Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.

Terry Pratchett

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


On this deal from a Junior European championships in Prague four spades was reached at both tables and the Italians played nicely both as declarer and defenders. As West, Matteo Sbarigia’s lead was the first key to the success in the Open Room. His partner had opened one club but had had the chance to double a diamond call, so he led the diamond seven, and declarer let East, Fabio Lo Presti, win the first trick with the diamond jack. Lo Presti cashed the club ace, receiving an encouraging signal, then made the second key play when he continued with a low club to West’s queen. Sbarigia could lead a second diamond, and there was nowhere for the diamond loser to go. Very nicely defended by the Italians.

In the other room, on the auction shown, Stelio di Bello was declarer. West led the club 10 and East won and switched to a spade. Di Bello drew trump, then led to the heart 10. When it held the trick, he played two more rounds of hearts then played the club jack from his hand.

West correctly rose with his queen, to play a diamond through declarer. Di Bello played low from dummy, and when East won the trick with the diamond jack he was endplayed in the process. He had no hearts left to play, while a club would concede a ruff and discard, so whatever he did, declarer was sure to make his contract. That was a very well deserved 12 IMP swing to Italy.

You could argue that this hand is too strong to invite slam with a jump to four notrump. I’m not sure I agree, since with no eight-card fit we really need partner to have a maximum to find a way to 12 tricks. I’d be more aggressive if I had a single working spot-card. But I don’t; so four no-trump it is.


♠ A K Q 3
 A 7 6 2
 A Q 8
♣ 7 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 1 NT 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


David WarheitNovember 17th, 2015 at 9:23 am

In BWA, I bid 3NT. Why? Give partner:
How could he have more, and yet slam is a very poor proposition. Note that we are guaranteed not to have a fit.
Discussing Lo Presti's play, you speak of a "second key play". No. He could easily have cashed a second C and then exited in S or even H and just waited for a second D trick. Heck, he didn't even need to cash the second C (although, of course, he should, so he wouldn't have to worry when declarer, after drawing trump and eliminating defenders' H, leads a C from dummy).

Iain ClimieNovember 17th, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Hi Bobby,

In the room where di Bello was declarer, imagine the EW diamond holdings were slightly stronger e.g. West holding J9xx and East holding K10x. Now West after taking the CQ has to lead at least the D9 to avoid East getting endplayed – it is all too easy to switch to Autopilot and lead a small D.

On the author of today’s quote, I had the pleasure of meeting TP at a couple of book signings and he was a great guy and a very sad loss a little while ago. If anyone hasn’t read his stuff , can I recommend certain parts in “Eric” (a lovely take on Faust and hubris – don’t ask for what you think you want as you might get it), “Pyramids” (a lovely send-up of the Achilles and tortoise fable) and “Guards, Guards” on the general unfairness of life when buying boots that don’t leak or fall to pieces. I suspect David, as the resident bibliophile, will not need such encouragement though.



RyanNovember 17th, 2015 at 4:25 pm

In the main hand, I might have bid 1H in response to the double. Whether or not this is correct, how do you think the rest of the bidding would proceed?

bobby wolffNovember 17th, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Hi David,

While not discounting your wise counsel on evaluation, sometimes distributions turn out to be at least slightly different than expected, and at any rate are not that easy to determine, at least for me, to be certain.

Partner could very well be: s. xxx, h. xxx, d. Kx, c. AKQJx or even without the jack of clubs, but substituting the jack of spades instead and then requiring a heart lead by an unknowing opening leader to severely test the higher percentage chance for the slam (making when clubs are only 4-2, but spades 3-3) when the opponents instead held the spade jack.

And finally, although I am getting up there in years, I still play club bridge twice every week and often in local higher rated tournaments
and believe me, I am still learning the game with its millions of different nuances and unexpected occurrences which, at least to me, just adds to its incredible allure.

In any event, many years ago (1968) when the Aces first began and we (with the early use of computer simulation) studied percentages dictated by thousands of example possibilities, the only result that eventually sounded somewhat strange was the one many of us expected, since the art of bridge turned out to be the unexpected much more often than first thought.

The above seemed to affect our entire group into forcing us all to believe that bridge really is a partnership game, enlisting each others judgment whenever possible (here 4NT), instead of committing one of what we then called one of the seven deadly sins, being unilateral (either bidding 6NT or only 3).

Besides as a peripheral advantage it is better on the ego, to let partner make the mistake than yours truly.

bobby wolffNovember 17th, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Hi Iain,

It must be nothing short of fantastic to come face to face with a noted author, especially one who has likely made famous quotes which have stood the test of time to be often referred.

And even when that author such as Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill and even Mae West has a satirical and/or off color motive for so doing. I can assure you that I wish I had been there, enjoying what I firmly believe to be a precious once-in-a-lifetime experience.

bobby wolffNovember 17th, 2015 at 5:28 pm

Hi Ryan,

A good question since I think this junior bridge player was showing advanced promise with his choice of 1 spade (with 4 small) instead of 1 heart (4, but not so small).

His reason is that if LHO or even RHO had then kept the bidding open with partner remaining silent, it would have allowed the 1 spade responder to then bid 2 hearts in competition allowing partner to show a preference with equal length holdings in both majors, but in any event not get higher than the 2 level in either case in the event North had 4 hearts, but not 4 spades. Small difference, but very likely to score up +110 instead of minus 100.

If instead, 1 heart is responded then to get the spade suit in, one risks being preferred to the 3 level, not a desired result.

However, in this particular case and with North possessing such a “moose” of a hand the bidding would likely take a very similar course, except the final contract would, no doubt, result in 4 hearts not 4 spades.

Thanks again for allowing us to discuss this experienced subject, well worth mentioning.

bobby wolffNovember 17th, 2015 at 6:39 pm

Hi David,

Finally and apologetically, yes the defense on the subject hand is indeed very simple. The key for the defense is to get one diamond lead from West through dummy, then cash out (under leading the original AK is unnecessary, once a diamond has already been led through).

However this particular report is of a hand already played and recorded so that when Juniors perform admirably we think it worth reporting, with specific names mentioned, just to recognize their development as upcoming players.

No doubt, those above accolades are overbids, but not the reasons for so doing.

RyanNovember 17th, 2015 at 7:28 pm

Thanks Bobby. I didn’t know if having 1S available for North would matter, though making a forcing bid is clearly better.

bobby wolffNovember 17th, 2015 at 7:36 pm

Hi Ryan,

Bidding one spade over one heart is an altogether different type response than a cue bid which forces partner to better describe his hand and somewhere between 17+ points up and while not GF is still strong.

Merely bidding 1 spade denies holding 4 hearts shows about 16-19 points and at least 5 spades, but is not forcing.

Sometimes bridge bidding is confusing, but in all cases exemplifies total consistency and once learned, forever remembered.