Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.

W. E. Henley

W North
None ♠ K 8 5 4
 J 5 2
 K J 2
♣ A 7 2
West East
♠ 7 6 3
 A Q 10 8 4 3
♣ K 8 4
♠ 10 2
 Q 10 9 6 3
♣ Q J 6 5 3
♠ A Q J 9
 K 7 6
 A 8 7 4
♣ 10 9
South West North East
  2 Dbl. Pass
4 ♠ All pass    


The specialty of Jeff Meckstroth is reaching impossible contracts — and making them. Here he is at the 1995 Cavendish Pairs, weaving a web of deception around his opponents.

The contract of three no-trump has some decent practical chances here, but four spades seems a long way from making. At the table Meckstroth as South, received the lead of the diamond five against four spades, won with the ace. Next came three top spades from hand, as East threw a club, and then declarer advanced an innocent heart six. After long thought West ducked, so the heart jack won the trick. Meckstroth was not yet out of the woods, however. He ducked a club to East’s jack, and when East played a low club to West’s king, he took the ace. Then he played a third club, pitching a heart as East won his queen. East played a fourth club, and Meckstroth threw hearts from both hands, leaving East to play a diamond into the king-jack.

Can you see the defense? East could have foiled this ending, in straightforward fashion, by discarding a diamond on the third trump, retaining his fifth club as an exit card.

Also, even after that error, he had one more chance, namely he must put up a club honor on the first round of the suit, then play his other honor. This allows his partner the chance of winning the third club. If South discards on that trick, West has the heart ace to cash for down one.

A simple raise here shows 12-14 and three or four trumps (with a guarantee of four trumps if a support double is available to show a three-card raise). Yes, you do have a decent hand, but with the heart king devalued because of the overcall to your left, a raise to two spades is quite sufficient, and a call of three spades would be a pronounced overbid.


♠ A Q J 9
 K 7 6
 A 8 7 4
♣ 10 9
South West North East
1 1 1 ♠ 2

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


Patrick CheuJune 6th, 2015 at 10:53 pm

Hi Bobby, Would you have played the QH as West? How would the play had gone if West did play the QH? An instructive hand for the defense,from your detailed analysis of East’s play. Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffJune 6th, 2015 at 11:24 pm

Hi Patrick,

Most, if not all roads in defense, will lead to a defeat of 4 spades once West rises with the queen when Jeff leads a low heart to dummy.

Perhaps West will worry that declarer is 4-2-5-2 and if so, he will switch to a low club, playing partner for at least the queen afraid that declarer plans on eventually throwing away his losing club on the 3rd heart if he started with Kx instead of Kxx.

However, it seems that the error of ducking the heart together with questionable plays later by his partner allowed the contract to score.

The lesson to be learned is that bad news early can often be remedied but only by trying to catch up with the reality of what’s left to decide later. And even when the whole hand collapses, as this did for the defense, then the next hand is exactly what to point to and forget about this one result.

Some of the very good players accomplish that, most do not, but in any case, all of the really deservedly great players all do. No one is error proof while playing our very difficult competition, but continuing to be adversely effected after, is what we all need to guard against.

We’ve all missed your guiding light and I, for one, want to warmly welcome you back.

Mircea1June 7th, 2015 at 11:54 am

Hi Bobby,

A very nice, instructive hand. Of the many questions I have about it, I’ll ask only one: do you agree with North’s double? Isn’t it too light?

bobby wolffJune 7th, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Hi Mircea1,

No doubt by yesterday’s standards, it is.

However, since the new trend (coming on for
some time) is to preempt more and with random unpredictable hands it is now more fashionable to come in lighter, since it is
generally agreed among the higher ranked
players that remaining silent with decent values is more dangerous than getting one’s
feet wet. There is always the danger, that after passing, LHO will continue the preempt, again with random values (still likely, but not always) thereby possibly stealing a game right
out from under their opponents.

The results of this experiment will eventually
level off one way or the other, but as of now,
come in, since there is major risk either way.

Stay tuned, but as of today, come in or else be
prepared to sleep in the streets.

PS, being a very good declarer helps while making this change. Also the effect may eventually cause the traditional game of bridge to change the scoring system set in 1927 of 50 and 100 for sets to something larger in order to put more fear in those preempting NV. IMO
this should have been changed 50 years ago (I suggested it then) but it wasn’t for the good reason of not wanting to interfere with what so many bridge players had traditionally learned, making it difficult to suggest such a major change.

All these many years later, the chickens may have come home to roost.