Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 16th, 2017

It is a maxim that those to whom everybody allows the second place have an undoubted title to the first.

Jonathan Swift

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

* strong
** 12+ balanced


Once at national tournaments there was only one serious event taking place at any one time. These days, secondary events generally run opposite the main tournament. These may for example, be for Seniors, or those with a limited number of masterpoints.

In Reno last spring when the final round of the Swiss Teams for those with fewer than 10,000 masterpoints began, there were three teams in contention for first place. Jerry Stamatov’s team finished second, thanks to this deal. For the record, after the artificial start to the auction, an exchange of natural calls followed by cuebidding had seen South reach the top spot.

Stamatov won the lead of the diamond 10 in hand, drew two rounds of trump to find the bad but not fatal news, then needed to reduce his spade holding in hand to play for a trump coup.

He played ace, king and a third club, ruffed as East followed suit. A diamond to the ace, and a diamond ruff saw East pitch a heart. Now came the heart king and a heart to the ace, and when East followed suit declarer was home in the three-card ending.

On the lead of the diamond jack, if East ruffed, Stamatov would over-ruff, draw the last trump and claim. If East discarded, declarer would pitch his heart, then lead a plain card from dummy, and East’s apparent trump trick would vanish.

In the other room they played seven no-trump down three, for a huge swing to Stamatov’s team.

Balance with one no-trump, a call for which the range is 11-14 (give or take a point). With more, you’d start by doubling then bidding one no-trump. The logic is that you must reopen with balanced minimums or the opponents steal you blind. Hence the range for balancing must be less than a full strong no-trump.


♠ 9 3
 A Q 6 4
 A J 5 2
♣ K 9 6
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 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