns is spot on here.


Bobby WolffAugust 9th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

IMO you are correct in your summation about overbidding with overrated values.

It is valid though, that with hands which are minimum or even minimum minus, if one can conjure up a reason to bid, it is best to do it immediately since, when it gets around to you the next time, the bidding level will be too high.

The only small redeeming value is, of course, the 5 card suit (and not 4), but passing should have been recommended, not 2 clubs and because of your exact stated reasons.

It would be nice to see the lurker return by way of the bare corridor, back to the table since, if he does not, he will be greatly missed.

Bobby WolffAugust 9th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, and your definition of a good player includes identifying with partner and together, instead of separately, going forward to reach our best.

Just possibly Robert Burns loved his women, and didn’t conceal his affection, especially for the ones who enjoyed it being returned.

Also can it be, that we have both just gotten a glimpse of what heaven is all about, bridge, women and good times, and not necessarily in that order, but let’s not let everyone know our preferences, lest it might disappear.

Bill CubleyAugust 9th, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Sometimes even the least contracts bring a charm when you get them right. One should always try just as hard on these.

Reminds me how I beat a one club contract against a national champion. My shape was 3=3=4-3 holding the 4,3,2 of clubs. I got a heart ruff and we won 2 IMPS in a pairs game. It helps to pay attention and to imagine something might happen.

My partners sometimes think I have an item 3 lack of capability. Bur then so does my wife. Daily.

Bobby WolffAugust 10th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Hi Bill,

Welcome to the club of lack of capability of pleasing wives.

Likely many husbands belong, because of wive’s expectation of us outgrowing our childhood experiences of being spoiled by our mothers.

At least, that is my excuse, and believe it or not, since I included another female, I sometimes get a pass, or, at least, not a concentration of anger.

Congratulations on your result against a national champion bridge player. Since my shape is never balanced and always too fat, I, or so it seems, am never dealt a 3-3-4-3 hand. Poor me, except it is more difficult to get good results with such bland distribution.

It is nice hearing from you.