Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Show me a gambler and I’ll show you a loser, show me a hero and I’ll show you a corpse.

Mario Puzo

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

*Spades and a minor

**Two key cards, counting the heart king as a key card


Since the Fall Nationals are about to start, all the deals this week come from last November’s Nationals from Providence.

Down at the half in his Senior Knockout Teams match, John Lusky first took a somewhat aggressive action in the bidding then found the way home in his slam, which in the end constituted considerably more than the margin of his team’s victory.

Facing a strong no-trump with some heart support, but nonetheless a hand that wasn’t worth a cuebid at its second turn, Lusky elected to use keycard for hearts and bid on to slam. He was hoping, of course, not to buy too many wasted values in spades.

Having won the opening spade lead with the ace in dummy, how would you have advanced from there? Lusky played the club king and a club to the ace, then ran the heart 10! When it held and both opponents followed, he ruffed his club loser, unblocked the heart king, returned to hand with the diamond ace and drew the last trump. The way the cards lay, he couldn’t misguess diamonds, so that was 13 IMPs to the good guys.

His logic was that with East marked with long spades, West was favorite to have heart length, and thus the queen. When one defender shows real length in a side-suit, finessing the other defender for the trump queen becomes much more attractive.

Incidentally had trumps been 4-0, Lusky would have needed to find East with a singleton diamond honor, so that he could set up the diamonds for three tricks.

It is a little lazy to jump to game here. Yes you have only a 12-count but facing the right 12-count (the spade ace, heart king, and five diamonds to the king-queen) you might make a grand slam! While as Bob Hamman says, partner NEVER has the right hand, give him one chance. Jump to three spades, a splinter-bid in support of hearts, and let him make the running thereafter.


♠ 7
 A 10 7 6 4 2
 A 4 3
♣ A 7 4
South West North East
  Pass 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


jim2December 8th, 2015 at 2:27 pm

I am not so sure Lusky would have been able to make 6H if trumps had been 4-0 the way he played the hand unless East is precisely 6-0-H-6.

However, if declarer had:

– won the first club with the AC (temporarily blocking the suit),
– run the 10H,
– repeated trump finesse,
– cashed KH,
– crossed back to AD (dropping the needed HD), and
– AH (drawing last trump).

Then, at this point, declarer can play on diamonds for the needed three tricks.

Of course, if East does follow suit small as in the column hand, then declarer has to choose from among a few lines with different risks. For example:

– cash KC, and
– KH (discovery play for East distribution).

Now declarer has only to safely return to hand. He can ruff a spade, trusting East did not start with 7, or he can lead to AD. Of course, once the discovery play revealed East to be out of trump, the diamond play is obvious.

– AD (East follows, so likely does not have six clubs)
– club ruff
– spade ruff (distribution now fully known)
– AH
– lead towards QD

Another line would be to NOT cash the KH, guarding against East having six clubs, but this line has other risks.

Bobby WolffDecember 8th, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for the OMG, thorough analysis.

It not only is impressive, it set a new standard. Sometime in the not so near future (at least in the USA), when bridge becomes paramount in schools and mandatory to learn (just ahead of learning the spoken language), computers may become equipped with special buttons for higher level bridge examination.

Therein your great, great nephews and nieces will be programming them to be specific, cover all the possibilities, and also contributing notes on table awareness (named affectionately Jim2 Feels).

When then they are asked why did he alone stand out?…. they can truthfully answer, his TOCM TM enabled him to always play for the worst possible distribution, simply because he always encountered it.

Moral: Every rain cloud, even a life of TOCM TM, has a silver lining.

You missed a very successful career of writing How To Manuals.

jim2December 8th, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Wow! I deserve no such accolade!

My main point was simply that Lusky’s West would have cashed a club when in with the KD before declarer could discard if Lusky had been forced into two trump finesses on his actual line of play.

(Unless West had no more clubs, hence started with a doubleton, meaning East had six.)

Bobby WolffDecember 8th, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Hi Jim2,

Perhaps Lusky should have played a small club to the ace leaving the club king in dummy and then testing the hearts with a first round finesse (remember we were only reporting the way he did play the hand, not an inferior or superior way he might have).

And yes you do deserve such accolades making you, no doubt, the greatest combination player-analyzer ever who also suffers from TOCM TM.

And please, do not ever think of me as offering faint praise