Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Magic trick: to make people disappear, ask them to fulfill their promises.

Mason Cooley

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


Here is a might-have-been from the Philadelphia Nationals. The deal was reported anonymously to the Daily Bulletin, and it features an intriguing possibility.

As South, cover up the East and West cards. Your mundane part-score suddenly becomes interesting at trick two. West leads the spade two to the ace, and back comes the spade seven, ruffed with the heart three. West obediently follows his partner’s suit-preference signal in spades to cash the diamond king and play a second diamond to East’s ace. When the spade six comes through you, you ruff with the eight, and West throws a club. Over to you.

You need to hold your heart losers to one in order to make your contract. If West had both honors, he would certainly have over-ruffed, so you should play East for one or both honors.

One possibility is to cross to dummy via a club to the ace and run the heart queen.

Better, perhaps (assuming that East must surely have the heart jack), is to play a heart to the queen. If it loses to the king, you can cross to the club ace and finesse the heart 10.

This line looks safe against almost any normal lie of the cards, but, as you can see, it would not work today. If West refuses to over-ruff on the third round of spades with the jack, wouldn’t you say he deserves to beat the contract? Alas, West was only good enough to find the play in the bar after the event, not to make it at the table.

It feels right to bid two no-trump now. This lets your partner rebid clubs, or raise hearts with a doubleton, for example. A call of three diamonds by you would be the equivalent of fourth suit here, but when in doubt, the cheaper call is generally more efficient. Preference to three clubs on a doubleton should be a last resort.


♠ Q 8
 A 10 8 7 6 2
 Q 8 2
♣ K J
South West North East
1 Pass 2 ♣ Pass
2 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bill CubleyJanuary 31st, 2018 at 2:19 pm

I often find the right play long before I get to the bar. But I did put my tab on a GM’s tab. Then I emailed his ex. 😉

Iain ClimieJanuary 31st, 2018 at 4:44 pm

Hi Bill, Bobby,

An interesting take on “revenge is a dish best served cold”. I’d never thought of getting someone else to buy it for me, even if they didn’t leave a tip.

Great play today but it is that Mollo definition again – a theoretician is a player who knows exactly the right bid or play 10 seconds after making the wrong one. The former World Chess champion Mikhail Tal had an approach which I’ve used as motivation effectively at bridge on occasion (including the total bluff redouble) – “There are 2 kinds of sacrifices – sound ones and mine.”

Maybe it isn’t how good you are (at life and bridge) but what you can get away with. What a terrible immoral thought (I should hang my head in shame), although see today’s quote!



Bobby WolffJanuary 31st, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, love and money are both powerful influences.

But revenge is perhaps even a larger one and as Iain related a poignant quote (about a 1-2 punch), serving it cold can be ridiculously successful and perfect for a great play against one’s enemy.

Bobby WolffJanuary 31st, 2018 at 5:20 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, scintillating bridge plays are few and far between, but the capacity to make them centers itself with a combination of a very quick numerate bridge mind, coupled with the right moment to thoroughly concentrate, best illustrated by being in the trenches during wartime or performing as an airline traffic control coordinator at a busy airport.

However the stakes are sometimes different depending on whose life is involved. In bridge, it sometimes by doing so, and at the right time, feels about as good as saving someone’s life, especially your own.

And to address your last thought, many hands sent me have to do with afterthoughts, not real life experiences, only proving what you suspect and the quote verifies.