Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 20th, 2016

There is always a pleasure in unravelling a mystery, in catching at the gossamer clue which will guide to certainty.

Elizabeth Gaskell

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


All this week’s deals come from the 2015 European Open Championships. When Mark Horton published this deal he commented on the fact that the play in slam offered declarer the chance to make his contract, based on a clue from the auction and the play. Of the 102 tables in play, most played slam, the vast majority tackling six spades from the South seat.

The normal sequence of play was for declarer to receive a top diamond lead after West had preempted in diamonds and North had raised either to three spades or four spades, and East had sacrificed in five diamonds.

After winning the top diamond lead, how should you plan the play? While West rates to have more diamonds, and thus fewer spades, the player who jump raises the preempter is the one who is more likely to have trump shortage. Imagine an East with Q-7-4 of spades and a relatively balanced hand – say a 3-2-5-3 pattern with not much in the way of high cards. Would YOU sacrifice in five diamonds over four spades? Of course not. It is far more likely that East has shortage somewhere – and the most likely place is in spades.

Precisely one match produced an honorable push at 980. Congratulations to the declarers in Penfold-de Michelis. Kalin Karaivanov and Luca de Michelis both reached slam after East had raised a pre-empt to the five level. Both declarers won the opening diamond lead and duly finessed West for the spade queen. Well done gentlemen!

If dummy has only three spades but raised at his second turn, he must be favorite to hold long clubs. Declarer sounds to have four spades and a balanced hand. So my partner must be short in clubs and have some red-suit length, though relatively limited values, given his failure to overcall. Since declarer can’t have four hearts, I’d lead the heart jack rather than the diamond king, to try to set up that suit.


♠ K 8 2
 J 2
 K 3
♣ Q 10 7 6 4 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ Pass 3 NT
All 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


Steve in EnglandJuly 4th, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I am just a beginner, but once South has pulled trumps via a finesse, he will lead hearts. East rises with the ace and returns a heart, where does the two of clubs go ?

jim2July 4th, 2016 at 3:19 pm

On the AD at Trick #1.

Bobby WolffJuly 4th, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Hi Steve in England, and Jim2,

Thanks to both Steve in England for his straightforward question and to Jim2 for his right to the point answer.

During life there is a time to be born, a time to live, a time to love and hopefully much later, a time to die. Also, during, there is a time to engage in worthwhile hobbies, which sometimes because of the enthusiasm which usually forms, becomes obsessive, cannot do without, and often inspires.

Such, for some, is the playing of bridge, which to many (I would guess most) become more than just a pastime, but rather an infinite challenge, complete with problem solving, logic, consistency in thought, partnership togetherness. a social grace, shared happiness, but sometimes, like life, occasional disappointment.

All that time is usually well spent and a welcome diversion from the well known cares, worries and vicissitudes which often accompany life.

And Steve, along the way, and while learning to play our wonderful game and, if you are lucky, you will run into helpmates like Jim2 who will always be available with right-on, no nonsense answers to your basic questions, which only means that he appreciates what you need to learn as you start your journey.

Welcome to our world, don’t be a stranger, and get your feet wet. My opinion, and I bet also Jim2’s, will suggest that you will not regret it, as long as you show some necessary patience early on.

jim2July 4th, 2016 at 6:42 pm

I run into blindspots all the time. If Steve had been at the table, I am confident there would have been no Q. Things like that are just artifacts of doing stuff in print. I had one just like it in e-mail correspondence with Our Host a few years ago. He has been kind not to mention it again.

My answer was short because the chance of me confusing someone has always seemed to increase with word count.

Iain ClimieJuly 4th, 2016 at 7:00 pm

Hi Bobby,

A stray thought on East’s hand. Wouldn’t he raise with (say) Qxx in spades and short clubs or possibly short hearts plus 5D. Suppose declarer is prepared to risk a 5-0 club break to get a better picture of the whole hand so West, who might have started with CQJ9x drops the queen under the ace making the club suit appear the other way round. Now declarer might go wrong.



bobbywolffJuly 4th, 2016 at 7:38 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, playing the preemptor for the Qxx in spades is contra indicated and, most certainly, in a vacuum, NOT the percentage play.

However, when it is done, and at both tables in an IMP match, it is news, requiring publicity and then congratulating both wary declarers.

“Let the winner explain” is a constant reminder to both honor that hero and perhaps, sometimes grudgingly, listen to why. Here, both explain their moves and the column obliges their reasons.

Likely more “fluff” than reality and more so, when you suggest falsecarding the Q from QJ9x you are attempting to get into the head of that declarer to talk him out of “doing you in” just in case you are not dealt more than one small spade.

No doubt those declarers deserve many kudos
for their results but whatever else one thinks, should be strictlly up to that individual.

Jane AJuly 4th, 2016 at 8:05 pm

And if east keeps quiet and slam is still reached, now what will declarer do? The plot thickens! East could hold three spades and he knows partner has one or none. Sometimes that road map to the hand takes you down the wrong road.

Iain ClimieJuly 4th, 2016 at 9:00 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that and, as a follow-up to yesterday, I found a cartoon by H M Bateman (from the 1920s) entitled “The Man who revoked at the Portland Club”. I’ll bash together a coherent article (possibly entitled heretics corner, highlighting one of the “rules” that we all get taught but need to break on occasion) but the cartoon, although dated, is worth a look.



bobbywolffJuly 4th, 2016 at 10:25 pm

Hi Jane,

Yes, your comment lends itself to coulda, shoulda, woulda judgments.

No doubt if East had a copy of the hand records he could play winning tricks galore, fooling the very best players entered in that tournament.

Not bidding diamonds when holding 5 of them when given a chance at the five level is not only a case of a dog which didn’t bark, but is more likely to indicate either 2 or 3 spades, but simply not a singleton or, of course, worse, a void. After all, the declarer knows his opponents had 12 diamonds between them, that is, of course if the cat had not eaten one or two.

The above is why in the very highest league of players the technical knowledge is often close to the same, but the winners in that group are the best detectives, better described as psychologists, to many.

bobbywolffJuly 4th, 2016 at 10:33 pm

Hi Iain,

Whoever said a cartoon is worth a thousand words really knew how to present bridge.

Including the wealthy set, dressed to the teeth, but kicking each other under the table to start or stop certain leads or bids.