Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Courage and grace are a formidable mixture. The only place to see it is in the bullring.

Marlene Dietrich

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


The mixed teams event at the world championships in Sanya saw the Willenken team of the USA defeat Binkie, a combined Anglo/Australian squad. This deal turned out to be critical.

In one room the Willenken team had reached four spades by North and been treated to a friendly low club lead. Declarer had come home with 10 tricks by running the lead to his hand. He played on trumps, then, after a helpful heart switch by West, he had set up hearts for one loser, eventually taking the diamond finesse for his 10th winner.

In the other room Jane Dawson for Binkie declared the contract as South on the auction shown. West’s club opening lead did not cost a trick. Dawson won with the ace in hand and led to the diamond queen. When that held, she cashed the ace of diamonds, ruffed a diamond and cashed the club king, discarding a heart from dummy.

Declarer then ruffed a club, as West discarded a heart, and ruffed another diamond in hand before playing her fourth club. She ruffed in dummy as West discarded another heart.

In the five-card ending if declarer had now cashed the heart ace and exited with a heart, West would have been forced to ruff her partner’s winner and been trump-endplayed. But declarer misread the position by playing a low heart from dummy, and went down anyway.

Note, though, that West had missed her chance by not ruffing low on the previous club. Had she kept two hearts and three trumps in the ending, declarer would have been helpless.

Opinions differ as to whether one should get involved with a shape-suitable minimum. Bidding is not without risk – you may tip declarer off to how to tackle the red suits, for example, as well as running the risk of going for a number. That said, too dangerous is no excuse. I would double on the grounds that it is safer to bid now than later.


♠ K 10 8 5
 9 8 2
 J 4
♣ A K 5 4
South West North East
  1 Pass 1

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 ClimieOctober 21st, 2015 at 9:53 pm

Hi Bobby,

I can sympathise with East’s club lead against 4S where it made but what about west. Suppose north takes T1 with the CJ and runs the S9. West should just duck, then when a relieved north plays another trump, just clear the trumps and leave declarer to flounder. Perhaps Commodus ‘ warning about busy little bees in Gladiator applies to the heart switch even though the character is the bad guy. There is a place for active defence and this wasn’t it.

Any thoughts?



bobby wolffOctober 22nd, 2015 at 1:19 am

Hi Iain,

Ducking the first spade finesse by West should be relatively easy to find, likely enticing declarer to try it again, with very poor results for him, particularly so if followed up by West after the trumps have all been drawn, rising with the queen of hearts when, and if, declarer then leads the nine of hearts with, of course, the intention of letting it ride.

The result will be at least down two, but better for us to discuss what may have happened to West which caused him not to duck the first spade.

Possibly, not for sure, but likely, West was disappointed with his partner’s lead away from the queen of clubs and spent his time bemoaning that opening lead and thus not playing like a winner needs to, total concentration to the now task at hand.

In other words, the lack of discipline which, of course, has occurred from time to time to us all, much too often, will stand in the way of continual success.

Winners win and losers lose, not necessarily on lack of bridge skill, but rather lack of understanding that the possibility of adversity is ever present, but one unlucky event should not change a players dedication to overcome.

That very fact, at least to me, tends to make bridge a physical sport as well as mental, because of the endurance often required to brush off setbacks and stay the course.

All of us, even among the best players around, need to remind themselves of what is to be expected from them, and do everything that is necessary to live up to it.

Thanks for bringing up this important learning experience, or I may just describe it, as a possible human failing.