Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the expected for which one has refused to prepare.

Mary Renault

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


Sam Loyd, the American puzzler, was adept at posing puzzles that produced unexpected answers. With that in mind, consider this deal from the pairs at the St. Louis Nationals. At double-dummy, three no-trump by East looks to be playable — though only because of the 7-0 diamond break, of course. You need only a smidgen of luck in the clubs and hearts, but do not appear to be in luck today. However, three no-trump did indeed make on the deal when Mark Feldman was North and Billy Pollack was South. How did that happen, given that the two players are top experts?

The answer is that it was Pollack who played three no-trump as South, on the auction shown. The defenders led a low heart to the 10 and ace. You and I would try to win the heart continuation, then run diamonds — but the opponents might object. So how would you get to dummy to cash that diamond suit?

Well, at trick two, East could see diamonds were running, so decided desperate measures were called for. A spade shift might look best to you or me, at both first or second glance, but East switched to the club 10, hoping to find his partner with the goods there.

As declarer, Pollack followed smartly with the eight. To clarify the position, West overtook with the club jack and continued with the queen! Pollack won, crossed to dummy with his “sure” entry of the club seven and ran the diamonds for nine tricks. Easy game, bridge!

This hand is too good for an invitational jump to two hearts because of the fifth trump. In my book a three-heart call is not pre-emptive, but a sound invitation with a five-card suit. Check whether your partner has read the same book! If not, you must choose between the game force via the cue-bid, and the heavy jump to two hearts.


♠ A 9 7
 A Q 8 6 5
 J 10 5
♣ 10 4
South West North East
1 Dbl. 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2April 9th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

One of my partners loves to call me with stories in which opponents self-destruct in bidding or play. He recounts them with glee, knowing that my experiences are generally where opponents accidentally play the right card or make bidding errors that turn out to be miracles.

I greet his anecdotes with the phrase, “Where do you find these people?” After all, they never show up at MY table!

Well, that is what I exclaimed out loud when I read this column in the paper two weeks ago!

Bobby WolffApril 9th, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

A third form of interest in such a hand is trying to determine what was going on in the defensive minds which created this aberration.

My opinion is that West never realized the possibility of the combination of no ace of spades and no diamonds in declarer’s hand and at the same time East was hoping the opening leader held AQJxx in clubs.

Sometimes voids are difficult to diagnose and therefore that possibility never enters a player’s mind. West then acted hastily in hoping his partner held either AK10x or K109xx in clubs with declarer holding no diamonds but the ace of spades and not wanting his partner to (for whatever reason) not continue clubs, perhaps unsuccessfully switching back to hearts.

Many of those errors which occur at other tables, but do not at yours, obviously because of the TOCM tm malady you have diagnosed, has unfortunately caused you to expect negativity instead of falling heir to a “lucky make”.

Maybe a cure for you will be found and, if so, the same day the sun will rise in the West.

Michael BeyroutiApril 9th, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Poor Jim2!
The more we get to know him the more we realize he is afflicted by various forms of the same malady.
TOBM: theory of bid migration, and
TOPM: theory of people migration…

Bill CubleyApril 9th, 2014 at 2:01 pm

A friend of mine spectacularly misdefended against Malcolm Brachman’s unmakeable 3NT. Mr. B had bid hearts holding AKQ65 with AQ10xx behind the spade bidder. My friend held J109874 of hearts, dummy a stiff 2 and the opening bidder held a stiff 3 of hearts.

Mr. Brachman won the spade lead easily and saw he had 8 tricks and no dummy entry. So he led the heart five at trick two. It held. Dummy Bobby Goldman laughed so much he almost fell off his chair saying he had never seen such a play. RHO had to tell Mr. Brachman that he won the trick.

They eventually gave up a dummy entry for the contract to make. This made my column but not yours.

jim2April 9th, 2014 at 2:02 pm

It’s true! It’s true! It’s ALL true! Finally, someone who understands!!!

Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Hi Folks,

DVDs and books of sporting disasters sell well in the UK e.g. I recall a clip of 3 defenders and the goalkeeper of one soccer team managing to shepherd the ball into their own net without an opposing player in view. How big a market would there be for the bridge equivalent, or are there already plenty of such books out there? I have a feeling that there is plentiful raw material here, including much from the most frequent victim of TOCM (TM).



Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2014 at 4:11 pm

As a further example, can I ask Jim2 for his thoughts on this hand from the late 70s – A AKQJxxx AKQx x. I was ready to open an Acol 4N for specific aces but rho opened 1D. I bid 4N anyway, lho bid 5S, pass from lard (no DOPI agreement but surely none), 6C on my right. I bid 6H, lho took the push and we got a small penalty of 6Sx.

If Jim2 had bid 6H, he’d have been dbled. LHO (10-2-0-1 shape) would have led a spade and east (0166) ruffs, plays diamond back trumped, club to rho’s ace and another diamond ruff. 4H can go off on the stupid hand!

Bobby WolffApril 9th, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Hi Iain,

You’ve added modern luster to the 1940’s common bridge description “Crushed on the rocks of distribution”.

When Jim2 is declarer in a suit contract and has Ax opposite a singleton but only 1 or 2 trumps in dummy when he then trumps his low one, it is cause for celebration when he is not over ruffed.

jim2April 9th, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Oh, I’m really feeling the love, now!