Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Atonement was powerful; it was the lock on the door you closed against the past.

Stephen King

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


**Short hearts


Most of the hands provided to the ACBL bulletins congratulate someone on their good play; it takes a very modest player to report their own errors, in the hope of helping others. Mary Oshlag brought this hand in with her tip — I will give it to you at the end of the hand.

Slam is no bargain here. Since Mary had upvalued her strong no-trump into an acceptance of the quantitative four no-trump call, having already shown decent clubs at her second turn) she would have no-one to blame but herself if she failed.

How would you play the slam on a low diamond lead? Mary played low from dummy, and took the queen with her ace. She crossed to dummy with a spade and played a heart towards her hand. East hopped up with the ace and played a trump, and Mary drew two further rounds finishing in hand, but no longer had a winning line.

If she threw one of dummy’s diamonds on the heart king she would eventually lose a spade. Equally, if she discarded dummy’s spade on the heart king, the entry problem would prevent her from taking two diamond finesses after drawing trump.

More contracts are defeated by a trick-one error than from any other mistake. As Mary realized, if she had initially unblocked a diamond intermediate from table, she could have drawn trump, and pitched North’s spade loser on the heart king. Then she could have run the diamond eight and repeated the diamond finesse.

The danger with overcalling two clubs is that with so much defense outside clubs and so weak a suit, you could hardly blame your partner for misjudging whether to compete or sacrifice. Still it may be better than passing on the first round and balancing when and if the opponents find a heart fit. The opponents do not always cooperate to give you a second chance.


♠ A K J
 K 10 9 2
♣ Q J 8 6 3
South West North East
  Pass 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


David WarheitNovember 3rd, 2015 at 9:23 am

The play could not have gone like you say. S plays the D9 at trick 1, wins the A and draws trump ending—where? If in dummy, he would have to lead a H. E wins the A and defeats the contract by leading a S away from his Q! So, he must end in his hand and then play 3 rounds of D, ending in dummy, and he leads a H. If E rises with the A, claim. But if E calmly ducks the A, S has 2 options: play the K, hoping E has the A, then finesse in S for a possible overtrick, or play the J, hoping W has HA and SQ but not HQ. So, did Mary misplay? Yes, but against an expert E, she still would have a difficult decision to make.

Iain ClimieNovember 3rd, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Hi David,

I think the play intended is to use the D9 or 10 at T1 play a spade to the Ace at trick 2 then a heart (as described) but South probably has to play the HK if the ace doesn’t come up – there is a risk of a diamond ruff. If west has led a singleton diamond, the contract is going off anyway. The drawing trumps comes later.

If East finds that spade into the AKJ on the line you describe, then we’re playing oppo against whom we shouldn’t bid any dodgy slams, although East should see that west has to have the DJ and declarer surely has the HK.



Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Hi David,

Since the whole column is based on Mary’s confessions as to her overlook in not playing a diamond intermediate from dummy at trick one, it being an actual tale told by an honest person.

Also, Mary, before leading trump, arranged to lead a heart from dummy. East did play the ace, but if he didn’t Mary, to make the hand, had to play the king, since even if the defensive heart honors were reversed giving West the ace, but Mary now guessing to finesse the queen, since trumps were not drawn West could then set the slam with a 2nd diamond ruffed by partner.

True, if Mary would have drawn all the trumps which she could have done, but then if so, would have left her vulnerable to the possible brilliant return of a low spade into the dummy’s tenace.

However, no doubt playing the diamond nine from dummy (with the 87 in hand) will always provide flexibility and not to do so was an error in technique.

A good lesson to the aspiring to excellence players who read the column.

Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for your comment to David, explaining to him what I attempted to corroborate.

I always appreciate whatever action you do not hesitate to contribute, since by doing so it relieves me, because of time differences from having to worry about lagging behind in getting the record straight.

Little by little we can do great things, but only if all of us do our share to help the cause. Your contributions are always accurate, selfless and above all, necessary.