Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 16th, 2017

Two men look out through the same bars: One sees the mud and one the stars.

Frederick Langbridge

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


What makes for an exciting bridge tournament for spectators? The 1997 Cap Gemini event, at The Hotel Des Indes in The Hague, certainly qualified. The field of 16 pairs included an enviable array of talent; eight of the 16 pairs had reached the final stages of the recent world Championships in Rhodes. All the hands this week are from the 1997 and 1998 tournaments.

The format of the event over three days was 15 head to head matches in a round-robin format. While the field was bunched at the end of the second day, the last day of the tournament was dominated by Gabriel Chagas and Marcelo Branco, who won their last three matches conclusively to finish up comfortable winners at the end. They demonstrated that even when their opponents stayed cautiously low against them, it was still possible to bring a little sorcery to bear against them.

This is not an easy hand on which to stay out of trouble; five out of the eight pairs bid to a small slam which is about 40%. But Enri Leufkens and Berry Westra managed to stop at the five level, and Branco led a club to Chagas’s ace. Gabriel immediately returned the heart jack! Can you blame declarer for rising with the ace? After all, he was safe against anything but 3-0 trump, and the threat of the heart ruff was sufficiently high, he thought, to make this the right play. He will know better next time.

Declarer rates to be 5-5 in the majors, while dummy will have two or three hearts and short spades. The text book lead is a low trump. I would go with that, but I my second choice would be ace and another trump to kill as many ruffs in dummy as I can. The low trump works if partner has the king, and is certainly more flexible but the trump ace may be more effective if partner does not have a trump honor.


♠ K 9 7 3
 A 6 3
 8 7 4
♣ Q 7 4
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 Pass 2
Pass 2 NT Pass 3
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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJanuary 30th, 2017 at 1:12 am

You say that 6S is about 40%. Against perfect defense, yes, but let’s see what might happen. W leads a D. S ruffs and leads the SJ. W just might cover with Q10x. If so, you still need the H finesse, but your chances just increased by about 5%. If S are 2-1, draw trump, ruff a second D, and lead a C. If the opponents duck their ace, cash DAK, dumping your remaining clubs, and play on H, making if E has either the HJ or K. Assuming you win the first club, your chances just increased by about 20%. Sure, at the Cap Gemini tournament, this isn’t likely to happen, but at the Lower Slobbovia tournament, who knows?

jim2January 30th, 2017 at 1:40 am


bobby wolffJanuary 30th, 2017 at 4:24 pm

Hi David,

Bridge writing and therefore forecasting lend themselves to assumptions and thus predictions are based directly on the quality and experience of the participants.

At the Cap Gemini tournament there wouldn’t be one player who would cover South’s jack of trumps with the queen, 10 and another, (and without the trace of a hesitation), particularly with a diamond lead when South shows a void. The bidding itself would indicate long spades by South and after trick one that revelation would have already confirmed it.

Seemingly, while playing against excellent players, their wits are about them, with lapses in concentration very rare to non-existent. However and no doubt, Gabriel, sitting East upon winning the ace of clubs and knowing him, would have quickly fired back the jack of hearts, trying and this time evidently succeeding in convincing the declarer that the chances of a singleton heart were greater than it probably was.

Such is life at the expert bridge table, wherein when the hand starts in truth, and when declarer, your enemies out number your solitary friend, sitting across from you, two to one and his or her support can only be spiritual, not actual.

Furthermore, why would East ever duck the ace of clubs, whether or not the original club was led from dummy or from declarer, even the jack from dummy? He wouldn’t, but all of the above may help an aspiring player appreciate what to expect when competing against his peers (or better).

No doubt, a markedly different atmosphere than playing in the local duplicate.

However, yes it is good bridge to lead the jack of spades, even though holding six and not intending to finesse,, since not everyone has the ability (at least, not yet in their bridge career) to duck smoothly.

Of course, you have already noted that, although rumors about Jim2’s annual attendance at the Slobbovian tournament have, no doubt, increased top player’s attendance there, at least the ones who own heavy overcoats.

David WarheitJanuary 31st, 2017 at 6:13 am

Yes, E would almost certainly play the CA on the first club trick, but what we are investigating is S’s overall chances of making 6S, not just on the given distribution of the E-W hands. I think that on the line of play I outlined it would be very difficult for W to jump up with the CA on the first lead of clubs, and as I said, if he fails to do so, S makes 6S so long as E has either the HJ or HK.