Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Evangelical vicar in want of a portable second-hand font, would dispose of the same for a portrait (in frame) of the bishop-elect of Vermont.

Mgr. Ronald Knox

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


In today’s deal three no-trump would have been the easiest spot, and maybe South should have tried that contract at his final turn to speak, if he was going to move on over three hearts.

Against four hearts West took his three top diamonds. That was the easy part of the defense; what would you do next?

At the table West spotted the danger of the clubs as a parking place for losers, and shifted to the spade king. This entry-destroying play is known as a Merrimac coup. Declarer won the spade ace and ran the trump, forcing West to work out what to keep in the four card ending.

At the table East discarded spades, but West relied on his partner to have five spades and came down to a bare spade jack. Declarer noted that both opponents had kept clubs, and decided from the signals, and West’s tempo that he was guarding something in spades, so worked out to drop the jack of spades in the ending. Nicely done — but a shame that the defense lost their way.

The primary responsibility lay with East to make it clear what his spade holding was. After discouraging on the first spade, his first discard should be the nine (implicitly denying the 10). Since South is now marked with the spade queen and 10, West can work out to pitch clubs on the basis that if declarer has the club jack, he should make the hand on a squeeze or by taking two club finesses, whatever West does.

There is no need to bid right now. You described your hand nicely at your first turn and have no idea whether to play for penalties or declare hearts. Fortunately you do not have to decide. Your partner knows approximately what you have, so pass and let him decide what to do next. Incidentally, with your spades and clubs switched you might double.


♠ Q 10 4
 A Q J 10 9
 J 10 2
♣ 6 2
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
2 Dbl. Rdbl. 3 ♣

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


angelo romanoDecember 2nd, 2015 at 10:17 am

“three no-trump would have been the easiest spot”???

Bobby WolffDecember 2nd, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Hi Angelo,

Only if West decides to lead his fourth from his longest and strongest diamond suit, otherwise only 8 tricks for declarer with East’s mammoth jack of clubs (his only point) the defensive crusher.

For aesthetic bridge thought, think of the different necessary defense for the two likely game contracts, 3NT & 4 hearts. Against 3NT, simply cash and wait (and, of course, discard properly), but against 4 hearts (one more trick required after the first 3 diamond winners), a hyper aggressive king of spades switch, sacrificing a spade trick to do the greater good of eliminating declarer’s path to a set up club suit.

At least to me, educators across the world, especially ones highly involved with numbers (mathematic departments), should and would see the absolute educational allure of such artistry, all brought about by a simple game (often, not so simple), but until some organization such as the ACBL presents this case to the right people, Zone 2 (Western Hemisphere) will continue to be composed of third world countries, at least with our educational system.

And by doing so, will not in any way, adversely cater to the “High Card Win” crowd. It will only add another spur to our bow, one which will be nothing short of dynamite, in preserving the long run future of what, in its proper perspective, will accomplish for our youth’s developing minds.

We have already reached the “point of no return” and any further delay may be terminal both to our educational system and, even more importantly, for our off-the-charts game itself.

If many countries in Europe and all of China have already accomplished it, and with “rave reviews” from both the students and teachers, what are we waiting for?