Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous.

George Eliot

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

*Michaels, showing at least five cards in each major

**Showing a club fit


Today’s deal came up in a high standard Swiss teams event. At one table North and South settled for a contract of five clubs. The defenders led a top heart, and West shifted to a spade at trick two into the ace-queen. Declarer disconsolately claimed his 12 tricks and tried to persuade his partner that slam was against the odds, since West had been favorite to hold the spade king.

However when it came to scoring up the deal, South discovered that his side had actually gained a big swing on the deal. The auction went as shown in the diagram. West led the heart king against six clubs; what do you think happened next?

If East had left his partner on play, then even if West had not exited with a spade, declarer would surely have come home with his slam. But our East was made of sterner stuff. He overtook the heart king with his ace and played a spade. Had declarer known that diamonds were not breaking, he would have had no option but to take the spade finesse. But it was hardly unreasonable for South to play for the diamonds to break 4-2. He went up with the spade ace, and down went the slam. Declarer could draw trumps and try to ruff out the diamonds, but the bad break prevented him from establishing any pressure in the endgame, and he was left with a spade loser at trick 13.

You have a straightforward preference to two spades here, a call that is consistent with holding two spades rather than three, since you might jump in spades now with three (or have raised at your second turn with three decent trump). In context, therefore, your trump support is outstanding.


♠ A Q
 8 5 3
 9 5
♣ A K 10 6 5 4
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 ♣ 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJune 2nd, 2015 at 8:09 pm

EW, as the cards lie, can make 9 tricks in H; heck, on a slightly different lie of the cards, they can make 4H. Do you think they should have bid 5H, and if so, how should the auction have gone? There is a trap: they have 9S & 9H, but they do one trick better in H.

Jane AJune 2nd, 2015 at 8:51 pm

Love those 23 points slams. It is all about fit, shape, and a lot of luck this time. I must admit I would have been content to reach the club game. The overtrick would have been icing on my birthday cake.

TOCM would have struck again in Lower Slabovia however. Jim2 would always go down (and me also, no doubt) after he and his partner would have boldly and without fear, bid the slam. Points, smoints!

jim2June 2nd, 2015 at 9:45 pm


If I had been in that slam and East overtook to return a spade, then the KS and a small diamond would have been in a Schrodinger blur as I went to select either the QS for the finesse, or the AS to try the diamonds.

bobby wolffJune 3rd, 2015 at 1:19 am

Hi David,

While I am not much on ages, I am aware of eras (why I do not know, although I am sort of a nostalgia nut).

First with movies way back then, in the late 1930’s through the 1940’s there were both comedies (Laurel & Hardy, The Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello) and Horror shows (Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man) and finally spoofs which had titles like Abbott and Costello meet the Wolf Man or some such).

The truth is that bridge can be like those popular fantasy spoofs when so many truths, both real and phantom, can exist on any one hand and often do. Yes hearts play better than spades since spades break, but hearts do not, which enables an original heart lead to get a ruff when, of course, the opposite does not occur.

As has been said by great authors, “signifying nothing” but nevertheless perhaps worthy of note.

However worthy of much more than note is East’s failure to overtake his partner’s king of hearts and firing back a spade. It is obvious to the point of laughable for a good player to not make that overtake at trick one and lead back a spade and yet in many bridge games, almost as we speak that and worse plays are made with the good news being no one really recognizes what is going on and all remains serene.

East was truly horrible by his failure to defend right and paid a dear price with the only believable excuse is that he took a hand off. Good players NEVER take a hand off, like good pitchers in baseball, or top players in all the other big-league sports.

That is the one fact that pervades all top level bridge games, without which our high-level game ceases to exist.

Yes, neither do top surgeons take a lesser surgery for granted, at least I want to think not, but whether it is ever done or not (it probably is) the stakes are just too high to even imagine such a thing.

Errors happen, but never should something as clear cut and necessary as the bridge play which was not made on today’s hand occur. With that as a backdrop bridge can be a sensational practice for consistency in motion which just makes teaching it in schools so important for everyone concerned.

To answer your query, it is so correct for NS to bid a club slam why waste time determining what EW should be doing on offense, but to say anymore about the defense will destroy that horse.

bobby wolffJune 3rd, 2015 at 1:40 am

Hi Jane A,

Not if you would have been playing against the East who allowed his partner to win the first trick. Instead of points, schmoints the new scale of games and slams should look something like for 9 tricks in NT about 23 working points (wp), (instead of 26 overall) game in a major about 21 (wp), (instead of about 26) game in a minor about 24, (wp) (instead of 29), a small slam about 27 (wp), (instead of 33) and a grand slam about 30
(wp) (instead of 37). Of course different bridge cultures have different evaluations but for suit play distributional points should also, of course, be in the equation.

However there are many factors to consider including the opponents bidding or not, the positioning of honors, and of course, the most important of all, togetherness of honors which the late Ely Culbertson featured but Charles Goren, ever being the salesman, kept it as simple as possible with only high card points being added to distributional ones for the final determination. Whatever, he wowed them in Peoria.

When one considers holding J2, opposite K543 with the Qxx behind the J and the Axxx behind the king if always having to play 1st and 3rd no tricks will be taken, but if we switch to K1098 opposite J2 and with the same configuration of the defense there will be 3 tricks taken. An example of the exact same number of points taking 3 more tricks than the other combination.

Now we are entering the twilight zone of evaluating. Does anyone doubt the other human qualities necessary for consistency in excellent results? I hope no one!

bobby wolffJune 3rd, 2015 at 1:52 am

Hi Jim2,

At the very least Lou Gehrig in his farewell address in real life at Yankee Stadium as he was beginning to succumb to the illness which was to take his life and forever bear his name simply stated that “yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” would you like to compare your feelings with his, TOCM TM or no TOCM TM.

You need to catch that Schrodinger cat in mid blur. Perhaps tomorrow’s technology will oblige.

jim2June 3rd, 2015 at 1:54 am

Every time I try to catch it, but I’m always a quantum too late ….