Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 16th, 2016

Its mystery (of the British monarchy) is its life. We must not let daylight in upon magic.

Walter Bagehot

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

*Game-forcing relay


At the Yeh Bros Cup Teams last year, Team Ish from the USA did not set the tournament alight, but Chris Willenken of the USA and Dennis Bilde of Denmark worked some magic here – and won the bestdefended hand of the year from the International Bridge Press Association.

Against three no-trump, Bilde’s lead of the diamond nine travelled round to the queen and ace. Declarer tested clubs to find the bad news, West pitching two hearts then a diamond. Willenken now shifted to a low spade to declarer’s ace, and a heart was ducked to the jack and king.

Willenken could see the endplay looming on him. To get out of his own way, he exited with the spade 10. Declarer won in dummy, pitching a heart from his hand, and cashed the last two club winners, finishing in hand.

Willenken pitched a diamond on the first, and the spade king on the last one, which had the effect of potentially establishing the spade nine in dummy for the fourth round of the suit. However, in the four-card ending declarer could do nothing but duck a heart to East, and this squeezed dummy in the process.

West had come down to J-8 of spades and the diamond eight. So when declarer pitched a diamond from the dummy, reducing to two spades and one diamond, Willenken could exit in diamonds, to the now bare king, and West could take the last two tricks in spades. Had declarer bared dummy’s spade nine, Willenken would have led a spade to his partner to cash his two winners.

Even if I didn’t play a response of two clubs by a passed hand to a third or fourth-seat major-suit opening bid as Drury, I would respond one no-trump. If your hand is not good enough to open, you should not introduce a weak five-card suit at the two-level in what is essentially a balanced hand.


♠ A
 Q 9 5 4
 A 10 5
♣ J 9 8 6 4
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 ♠ 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitApril 30th, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Continuing this week’s theme why play a virtually cold 5 of a minor when you can play 3NT and quite possibly go down? Where does the blame lie? Playing 5-card majors, where responder never believes that opener has more than 3 cards in the minor suit he opened the bidding with. My solution when sitting down with a new partner: he asks “5-card majors?”, and I answer, “No, I play 3-card majors, so let’s compromise on 4”.

bobby wolffApril 30th, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Hi David,

Pity to you for not having been born British where you would no doubt have learned Acol which respected minor suits almost as much as majors.

Bid where one lives has always been its motto and although sometimes lacking in deftly arriving at a magical successful contract, it did have the advantage of all suits meaning exactly that, having four or more of them.

Power to the past and answering the late and great Helen Sobel’s question with one of the chapters in her book “All The Tricks”, “Whatever happened to Diamonds”.

bobby wolffMay 1st, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Hi David,

And a day late, but I feel an urge to identify with your choice of system. Even after all these years of the current American style of 5 card majors and getting even more pronounced, there is absolutely no doubt that I still prefer 4 card majors with its preemptive style making it much tougher, even on the world’s best partnerships, to play against.

Likely giving up on some lengthy scientific slam auctions in favor of having to sometimes bash, but combined with a forcing club, 4 card majors is remembered by me as having so many highs and fewer lows, but maybe it is all an illusion and I just got carried away with it. Maybe I’ll wise up in the next life, but until then, I love your story about compromise.

Jerry KisselMay 4th, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Bobby, I sent out an email this morning to some expert/near expert players about “the famous Bobby Wolff hand” which was something like a 3rd seat opening of 1D with AKxx when you also had six hearts to the 10. Do you have the exact hand and vulnerability and match points or Imps? I’m already getting comments which I’ll circulate.
Jerry Kissel