Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 13th, 2015

The universe is simple; it’s the explanation that’s complex.

Woody Allen

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

*11-16 points; five plus clubs in an unbalanced hand


In bridge one should never say never, and while an even trumpbreak is normally top of declarer’s wish list, there are always exceptions. Sometimes one has to project the complete distribution, and work out that bad splits can be more productive than a favorable break. That is especially true of hands like today’s.

After a fairly sporting auction by North, Augustin Santamaria of Argentina reached a delicate four spade game, a contract that was made even more challenging by the fact that the auction had indicated the danger of bad splits. On the lead of the club jack, Santamaria took dummy’s ace and played a low diamond. East won his diamond ace, cashed the club queen, and exited with a diamond.

At this point Santamaria was in a very awkward position; he could see that if trumps were two-two, then unless West specifically had the doubleton jack-10 of trumps, the defense could promote a trump winner for themselves by leading a third round of clubs after taking the ace of trumps. Therefore when declarer led the spade seven from hand and West followed with a small trump, declarer went for his only legitimate chance to make the hand by ducking in dummy! When East produced the spade ace there was no longer any possibility of the defense producing a second trump trick. Thus the contract made, for a 12 IMP pickup for Argentina, on the way to an upset in their knock-out match from the 1986 Rosenblum Cup.

Depending on the vulnerability and form of scoring you might be prepared to risk pre-balancing with a double here. Yes, you might catch LHO with a strong hand, but at pairs, or non-vulnerable you should risk a double to show a three-suited hand with opening values and short spades.


♠ A
 9 8 6 3
 A 9 6
♣ K Q 9 8 3
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♣
Pass 1 ♠ Pass 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


Iain ClimieJune 27th, 2015 at 11:45 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA would your answer be different if East either had a genuine club suirt (playing 4 card majors) and/or EW were vulnerable? In these cases, I think I might prefer to defend given that suits aren’t breaking yet partner didn’t bid even though he may well have short clubs. Still, if pard has 5 spades (not impossible) we could be doing nicely via Dbl.



A.V.Ramana RaoJune 27th, 2015 at 3:56 pm

Hi Mr Wolff
I really wonder what declarer would have done had W played either J or 10 on Spade 7( difficult to visualize from West’s point of view- Nevertheless) If declarer covers, Trump promotion indeed occurs provided East is alert to the situation and returns a club.

Bobby WolffJune 27th, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Hi Iain,

Your opinion re the BWTA is well reasoned. There is no legitimate action that will work anywhere near 100% of the time, more likely 60% plus .. if that .. simply because of the unchartered waters splashing around us. Yes, what we do here will have violent extremes and the winning at bridge is directly involved by what we choose. Thanks always for your original thoughts.

Bobby WolffJune 27th, 2015 at 4:33 pm


Again, your innovative thinking deserves to be recognized. Yes, your suggested play may work, but may not .. only because of the respect that a wily declarer may have for you. When titans clash, it becomes a battle royal .. with the victor usually only one step ahead. My fondest memories revolve around recalling those thrilling times which were incomparable.

Patrick CheuJune 27th, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Hi Bobby, Equally,after Ace of diamonds and cashing QC,East could have played a third club and promoted a trump trick in West’s it happens.But if West has J43,this would not be a success..therefore on balance of play I think A.V.Ramana Rao’s line has a greater chance of success and pending on who is sitting EW,declarer may still get it right..regards~Patrick.

A.V.Ramana RaoJune 27th, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff

At the outset, I am happy that I made you Nostalgic stirring old memories
& coming to the defense, As far as W is concerned, declarer may have S A and if it is so it really does not matter which card W plays. However if W reasons that declarer is missing Trump A, it is almost singleton with E. Hence W should coax declarer to cover his J/10 the only chance for defense to prevail . I am certain that even the most astute declarer too will be tempted to cover West’s card hoping for doubleton J and 10 with W and reasoning that if West’s card is a singleton declarer can come to no harm but may not cover just in case. & By the way why E did not continue clubs after cashing club Q & played a diamond instead? Had he pushed a club declarer would have been without any recourse (And we would have missed the brilliance of Santa Marina)
However I would like to humbly mention that —- it something to sit comfortably and analyze a hand postmortem (like what I am doing) and something else to play/defend it on the table amidst all sorts of pressures

Patrick CheuJune 27th, 2015 at 7:47 pm

Hi Bobby,Playing pairs,bidding went-ew vul,dealer E,2D(multi)-S pass W 2H N 3D(11-16 n D),all pass out.3D+3 for below average. E AQ6432 84 108 1084-S 85 KJ1076 74 KQ72-W KJ109 A52 9653 63-N 7 Q93 AKQJ2 AJ95.Pard did not double with the North hand as he did not want to hear 4S from me.As it happened,if North X E would bid 2S and I 3H and we get to the making 4Hcontract..Pard felt that I should have bid 3H(8-11?) over his 3D,how would you go about it?I thought he should x first..and face the music afterwards…?

David WarheitJune 28th, 2015 at 1:50 am


Good question, but it matters not if E plays a 3d C instead of exiting with a D. W ruffs with the 6, dummy overruffs, and then declarer leads a low S from dummy. E wins and W has only the SJ left with the K sitting in dummy over him. Same result even if W started with SJ109.

bobby wolffJune 29th, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, as usual, you seem to cover the basis with your discussion and deserve a 2nd answer or, like a special doctor deserve greater attention, except I do not think as much about partner passing my double as you.

Sure it is possible, though rather unlikely, but if he does, I will kiss an angel (the ace of spades) good morning and expect to defeat it at least two tricks. Perhaps Edgar Kaplan’s major contribution to bridge (and he had many of them) was to suggest to all who would listen, “Take-out doubles SHOULD be taken out”!

bobby wolffJune 29th, 2015 at 2:36 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes AVRR is, no doubt, the hero in this discussion, and much can be learned about trump promotion from this episode.

Thank you. A.V. Ramana for lending us your bridge brain and also thank you, Patrick, for calling the proper attention to it. All we can further say, is that after an honor is played by West on the seven, if declarer now ducks it, he has earned a special place in the card reading hall-of-fame, never to be removed.

bobby wolffJune 29th, 2015 at 2:44 pm


Congratulations on your superior analysis, and although yes you are correct that it is easier away from the table rather than the cauldron of intense competition, it still speaks very well for you, that your knowledge of trump promotion and its advantages will be just another attribute you will bring to the table, available whenever that talent is both recognized and, of course, available.

bobby wolffJune 29th, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Hi again Patrick,

Holding s. xx, h. KJ10xx, d. xx, c. KQxx and hearing it go 2D (multi) to one’s right P (to which I agree, since there is just not enough beef to enter) 2 hearts by LHO and 3 diamonds by partner followed by pass from RHO, it is just too dangerous to not bid 3 hearts NOW.

Remember that LHO’s 2 heart bid, if anything showed fewer values and less length in hearts than in spades, but in truth not much information either way so that his bid should be erased as to any significant meaning, leaving our hand to be shown to our loving partner. We now have enough to respond and not to, is IMO, a major error.

However we can all now at least begin to understand what MULTI brings to the table.
Trouble right here in River City, but not in a bridge sense, only as an intimidation, since any not well experienced player becomes frightened with this unusual type of bridge reasoning needed to overcome this wary interloper.

Multi, again IMO, is a relatively significant minus in its overall application (partner not knowing what suit the opener is coming in, therefore preventing further preemption), however more than made up for by obfuscation to their inexperienced (probably) opponents, allowing an unwelcome PHONY emotion to rear its ugly head by its inclusion.

Bridge is (and should be) a wonderful honest and straightforward reflection of both numerate and detective type logic, which together creates the greatest card game ever and, when psychology is also added, sends it above the clouds in worth, to any and every ones mind.

Our administration is not wrong in being restrictive to any attempt to take away from bridge value and instead allow destructive opportunities for others who prefer winning by throwing tacks in the road for other vehicles when entering a car race rather than merely testing which car is faster (not referring to the drivers).

Please forgive the above rant, but others need to see what should be in front of all of our faces.

It is NOT that I do not both love and respect the art of finding ways to win, but rather do not cotton to creating crass intimidation as a means to do it. The closest similarity in America is the various conventions involving competing against the opponents 1NT opening which are not sound, but nevertheless cause novice type bridge players to “crawl in a hole” when used against them.

To me, the game of bridge is not the place for such antics, but I do realize that I will not be able to stop it, though I’ll never stop trying.

And please, as an argument against my intentions, do not compare the above with just ordinary preemptive or psychic bidding, since that has legitimately been around since the inception of Contract Bridge in 1927 and has proven its traditional value.

bobby wolffJune 29th, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Hi David,

Needless to say you are right.