Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 27th, 2015

The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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


On this deal from the final of the Baze Senior Knockout Teams at Providence last November, Matt Granovetter made a nice defensive play to earn a swing for his team.

In one room West had led the heart king, ducked by Fred Stewart, who had set up clubs and taken the diamond finesse for nine tricks.

At the other table Jeff Meckstroth took the opening heart lead in dummy. He played a low club from dummy at trick two, his jack losing to Granovetter’s king. At trick three, Granovetter played the spade jack, pinning Meckstroth’s singleton 10 and threatening communications between the East and West hands.

Meckstroth took the spade ace and played another club, winning the queen when Dan Morse played low. Meckstroth exited with a club to dummy’s nine and Morse’s ace. The heart nine came next. Meckstroth played the jack and Granovetter ducked. Granovetter won the next heart with the king, cashed the heart seven and got out with a diamond. Meckstroth won the diamond king with the ace and cashed the queen, but had to give up the setting trick on the final play. North-South took two clubs, two hearts and a diamond for one down.

Double-dummy, Meckstroth could have survived West’s clever play by winning the spade and playing another club from dummy, unblocking the club queen if Morse rose with the ace. If Morse played low, Meckstroth could have won the club queen, and exited with a low heart. Whether West won or ducked, there would be a route to nine tricks on careful play thereafter.

On the right day a cautious pass or a somewhat distorted raise to three hearts might win out. But my preference is for a rebid of two no-trump, suggesting invitational values and no particular fit. If partner shows five hearts you will play that suit, of course. Otherwise notrump looks as good as anywhere to me.


♠ 10
 J 5 4
 A Q 10 7 6 5
♣ Q J 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Pass
1 NT 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


Iain ClimieDecember 11th, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Hi Bobby,

One stray thought on Fred Stewart’s line. Did he unblock the HJ at T1 to ensure there were enough entries for the clubs and the spades if ever required? If not, then West can switch to the SJ here too and give declarer a more awkward time, although I think he still gets home, partly through not losing to the long heart. the duck is more obvious with (say) HAKx in dummy and Hxxx in hand if west led a heart, but it is a little surprising that Jeff Meckstroth didn’t find it at IMPs. Point a board has its own perils, of course.



jim2December 11th, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Of course, my opponent won the heart lead, finessed and cleared diamonds, and later got to hand with a club honor …


David WarheitDecember 11th, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Jim2: Of course, your line of play works, but only because W has a singleton C honor (A or K), plus (of course) D need to be 3-3 with either the K onside (if you finesse the Q) or the J onside (if you finesse the 10). Otherwise, the opponents have just enough time to set up H, making 2 H tricks, 2 C tricks and a D trick..

David WarheitDecember 11th, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Or E could have doubleton DKJ. In short, the overall probability is less than the chances of Donald Trump making a contribution to his neighborhood mosque.

jim2December 11th, 2015 at 4:17 pm

Real life hands sometimes let non-experts prevail when even the best pro’s fail.

Bobby WolffDecember 11th, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Hi Iain, Jim2, & David,

Thanks for all the accurate “skinny” about today’s hand.

On the bidding involved, do not discount the possibility of West leading the unsupported king of hearts, making the jettison of the jack a questionable tactic. For anyone watching, if the lead was from either a simple Kx or from Kxx, it might be thought by the audience to be tuned to the wrong game.

Also when a total of only 23 hcps plus no 8 card fit anywhere against the best opening lead appears, a partnership should not expect unqualified success. The opening bid by South somewhat resembles today’s reduced opening bid standards, looking much closer to be an old time, weak 2 diamond opening.

To that above end, the top players today understand the risk, but, as a group, think the early entry in the bidding has more plus than minus. Methinks, that world wide other great players, have caught up with that sort of strategy, signifying trouble ahead for those who have so sincerely reduced those old time standards for opening bids.

Also the NS pair above, play a form of Precision, therein, not having room for allocating a 2 diamond opening to show diamonds.

I do agree with David’s thought about Jim2’s chances (certainly much less than double digits, meaning way below 10%) with his lines of play but since every declarer is expected to play out the hand, Meckstroth will have that dubious honor.

And finally to David’s truism about charity, perhaps the great Trump might consider an explosive device to be a contribution, but probably not to civility.

Iain ClimieDecember 11th, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this, although if the lead were from Kx(x), I think Fred Stewart would have the hard luck story to top most, having ducked T1.