Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 16th, 2018

‘The high tide!’ King Alfred cried. ‘The high tide and the turn!’

G.K. Chesterton

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


Today’s deal cropped up in the mixed pairs event at last year’s European Open. Against three no-trump, West led the heart 10; when East overtook it with the jack, declarer Alfredo Versace won the king, unblocked the diamond queen, crossed to dummy with a club and cashed the diamond ace. The bad break was a blow, but Versace cashed a third top diamond (East pitching a club), and then played dummy’s spade queen, covered by the king — ducking would have worked no better — and ace.

Declarer now played two more rounds of clubs, putting West on lead. She could cash a second club and had two winning jacks, but then had to surrender two tricks either to South or dummy.

In hindsight, East should have kept all his clubs, so that he can win the third round of clubs. However, suppose East pitches two spades on dummy’s top diamonds? If West retains the diamond J-9, declarer plays the spade queen as before, and after that exits with the spade 10, pinning East’s nine.

Now if West cashes the diamond jack and exits with the nine, declarer follows with dummy’s eight, and West must surrender three tricks. West can counter this in unlikely fashion by unblocking the diamond nine earlier on, so that dummy can be thrown in with the diamond six.

The simplest defense is for East to pitch a spade and a heart on the diamonds. Then East covers the spade queen, and now West lets East win the third club or spade; the defenders take the rest.

While you have a very minimum opening bid, are you supposed to pass out one spade or raise to two as a sort of two-way shot, in case you can make game, or need to keep the opponents out of the fray? I’d raise to two spades and wouldn’t worry too much about what comes next.


♠ K 9 4 3
 A Q J 9 6
♣ J 9 6
South West North East
    Pass Pass
1 Pass 1 ♠ 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 WarheitJune 30th, 2018 at 9:17 am

How about E wins the opening lead with the HA and returns a club? Also, something is quite wrong with BWTA. I don’t think N’s response of 1S denies S nor do I think he has “backed into an auction”.

bobbywolffJune 30th, 2018 at 9:41 am

Hi David,

Yes, that would be an excellent defense, but playing the jack of hearts may seem the right play, assuming partner has another one. No doubt your defense will take all possible winning options away from declarer.

And speaking of taking winning options away, the BWTA is indeed a horror, with the South hand not belonging and therefore making no sense. At this early point I have no idea what happened and can only be embarrassed by what I see and although I haven’t received any correspondence from readers or newspapers about the official release, two weeks ago, it makes me guess that the published hand above only occurred with us, and thus hopefully, not as widely distributed.

In any event, a huge apology needs to be given which only serves as a forerunner to serious damage control.

bobbywolffJune 30th, 2018 at 3:15 pm

Hi David,

Your timely comment, especially since I, like you, was not asleep at the weird time we communicated but fairly early this morning allowed Judy to apply her magic, with the usual good results.

Furthermore the new and decent BWTA currently shown was apparently the one my newspaper featured on June 16th.

A big relief, though not without inconvenience and likely disdain, from other early risers, night owls or vastly time different overseas posters.

Again, thanks for your heads up and of course, Judy’s and some other’s effort, although why it happened in the first place is not completely forgivable and should be better overseen by me.

A.V.Ramana RaoJune 30th, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
It may sound counterintuitive but east can pitch two hearts on diamonds and there is no way south can make the contract. For eg., if dummy leads Q of spades after cashing diamonds, east covers, south wins and plays clubs. East wins third round , cashes heart and leads spade which west wins and cashes diamond J and one more club

bobbywolffJune 30th, 2018 at 3:53 pm


Thanks for your inexorable determination to get it right. While these types of complicated play and defense hands (with much built in variety in play and defense) appeal to mostly cerebral bridge aficionados, always ones with vast amounts of patience. However since many, because of its nature and therefore tediousness necessary, others can only stomach it for short periods without rebelling (eg, tearing out one’s own hair, for me, difficult to impossible since none is left).

In any event thanks for you now winning the title of chief player in charge of all variables included in either success or failure. IOW, you, at least for the time being, while you are king, all lines of play need to go through you before they become site official.

But remember, your cherished title is only guaranteed until either perhaps, your first serious mistake or someone else, approaching your considerable ability, decides to challenge you for your spot and wins (while many others, when facing that contest, like me being one of them, might prefer losing).