Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Necessity is the mistress and guardian of nature.

Leonardo da Vinci

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


One of the all-time classic hands on the theme of whether to duck a trick or take it comes from the only world championship won by Britain against the U.S. You may care to concentrate on West's hand to see the problem he faced.

In the Closed Room the American North opened a very restrained one no-trump (in those days the 16-18 no-trump was far more common than nowadays) and played there on the lead of the spade 10. Declarer put up South’s spade jack and won the trick. Then he played on clubs, and the defenders ducked the first club trick, won the second, then cashed out the spades. North slightly mistimed the play now, and managed to endplay himself in diamonds to lead hearts from hand, all of which led to one down.

In our featured room, though, Adam Meredith responded one no-trump to one diamond and got his side to game. West started off well by leading a spade. Meredith took the second spade in dummy and played the club jack, overtaking in hand! Maybe it was an error for West to win this, but Meredith deserves at least part of the credit for creating an environment in which a mistake could be made. West led a spade to East, who switched to the diamond king. Meredith won, finessed the club nine, ran the clubs, then took the heart finesse, finishing up with one of the world’s more unlikely overtricks.

You showed extras (in shape or high-cards or both) when you doubled two clubs, and your partner, who did not have enough to act initially, took a minimum action. Though you have a nice hand, the fact that you are balanced and have all the high cards lying over you, argues for caution. I would pass now, and would only bid three hearts if my club five were the spade five.


♠ A 8 6
 A K J 3
 A J 8 4
♣ J 5
South West North East
1 2♣ Pass Pass
Dbl. Pass 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 10th, 2014 at 9:43 am

Hi Bobby,

It is easy to blame west (east possibly did so) but he knows the heart finesse is working and South could be trying to steal his 9th trick holding (say) Jx xxx KQxx K10xx or even that hand without the DQ but with the D10. From what I can gather “Plum” Meredith had a flair and ability to bamboozle opponents and feel where cards were comparable to Zia Mahmood’s today. As such players are usually incredibly fast, the pressure they generate goes far beyond what later analysis might suggest. West might have started to hesitate and played the ace to avoid tippling declarer off further – ouch!



Mircea GiurgeuJune 10th, 2014 at 11:31 am

I think the main question is: should East cover the club jack if he has the queen? IMHO, from the most of 4 cards that he can have in the suit (based o the bidding), i think he should. So now, it should be clear to West that declarer is throwing smoke in the mirrors and he must duck. From his point of view, he knows that their fifth trick, if available, must come from the minors. I hope my logic stands….

Iain ClimieJune 10th, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Hi Mircea,

I think that is valid if east has Qx or Qxx in clubs, but he could have Qxxx with no intermediates when declarer might have K109xx or similar in clubs when covering could easily cost a trick, so he’d have needed to decide what to do very early. Zia argues “If they don’t cover, they probably haven’t got it” however.



Bobby WolffJune 10th, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Hi Iain & Mircea,

Between the two of you, all avenues have been explored, re the misjudgments, genius, quickness of mind, whys and why nots, all within the context of actually happening in a World Championship and still being one of the “special” hands ever played in spite of it happening 59 years ago during the Bermuda Bowl (BB) in NYC in the finals between England and the USA.

England won handily with the method, total points (three years before IMPs were invoked and, at least up to now, never improved upon, although the IMP scale was changed once (definitely improved).

Yes, the highest level bridge was a different game, with less artificiality, less accurate bidding systems, no professionalism, more catch as catch can bidding and playing adventures, although the declarer play and defense was probably equally effective with today, mano vs. mano psychological confrontations, and, too much stealthy cheating (which translates to any at all), but still, like the Wild West used to be back in the days of Cowboys and Indians, the survival of the fittest.

For what it is worth, Billy Rosen now 86, an American player in that match will be honored next month in Las Vegas at the ACBL Summer Nationals by at long last, an inclusion into the ACBL Hall of Fame (he was on the winning US BB team the year before in 1954 when it was held in Monte Carlo and during his relatively short, but highly successful bridge career, was a major factor (he and I have been fast friends since 1954 and for the last period of time, he and his wife Eunice come to Las Vegas and Judy and I get together with them once a year).

Thanks Iain and Mircea for your contributions.