Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 11th, 2014

I would rather be right than President.

Henry Clay

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

Your call!

Not all bridge administrators and tournament directors are good players, but there are exceptions. One of the most prominent is Jose Damiani, who rose through the ranks of the French bridge establishment to become president, first of the European Bridge League, and then of the World Bridge Federation, for a combined total of two decades. Jose was a top class player in France, and although he rarely plays seriously nowadays, he was capable of competing at the very top level. Here he is at work on defense.

The opponents were not playing 2/1 so could grind to a halt in two no-trumps; but even that modest level proved too high. At the table Damiani knowing that he possessed all his side’s defensive assets, chose a low spade as his opening salvo. There were two simple ways that this could work; he might find his partner with the spade nine (or even the eight). Or declarer might misread the position and waste an honor from dummy.

So it proved: Declarer chose to fly up with the ace and play a club, ducked, and a second club. Damiani won and went back to the well when he played a second low spade. Declarer now had a legitimate problem, since he was not happy about losing the lead cheaply, and having the defenders shift to hearts. Hoping to drop an honor from East, he rose with the king, and now had to go down when East showed out.

In this auction your partner's double should simply be high cards and not a penalty double. So you can describe your hand simply enough by bidding four hearts now. (For the record with a trump stack but moderate values his best bet is to pass and hope you can reopen with a double, or to gamble out three no-trumps if he is too strong to risk passing out the hand in three spades.)


♠ 3
 K Q 10 5
 K J 10 8 7 6
♣ Q 10
South West North East
3 3♠ 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


Shantanu RastogiDecember 25th, 2014 at 11:54 am

Hello Mr Wolff

Thoughtful lead and good follow up. I hope his partner followed with 7.
The lead is clearly 4th best. I think the more compelling reason for playing other spade honour could have been to cash club winners and not dropping an honour. It is almost impossible to play 9 at first trick and more difficult at trick 2 after club play. But why declarer didnt attack diamonds remains a mystery. He still goes down on the lead but he can put 9 if he plays diamonds as there is entry in dummy with clubs. So right play is diamonds not clubs. Declarer ,if from France, may not have had high opnion of Jose Damiani as a defender.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Shantanu RastogiDecember 25th, 2014 at 11:59 am

Hello Mr Wolff

Forgot to wish you Merry Christmas. Have a wonderful day and wonderful new year.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Patrick CheuDecember 25th, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Hi Bobby,Would it be better for declarer to run the nine of diamonds on T2?West wins and follows with a second spade,if declarer(slightly tipsy)plays the 9S and ‘loses’ to East’s J or 10,who can only return a heart here..if West has only AH,D4-1,the contract may depend on the Jack of hearts being in East’s hand,using perforce the club entry to finesse for it.In Opening Leads For Acol Players by M Lawrence n R Klinger,after 1H-2D,2H-3N..West to lead from 872 QJ1094 KJ7 J4..the recommended lead the four of hearts!If hearts N AK865 E72 S3,declarer unlikely to find the 8H play and if low East wins with 3N can be beaten if West gets in twice with diamonds..wonder how many of us would find the 4H lead..Seasonal Greetings~Patrick.

bobby wolffDecember 25th, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Hi Shantanu,

First, thanks for the Christmas greetings and back at you for a healthy, happy, prosperous holiday season and, of course for all of 2015.

Perhaps declarer was hoping to get a few club tricks in, before attacking diamonds, so that the final trick count would eventually reflect the contract, eight tricks.

After all, the combined declarer club holding was more solid than the red suits. In other words, in the race of eight for declarer before six for the enemy.

As far as the defense was concerned, I’m sure Jose felt, quite correctly, it was one defender, 13 cards (all the defensive high cards and hoped for tricks and partner’s queen of diamonds could have been only the jack) against the other 26 cards.

bobby wolffDecember 25th, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Hi Patrick,

Thanks for your always upbeat attitude which seems to symbolize this great time of the year.

If only the whole world would come together with love instead of hate, perhaps we could finally have valid reasons for celebrations. Then, if we could add wide spread positive creativity, without jealousy and unhealthy competition, present life could be truly beautiful.

Now, back to the ranch, As someone (don’t remember who) once wrote, “There is a time to love and a time to die”, in bridge there is a time (90+%) to defend in a partnership style where both players participate with finding the best defense, and rarely (such as today’s hand) to defend unilaterally, knowing partner is unable to contribute.

When able to realize the above, it becomes MUCH easier to recognize (like Mike Lawrence and Ron Klinger suggest) the time to do it.

From impossible to relatively ease is what characterizes the growing of a somewhat talented (numerate) bridge player.

As to leading clubs before diamonds is difficult to judge, but sometimes, by doing so, tantalizes the opponents to help you. Here Jose knew what to do and did, before he chose his deceptive opening lead and once declarer rose with the spade ace, victory was won.

Finally a great and happy holiday season to you and yours