Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.

Giotto di Bondone

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


Over the last 20 years Alfredo Versace of Italy and his partner Lorenzo Lauria have taken their places in the very top echelons of Italian world champions. Last summer in the warm-up for the Spingold Knockout Teams, Versace encountered this neat play problem, and found an elegant solution.

Against four hearts West led the spade two. Versace made the critical move when he won the spade ace and ruffed a spade. East followed with the 10 and king, and Versace then drew trump in three rounds (West having the singleton jack). Now he led a diamond, perhaps intending to put in the seven, had West followed with a small card. In fact, though, the trick went to the jack, queen and king.

East now had to shift to the club seven. This went round to West’s ace, and back came a third spade. Versace ruffed, then led a diamond to dummy’s seven as West discarded. In the four-card ending, East had been stripped of his major-suit cards, and was down to one club and the 1-0-6-4 of diamonds. Whatever he led next, he had to concede the rest, one way or another. As you can see, the spade ruff at trick two was essential to remove East’s exit card in this position.

Of course, not every story has a happy ending. Versace’s +620 held the loss on the board to five IMPs. His teammates at the other table had saved in five clubs and had been doubled to go minus 800 after the defense found the spade ruff.

The jump to four diamonds is a splinter raise. It shows short diamonds and the values for a raise to game in spades. You have enough to cooperate for slam, and the best way forward is to cuebid five clubs, denying a heart control and suggesting approximately these values. Let partner move on with heart control and a suitable hand.


♠ A 7 6 4 3
 6 3
 Q 7 4
♣ K 5 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 ♠ Pass 4 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


Mircea1September 14th, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Hi Bobby,

Nice problem, thanks for sharing.

Do you think saving in 5C (at the other table) is reasonable? We don’t know how the bidding went but if it was East who saved, I would consider that a poor choice. Do you agree? I heard an expert say that the average players tend to sacrifice too often. I’m not sure if it applies to the higher levels but I always think about it when faced with a saving decision.

Bobby WolffSeptember 14th, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Hi Mircea1

What you said simply feels to me to be on point and worth considering and then put to positive use.

For a sacrifice to be successful, especially one which I will call “out of the random blue”, is to aim at a small window of success. IOW, in order to gain, it needs to fall within measurable grounds, one or at the most, two chances to not have the set more than the score to which the opponents can make, and even more dangerous, sometimes the opponents neither can make or even if so, takes great skill, as in the example of today’s column hand.

Better to save that sort of gambling for other occasions, or at the least, be playing against declarer hungry opponents who always like to play the hand and only too often, bid one more in order to do so.

Finally, I have always believed that the very best players, being mostly equal in bridge techniques and skill, only become measurably rated by their psychological ability to have their usually worthy opponents to not play their best against them.

However, I do not have any “real” proof, only a feeling which has stayed with me through many bridge adventures for more years than I can count.