Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 28th, 2015

Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.

Benjamin Franklin

N North
None ♠ A 6 5 2
 J 9 7 5 4
 K 8 3
♣ 7
West East
♠ 3
 Q 8 3
 Q J 7 6 5
♣ Q 8 5 4
♠ J 10 8
 A K 10 6 2
 10 9 4
♣ J 2
♠ K Q 9 7 4
 A 2
♣ A K 10 9 6 3
South West North East
    Pass Pass
1 ♣ Pass 1 Pass
2 ♠ Pass 3 ♠ Pass
5 NT* Pass 6 ♠ All pass

*Asking for top spade honors


The first three deals of the World Junior Finals in Rio in 2003 turned out to be decisive in the match. The US teams scored heavily on them all, although if their opponents, Israel, had escaped avoidable error they might have been far in front themselves. Here is one of these deals.

In one room John Kranyak’s Grand Slam Force did not get the job done, and he settled for 12 tricks in the small slam. In the other room a complex auction, after North could open to show a two-suiter, saw Ranny Schneider reach the decent seven spades. Schneider won the diamond lead and drew two rounds of trump with the ace and king. Now he cashed the club ace, and after much thought ruffed two clubs in dummy. He was overruffed on the second round, for down one.

A slightly better percentage line is to cash the second top club from hand before ruffing a club. If no honor appears, you need to ruff a club in dummy and cross your fingers. If an honor appears from East, draw the last trump and take a ruffing finesse against the remaining honor. This line goes down whenever East has precisely queen-jack-third in clubs, or whenever East has brilliantly false-carded with an honor from an original holding of QJxx — in which case he deserves to beat you! But once East has three trumps to West’s one, he is more likely to have a doubleton honor, as in the diagram, than a very specific three-card holding.

After opener jump shifts, responder should give preference to opener’s first suit whenever that is remotely feasible. Opener frequently needs the extra space to define his hand (by, e.g., showing three-card support for responder). Since you are in a forcing auction you do not have to show values now. Bid three clubs, and leave partner room to tell you what he has, and why he forced to game.


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


Lee McGovernSeptember 11th, 2015 at 10:26 pm

I am enjoying your book and I am finishing the chapter with the Italians playing footsie…

What are your views on the current cheating allegations with the Israeli pair?

bobby wolffSeptember 12th, 2015 at 5:21 am

Hi Lee,

Thanks for the kind words about the book. Writing it, with much help from others, was, of course a labor of love. You can rest assured, some 20 years after it was first begun, every event mentioned was as close to 100% true, as possible and so represented by many still alive witnesses to that effect.

Not every name mentioned, especially the culprits, were specifically named, but
I didn’t see a major plus in forcing others to make excuses, where in actuality, no valid ones would ever exist.

While I have not had the opportunity to play against the pair in question, I, because of the side fanfare by high-level bridge players of honor do suggest probable guilt.

However, as for effective bridge detective work, I sincerely believe that “stings’ rather than hypothetical statistical analysis, no matter how thorough, serve a better vehicle to prove guilt, especially when non-playing bridge juries may at one time be forced to enter the scene. However it is not a good idea to make those “stings” public knowledge.

The sad thing of course, is the total degradation of our game which accompanies stealthy cheating, which only proves to me how much those who do, really hate our game.

In actuality, there is probably no punishment adequate to compensate the huge percentage of honorable great players who have been ravaged by those miscreants.

Strong letter to follow but I advise patience in the hearts and minds of those who are waiting to see the final solution since plea bargains are often the result to restore a sort of status quo and to avoid great cost.

At least to me, a lifetime ban is perhaps a little too lenient.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 12th, 2015 at 11:35 pm

Hi Lee,

Couldn’t restrain myself from sticking my two cents into this current focused-upon discussion. I totally agree about the inadequate methods of accusing, trying and eventually finding guilty those who vandalized and raped honorable, ethical and revered bridge contestants. However, Bobby is crying with several loaves of bread under his arms (more specifically eleven world championship trophies or plaques to commemorative his incredible achievements).

I personally mourn for my late husband Norman Kay who died in 2002 (whom according to Bobby was a more-than-worthy world class opponent who ranked up there with the very best of his time). Norman suffered the indignity and disappointment of never being once victorious .. merely serving as cannon fodder during countless deserving victory attempts which fell by the wayside .. over which he and his partner/teammates had no control.

I have no idea regarding the truth or non-credibility of these recent rumors as to whom may or may not be guilty and to what extent.


At least it is a start .. albeit too long overdue!!

Lee McGovernSeptember 13th, 2015 at 3:39 am

I appreciate you both taking the time to candidly feedback on this

Lee McGovernSeptember 13th, 2015 at 4:04 am

Is there a way to review (online) the prize money achieved by the accused pair? I realise their main income is from the relationship with Vainikonis however would you expect if found guilty that all prize money be repaid?

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 14th, 2015 at 5:13 am

That is way beyond my scope of knowledge and there is so much involved that I doubt anyone would have the time to calculate such expenditures.

As far as I am concerned .. IF any cheaters are found guilty (beyond a doubt), they should be REMOVED FROM THE ARENA POST HASTE and not given the opportunity for a repeat performance. To me, money is down the line in importance. In fact, perhaps it was the lure of acquiring sponsors in the first place that created the possible actions alleged by so many.

Unless stringent controls are executed, we are inviting more trouble and the potential destruction of our once marvelous game.

Lee McGovernSeptember 17th, 2015 at 4:13 am

Amazing now whats come out on Fantoni and Nunes