Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 1st, 2016

You have but a very few years to be young and handsome in the eyes of the world; and as few months to be so in the eyes of a husband, who is not a fool.

Jonathan Swift

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

*Transfer to hearts.


I was reminded of today’s deal by the fact that its hero was Brian Platnick. With John Diamond, Brian was one of the pairs I took an interest in mentoring when he was a junior – more years ago than he would care to remember, no doubt. Brian and John were part of the US national squad in Wroclaw this September at the World Bridge Games that were eliminated in the knock-out stages, having finished second in the US trials in the previous two years.

This deal came up in a Vanderbilt Trophy match where Brian’s team won by just 11 IMPs, so it turned out to be critical in their eventual success.

Both tables reached four hearts by South after a transfer sequence. At one table, three rounds of diamonds let East ruff. This looks to be a good idea for the defenders, since it obtained a quick trick for them by getting a ruff that was not with a natural trump trick. Moreover, it left declarer with a losing diamond in dummy. However, the late Henry Bethe as declarer could take a diamond ruff for his ninth trick, with a spade finesse for his 10th, for plus 620.

At the other table, Platnick as West found the killing trump shift at trick two. Declarer followed a reasonable line when he simply cashed the spade ace and king, and Platnick ruffed in, to play a second trump. That left declarer with all the diamonds to lose and nowhere to discard them, which led to down two and 13 IMPs.

With some fear and trembling I would raise to three clubs. I know I am weak, but this shape must be worth something to partner. While I won’t let him play three no-trump, unilateral as that decision might be, I can see game in clubs, or even either major is a real possibility. And I hate to let the opponents in cheaply.


♠ Q 10 8 7 3
 8 4
♣ K 10 8 3 2
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 Pass
1 ♠ 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2December 15th, 2016 at 9:28 am

As in another recent column, passing 3N after a transfer sequence is a good contract.

Interestingly enough, all roads appear to lead to 9 tricks. If West plays diamonds from the top, declarer would decline the spade finesse because West’s diamonds are established and simply take 9 tricks.

Should West lead one top diamond and find a club shift, declarer would have little choice but to finesse for the QS.

bobby wolffDecember 15th, 2016 at 11:08 am

Hi Jim2,

Whether a bridge purist will admit it or not, often it becomes an art form and not a pure scientific experience.

This hand represents such an experiment. No doubt, most players, from top level on down, would prefer 4 hearts with the South hand once his partner gives him a choice, while announcing a 5 card heart suit.

Furthermore Brian as West could see an advantage in defending as he did, since if he guessed the diamond layout after his clear high diamond opening lead and in spite of allowing his partner to ruff the third diamond with an otherwise worthless trump, he wanted to prevent the ruff by declarer of the 4th diamond in the short trump hand, likely making the critical difference in the final result.

Surely an example of a far sighted defensive view by West, and particularly so if, in fact, that declarer only held 2 diamonds instead of 3, which, depending on EW’s count signals on the opening lead, might have been the case.

However the result still worked with the actual holding, even though the twist came about because of the different perspective to which declarer played the spades, therein making Brian’s judgment stand up to scrutiny.

The only possible worthwhile comment I could make regarding your analysis, implying perhaps South not preferring a heart game over 3NT, my guess would be that most experienced players would convert this hand to 4 hearts, perhaps it would be a good example, if clearly behind in a match, to pass 3NT, if only to do something the declarer in the other room would not, and thus succeed in playing a different game contract, though in the long run probably at least slightly anti-percentage, in order to succeed in playing catch up.

No one should ever under estimate our beautiful game regarding critical choices and when and how to make them. Intensity and excitement are hardly ever lacking, especially when the world’s best players tee off against one another.

Iain ClimieDecember 16th, 2016 at 12:18 am

Hi Boddy,

I just got the following from a club I played in when working away from home:

Hi Iain,
Good to hear from you and I’ll pass on your message.
We’ve had a dramatic week. On Tuesday there was a match against Great Harwood. Earlier this year we had bought a defibrillator not expecting that it would ever be used. Blow me but Jeff Moore, who was our B team captain had a cardiac arrest. You probably remember Jeff, he played with John Blake and Carl Molodinski.

Anyway he died right there in the bridge room and was brought back by Peter White and the defibrillator. He’s coming out of hospital tomorrow and has been incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time. The whole thing was a bit like a miracle and convinced me there should be defibrillators at every bridge club.

I know you’re keen on bridge in schools but maybe we also need to think about the number of older players too. A minor miracle, and it puts things in perspective.


bobby wolffDecember 16th, 2016 at 1:35 am

Hi Iain,

C’m on Iain, we have all left good tricks in dummy with no way to get there only to have the opponents do it for us.

Jeff was merely relying on his teammates to take the save and they did just that.

Yes, fate plays a large part in both bridge and sometimes with life and death matters. However it is somewhat comforting to know that in time of need, people tend to show their best side.

Bridge for Peace and in this case, life.

msp coins and diamonds adderDecember 19th, 2016 at 9:26 pm

Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your site is very cool.
I’m impressed by the details that you’ve on this web site.
It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject.
Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles.
You, my friend, ROCK! I found just the information I already searched everywhere and just couldn’t come across.

What a great site.