Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

What reinforcement we may gain from hope,
If not, what resolution from despair.

John Milton

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



West's opening lead against three no-trump was very much open to discussion. While some would lead a low club, others would insist on a heart, while others, including me, would recommend the spade nine. This would be especially clear when the opponents are limited, but even here, leading from a sequence is as likely to be right as anything else, and somewhat less likely to cost a trick.

Say you lead the spade nine; dummy’s king wins, partner playing the three. Declarer next passes the diamond queen successfully, then repeats the diamond finesse. Now he leads a heart to his queen. Have you decided whether you will win or duck? And are you going to press on with spades or shift?

Given partner’s discouraging spade spot, if you ARE going to shift to clubs — which seems right — then the right play is surely the jack. If partner has the A-10, any club works, while if partner has the A-9, you need to pin the 10 in declarer’s hand, and a low club shift won’t work.

When the board came up in the Olympiad last year in Lille, Eduardo Scanavino of Argentina played three no-trump on a spade lead to the jack, queen, and king. Scanavino now deceptively led a low heart from hand. Schermer did extremely well to see through his ruse and hop up with the heart king to fire the club jack through for down one.

Normally, the range for a simple raise is six to nine HCP. With 10 HCP you would consider making a limit raise. But with such a balanced hand and so few controls, not to mention weak trumps, the simple raise to two hearts is more than enough.


♠ K J 7
 J 8 3
 Q J 10 2
♣ Q 7 5
South West North East
1 2♣

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 WarheitAugust 28th, 2013 at 9:08 am

Who is Schermer? At least give us his first name and country so we can applaud a little louder.

jim2August 28th, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Unless I am mistaken, KC followed by JC also works.

As for Shermer:

Iain ClimieAugust 28th, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Hi Bobby,

Hard luck on declarer, I suppose, but if I’d tried this I fear east would have held not just the DK but HK10 doubleton and 5 clubs to the Ace – two down in a hand which a beginner would have made tricks galore. Card migration is alive and wwell!



Bobby WolffAugust 28th, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Hi David,

My educated guess is that the star player is John Schermer of the the USA, partner of Neil Chambers and forming one of the best, if not the best, Senior pairs who has been winning the right to represent the USA for many of the last few years.

They have been a major factor, certainly in Senior bridge for a while, and can hold their own against any and all competition within the world and I have had the pleasure of playing with them in some fairly recent world tournaments. While the jack of clubs is a sophisticated and well reasoned play I would certainly expect this of either John or Neil.

They are relatively unsung, but I remember giving a comment that they were one of the best pairs in a Senior World Championship held recently in Veldhoven, Holland to which the Dutch writers there picked up my comment and published it in the Daily Bulletin. My team then went on to play them in the Semi-Finals (The USA, because of their depth of good players, is the only world country allowed two teams in all the major events held at World Championships) and lost to them, enabling them to finish 2nd when they in turn barely lost to a very good French team in the finals.

It sometimes is a curse to have rather severe limitations in column space, causing the above to not even be able to be mentioned, but the play’s the thing which most people are interested in, rather than details on who was making the superior plays.

Thanks for asking.

Bobby WolffAugust 28th, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for your answer to David and when I reply I just take the responses in order without a more organized overall plan.

While you are correct that the King of clubs equally works on this hand, it would not, if partner only had A9x, instead of having a 4th club.

Bobby WolffAugust 28th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Hi Iain,

Your comment is, as always, right on, and I can only add that sometimes (obviously when the king of diamonds is onside, but the king of hearts is not), a surprise attack before the defense becomes knowledgeable as to where the cards are located, catches an opponent in a sleepy fashion, as happened here, and hence the declarer sometimes scores up an unmakeable game, by playing low when declarer boldly leads a low heart toward the dummy.

No recommendations from me, only as the late Al Davis, owner and former coach of the Oakland Raiders professional American football team, once said, “Just win, baby”.

That admonition might have worked against a lesser player than John, and, besides, all of us suspect that card migration is pretty much limited to Jim2 and is his calling card, which, in turn contributes to making him a sensational player, since if he has any luck at all, it is only always bad.

jim2August 28th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

I definitely do feel sensations when I play, but they are usually ones of resignation or despair.

Iain ClimieAugust 28th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Hi Jim2, Did I ever ask about possible Armenian ancestry?

Bobby WolffAugust 28th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

Jim2, your symptoms seem to be similar to many others who seem to experience, particularly in gambling communities, and during a severe recession, of what Kenny Rogers put to song, “The Gambler”, “The best thing that can happen is to die in your sleep”.

The above, however, is all made in jest and with the knowledge that the law of averages will apply to you as well, meaning in the future your luck will even out, God will be in his heaven and all will be right with the world. At least, here is hoping!

Iain, are you alluding to Victor Mollo and his indelible characters or are you believing in certain nationalities just assuming the worst and having that very sad prophecy fulfilled?

jim2August 28th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I keep looking through our records for a name like Karapet, but nothing so far. Still, it HAS to be there!

jim2August 28th, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I am confident that Iain’s was a Menagerie reference.


Bobby WolffAugust 28th, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt!

Iain ClimieAugust 28th, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Spot on, folks – the immortal Karapet..