Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Here’s to the crazy ones… while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Rob Siltanen

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


I’m not going to specify precisely where Australian Michael Courtney falls on the spectrum of genius and madness, but he deservedly won the 2010 International Bridge Press Association Declarer Play of the Year award for his play on today’s deal.

Michael is a true maverick, capable of making extemporaneous plays that other experts would never see – of course, not all of them are successful, but that is part of his charm.

Against three no-trump West led the spade six, and Michael made the natural but unsuccessful play of covering with the 10. The first trick went to the jack and king, and Michael now took the losing diamond finesse. East thought it a good idea to cash his top heart winners before returning a spade, in case declarer had the spade ace and not the heart queen, so he led the heart king. West wanted to be sure that East would not play him for the heart queen, so he dropped the jack on this trick.

Michael knew from the rule of 11 that East must hold another spade, so he could see that his priority was to stop East leading another spade. Accordingly, when East continued with the heart ace, Michael dropped the queen – leaving hearts wide open as well as spades – but now West unblocked the 10 of course, ‘knowing’ his partner must have the heart nine.

East was now convinced that West must have started with J-109-fourth of hearts and thus continued with a third heart. Michael won his nine and claimed nine tricks.

Your pass (rather than redouble) over one spade suggested a balanced or semibalanced hand with at most two spades. With three trump, you might have made a support redouble. That being so, you should remove your partner’s cooperative double to two spades. Some would play the double as leaning more towards defending, but even so, it feels wrong to pass with such weak trumps here.


♠ J 7
 A K 8 5 3
 K 6 4
♣ J 10 4
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.
Pass 2 ♣ Dbl. 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 WarheitAugust 6th, 2016 at 4:55 pm

In the other room, after the same auction & same play to the first 2 tricks, E led a small H at trick 3. S went up with the Q and made his contract. When asked later why he played the Q, S said that unless W had 7 spades, which he found extremely unlikely, E returned a H because he was loaded in H but missing the 10, so he hoped S would play H normally. This S won the runner-up prize for Declarer POY.

bobbywolffAugust 6th, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Hi David,

No doubt South made an intelligent play when, with your hypothetical, South rose with the queen of hearts, since he projected ahead and realized that if somehow a heart duck by him would produce either the ace or king, highly unlikely but one can never be sure perhaps East held 6 hearts to the HJ10. However even if so, when West then led back to East’s other high honor, he upon winning it, would now revert back to spades for the significant set.

Of course, certainly in the role of judging possible award winning plays, one needs to always put himself in the form of the player executing whatever play he made to be considered, and just perhaps in this case think that, of course South made the right play, thus performing at maximum ability, true, but not really award winning, only a normal day at the office for him (or her).

At least the above is what my old eyes think and not necessarily agreed on by all others.

Thanks for your post, allowing two believable sides to be considered.

Iain ClimieAugust 6th, 2016 at 7:31 pm

Hi Bobby,

Declarer understandably played the S10 today, but suppose he plays low. Will East play the S7 or place his partner with (potentially) KQ86x, AQ86x(x) or similar and play the Jack anyway? Of course if East has the SA or West the DK, it doesn’t matter but this could work on occasion.

David’s post though shows the merit of a show of apparent strength, even if bluff. East surely doesn’t have KJ10xx or similar so playing the 9 will just encourage a heart continuation regardless. Exuding an aura of confidence has led to surprisingly good results although my occasional bluff redoubles in high level competition (pairs only) are not to be recommended unless playing with a very, very tolerant partner.



Iain ClimieAugust 6th, 2016 at 8:00 pm

PS Loved the quote today although there is a flip side. Many people who’ve made great changes or progress were originally thought to be crazy; being thought crazy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a force for good!

bobbywolffAugust 6th, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Hi Iain,

Of course, if declarer decides to not play the ten of spades from dummy a trick one he will be, (to excuse this gross abuse of good bridge), better placed for making his contract. That is, if he ducks the continuation of the spade jack and then, of course, rises with the queen of hearts when, and if, East leads a low one, instead of switching to clubs instead, which will allow the defense to still prevail.

Shakespeare once wrote a play called “As You Like It”, to which my computer agrees, in 1599. Seemingly, the playing of bridge offers many versions, some of which will echo that name, but others, not so much.

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