Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 17th, 2018

If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid.

John Maynard Keynes

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


The 2001 Cavendish Invitational pairs competition featured a number of well-played hands. This deal saw two declarers follow similar routes to success.

Guido Ferraro, playing with Giorgio Duboin, declared six hearts on the auction shown. After a spade lead, Ferraro correctly assumed that East’s jump to game — with what appeared to be a Yarborough and only four trumps — argued strongly for shortness in hearts. So he made the critical play when he won the king and cashed the diamond ace and king before leading a heart to the queen.

This maneuver is sometimes referred to as the Dentist’s Coup. It had the effect of extracting West’s troublesome doubleton diamond. Accordingly, when West won the heart ace, he had to return a black suit. That let declarer cross to hand to finesse in hearts and make his slam.

Note that if declarer had not cashed two rounds of diamonds, West could have won the heart ace and exited in diamonds, locking declarer in dummy.

Peter Weichsel and Rose Meltzer reached the same contract on a broadly similar auction where East had also raised spades aggressively. Weichsel received the spade queen lead and played the hand similarly to Ferraro, with one very slight refinement. He won the spade king, cashed the diamond ace and king, then played the heart 10 (unblocking, to facilitate later communication) to his queen and West’s ace. Again, West had to concede a black-suit entry to the South hand, allowing him to take the heart finesse through the opening bidder.

It is tempting to pass for penalties, but the trump spots really do not feel good enough to me. Give me the heart 10 instead of a low heart, and I might consider that action. I’d prefer to bid one no-trump and try to win the event on the next deal.


♠ A 5 3
 Q 9 8 7 6
 9 3
♣ Q 6 5
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. 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


David WarheitMay 31st, 2018 at 9:27 am

In the third room, where South also played 6H, West again led the SQ. South overtook dummy’s K with his A and led the H6 and let it ride when West played low. He then continued playing hearts and made one spade, four hearts, four diamonds, two clubs and a spade ruff, making 6H. This line works and the column line fails if West holds singleton diamond and AJ doubleton of hearts, since now South, although only winning 3 diamond tricks, can ruff two spades in dummy.

bobbywolffMay 31st, 2018 at 10:37 am

Hi David,

Yes, but would East jump to 4 spades, holding only 4 small spades and no singleton? And might West then compete to 5 spades (over South’s 5 hearts) with holding 5-2-1-5 and favorable vulnerability. And, of course, East may hold the singleton jack of hearts, making your effort (if you’ll excuse the expression, heart breaking).

However, declarer always earns the right to make his own decision and yours, not the late and great Guido’s, might, on another day, be the only one to ring the victory bell.

At any rate, thanks for presenting a valid other line of play.

Shantanu RastogiMay 31st, 2018 at 10:39 am

Hi David

There are two points:

1. Maybe in 2018 there are more who open with 10-11 hcp than in 2001. So I fear singleton heart J with east.
2. Your line could be correct in 2018 if there are east who could be preempting without shortness in hearts or for that matter shortness in any suit.


Shantanu Rastogi

Shantanu RastogiMay 31st, 2018 at 11:06 am

Hello Mr Wolff

How should the play proceed if on Diamond Ace West drops diamond Jack ?

Best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobbywolffMay 31st, 2018 at 11:47 am

Hi Shantanu,

Verily, it depends on who West is, a beginner, average player, with or without guile, or an excellent experienced campaigner.

Most players will falsecard the jack from jack ten, but strangely not necessarily from J10x or even J10xx. From Jx, many players (and at times for very good reasons) will not, just in case declarer started with 10x.

And then there are some, who have been taught by often their partner, to always give count, and if so, they by edict will do so, even though it will certainly help declarer, more than partner, although the task from declarer always will be, which class player am I dealing with and, most importantly what is his or her present mindset.

For the most part, while in a very competent game, I barely notice such goings on, except of course if I possessed the 10. If so, then deep thought might be necessary tending to believe it, since most defenders, even very good ones, are usually not sure whether that falsecard (if it is) could shockingly gift wrap the contract.

Again the emphasis turns away from technique and into psychology, IMO not recognized as a totally necessary talent, if one wants to be a world beater.

A V Ramana RaoMay 31st, 2018 at 11:59 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Just wondering what declarer would have done had west won heart A and returns four of hearts ( with a poker face of curse)

A V Ramana RaoMay 31st, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Of course not curse ( perhaps declarer would feel cursed if not guessed correctly)

Bill CubleyMay 31st, 2018 at 12:22 pm


I wish I could also say as you wrote in BWTA, “I’ll win the event on the next board.” Still a 1st and a 3rd OA at Raleigh shows progress. Just that I am now 71 and I am runnung out of time. 😉

bobbywolffMay 31st, 2018 at 12:28 pm


Just my feeling! Anyone who would return a heart is fully capable of starting with AJx,

Reason being that lesser players, or I should say lesser experienced players, by their general life experiences, might and would think, “if declarer is leading trumps why should I help him do it” but if he held the jack he might think it a ploy to convince declarer that he didn’t have it”. IOW, declarer should size him up as a minor league threat to be a psychologist, when in fact he might be giving his intentions away.

However, I might bet someone else’s life on the above, but, at least at this moment, I won’t bet mine.

The above has little to do with bridge or certainly not bridge experiences, but rather only psychology where it is always better to be one notch ahead of your possible worthy opponent, but a loser if you are 2 notches ahead.

Finally a poker face of curse, doesn’t sound very handsome and if one is trying to impress a pretty girl, then do the wrong thing and be sure you tell her, she fooled you.

However, your partner will not be pleased with that behavior.

bobbywolffMay 31st, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Hi Bill,

Oh Raleigh, I mean really, congrats on your usual showing of tearing up the tournament. I guess tearing can also imply crying, but that is usually reserved for my partners.

If you are only 71 and running out of time, it makes me a ghost out of your distant past, so to keep up my writing, especially considering my last paragraph, I’ll only say “BOO” instead of “BOOHOO”.

A V Ramana RaoMay 31st, 2018 at 12:51 pm

” The above has little to do with bridge or certainly not bridge experiences, but rather only psychology where it is always better to be one notch ahead of your possible worthy opponent, but a loser if you are 2 notches ahead.”
Yes this is what makes Bridge more and more intrguing and sometimes leave an experienced player red faced

Iain ClimieMay 31st, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Hi Bill,

Three (hopefully) cheering thoughts. Firstly, you’re not as young as you were but nowhere near as old (I hope) as you will be. Secondly, activities like games and puzzle solving help fight off metal deterioration; couple this with brisk walks, swimming or (if you’re a 60 year old masochist like me) gym sessions and both mind and body can keep going surprisingly well. Thirdly, I liked a quote from George Bernard Shaw:

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing!”

Hang in there for many healthy years to come.


A V Ramana RaoMay 31st, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Hi Bill & Lain
I just remember a Quote
” Age is matter of Mind. if you do not mnd, it doesnot matter”

bobbywolffMay 31st, 2018 at 4:49 pm


With bridge psychology, and while playing against a more or less peer, do not try and read him (or her) when he is in action and likely he has the advantage by setting the stage.

Therefore, then merely revert to probability and not fall for traps to which he, one way or the other, sets.

Remember he is the one who sets the false or true stage (tempo and body language), therefore creating untrue feelings or sometimes described as hunches. If necessary, choose the bid or play which seems counter intuitive.

Finally, when it is you who sets the stage and are in control, judging the mind set of who your opponent is, becomes critical, but when the opposite is true, merely acquiesce and seek neutral ground in order to help eliminate his advantage.

For an example, merely understand that all who have discussed this part of the game, as everyone who has read this site (and digests it), qualifies, therefore consider all participating players well enough versed.

Give him his due, but always remember it is you who is only showing him the respect he has justly earned.

Finally, do not expect to win every battle since the immutable law of averages will intervene and tend to even the score.

And to all who give advice on how to handle growing old, prefer physical difficulty to mental and never accept giving in to either.

Bill CubleyJune 1st, 2018 at 3:18 pm

Iain and AVRR,

Thanks. I still manage to get a kiss and a hug from Shannon Cappelletti when I play in one of her Florida regionals. So I will keep playing.

Wish I could play with you two or even against. BTW, I ran into a gadget happy pair in Raleigh. They went down 5 in 6NT when I led from a six card suit. Caught them with Kx opposite Jx with Nancy holding AQX behind the king! Their steps gadget made the strong hand the dummy.

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