Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 13th, 2013

To give an accurate and exhaustive account of that period would need a far less brilliant pen than mine.

Max Beerbohm

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


When I collected the bronze medal at the 1994 Generali Individual, Wubbo de Boer (who was part of the Dutch team that had won the world championship a couple of years previously) was sitting South and received a club lead against his contract of four spades doubled.

He ruffed it, then realized that if he played a heart to the king, the defense could simply draw trump, and leave him with a probable second heart loser. So he guessed correctly to run the heart 10 around to East’s ace. Back came a second club, which he ruffed again.

Now if declarer plays on trumps, the defense can duck the first round. When they win the second trump and play a third club, the hearts are blocked. Declarer would have to ruff to get back to hand and would run out of trump. However, if South unblocks the hearts at once before playing the spade king, East wins his spade ace, leads a diamond to his partner, then gets a heart ruff.

De Boer saw the problems, and having gone to all those lengths to finesse in hearts at trick two, he now led the heart king from his hand, crashing the queen, then ruffed a heart with dummy’s spade king! Next he simply drew trump, having retained control of the hand, and could not be prevented from making 10 tricks.

It is psychologically very difficult to reverse your strategy in midhand as De Boer did, and even more difficult to find these plays at the table rather than in the post-mortem.

If you play inverted minors, where a simple raise is forcing for one round, this hand is duck soup. Equally, if you play a double raise as forcing, you will have no problems. If you play a simple raise is weak and a double raise invitational, then your choice is to invent a club suit or (my preference — inelegant as it might seem) to bid three no-trump and protect your major-suit honors.


♠ K 6
 Q 6
 K Q 10 7 6 2
♣ Q 10 5
South West North East
1 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


David WarheitDecember 27th, 2013 at 10:33 am

Small mistake: you say S goes down if he leads a H to the K at trick 4; you meant to say he leads a H to the Q.

If E ducks the H10, I do not see how S can make his contract. Either EW manage to force S to ruff 4 clubs (leading clubs each time they get in with their 3 aces, provided E ducks the first spade), thus setting up a second trump trick for E, or if S doesn’t lead diamonds soon enough, E gets to ruff the 3d H.

Iain ClimieDecember 27th, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Hi David, Bobby,

If east ducks the first heart, can South now play a diamond? west wins and plays anothr club, now south plays a heart. Another club is ruffed, then a heart is played, east wins and tries another club. South ruffs, trumps a heart high (east sheds diamond) then DKQ on both of which east must throw clubs. Now I think south goes off, but he has given east an extra chance to slip up.

On bwta, is 3N the famous GETNIF con vention – get the notrumps in first?



bobby wolffDecember 27th, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Hi David and Iain,

Yes, of course, the heart lead from declarer was to the queen, not the king although the 10 was passed.

As a point of interest, this hand occurred during the last round when I sat West and Tor Helness (Norway) was my partner while on my right was Geir Helgemo (the eventual winner). My partner opened 1NT and Helgemo overcalled a simple 2 spades, I raised to 2NT (an overbid, but merely competitive) and Tor continued on to 3, making when Geir let it go without mentioning his hearts.

The Generalli Individual was indeed a great event, held every two years in different locations in Europe and I attended the first few and as a sidelight when my wife died, as a tribute to her, Jose Damiani honored her by including her name, Debby Wolff, in the title. BTW, Frank Multon from France won the silver medal in the event described above and was the first time his name had surfaced, but is now one of the stars on the Monoco team, certainly one of, if not, the leading teams in the world.

Bridge, particularly the high-level variety, is just too great a game, to not keep it going, with the bidding improvements which keep our great game moving upward. I implore our current ACBL BOD’s in addition to the USBF (United States Bridge Federation) to treat it with the utmost respect and do everything possible for North America to continue to rank among the best instead of, as some think, spiriling down on its way to mediocrity (in comparison to the top of the line, where it has always been since contract bridge was invented by Harold Vanderbilt in 1927), a condition I could never imagine happening, especially with the brilliant former USA juniors (now middle aged) players who now adorn it.

For us to stay where we belong, at the top or at least competitive, our current best and brightest players MUST agree to represent us in the important tournaments now conducted around the world sponsored by the WBF even if the conditions provided are not perfect.

Sometimes it is necessary to give, before one gets. Witness what MLB, NFL, NBA, Tennis and Golf represented in America perhaps 80+ years ago.

All the players then played more for love than money and baby look at them now. We also need the ACBL in conjunction with the USBF our parent organizations, to do everything possible to further future interests instead of shrugged shoulders.

bobby wolffDecember 27th, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Chancing a 3NT response to 1 diamond by partner is a bit radical, but still a practical approach. The tricks will be there and Kx, Qx, and Q10x are all usually better off being led up to, enabling partner’s contributory honors to be put to maximum use.

Obviously, sometimes Jim2’s malady will catch the wrong holding from partner together with a ruthless opponent leading that suit. Amen, but anyone who thinks bridge is anything but a percentage game, rather than a certain experiment, hasn’t yet played his first card.

Live it up and one’s odds are not in favor of having to sleep in the streets, but if so, perhaps only for one night.

Greg NowakDecember 27th, 2013 at 5:48 pm

If the heart ten is ducked, hearts are continued and a third heart ruffed with the spade king.

jim2December 27th, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Our Host understands!

Actually, if I were in 3N as East, South would try a “surprise” diamond lead, challenging me to get clubs right w/o a chance to cash one in hand first.