Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

Trickery and treachery are the practices of fools who have not wits enough to be honest.

Benjamin Franklin

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


At the 1998 Cap Gemini World Pairs Invitational, one of the pairs in contention comprised Krzysztof Martens and Marek Szymanowski of Poland.

Martens has recently developed a second career as a coach and writer of some excellent books, which are both entertaining and informative. Meanwhile, Marek Szymanowski is known to be a tricky opponent, and he produced an excellent false-card against the Hacketts, brothers from England who were regular contenders on the Great Britain team for most of the last decade.

After Szymanowski had opened a Polish club with the East cards, Jason Hackett elected to overcall one no-trump rather than one heart, and consequently found himself in two no-trump as South after having shown strong no-trump values, together with a heart suit.

Martens accurately selected a spade lead, which Hackett won in hand and played a heart to the nine — and Szymanowski took it with the king! Then he cleared the spades, and declarer, not unnaturally, repeated the finesse in hearts, allowing the defenders to win a second heart trick.

Together with two spade winners and three diamond tricks, that meant two off. But note that if East had taken the heart jack at trick two, declarer would have used dummy’s spade entry to finesse East out of the heart king, and would have made eight tricks in comfort.

Declarer’s play would have succeeded against an original 4-1-4-4 pattern in the East hand, which was entirely consistent with the partnership style.

All answers have drawbacks here. Raising hearts may get you to an awkward 4-3 fit. Rebidding one spade may make it harder to find hearts (since a heart rebid at your third turn would now show real extras). Finally, rebidding no-trump shows the hand type but may miss the best fit facing a weak hand. I prefer the last option, though, since for me a one-spade call would guarantee real clubs.


♠ J 10 6 5
 K J 6
 A K 6
♣ 5 3 2
South West North East
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


slarNovember 7th, 2018 at 4:45 pm

I just hope I am clever enough to spot this opportunity at the table, should it arise.

Iain ClimieNovember 7th, 2018 at 5:44 pm

Hi Bobby, Slar,

The good thing about this column is that it presents many such options so you can play them in tempo if they occur. Having a think then playing the HK just isn’t the same, although there are still players out there who’ll (deplorably) take their HK slowly.


David WarheitNovember 7th, 2018 at 10:44 pm

Let’s see. E opened the bidding, meaning he’s got most of the points, and W led S2, meaning he’s got something (Q or J) in spades. Guess who’s got HK? Win SK and lead HQ, making contract if H are 3-2 or W has singleton J.

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2018 at 11:20 pm

Hi Slar,

Difficult to say that even a great player may have trouble executing such legal deception, so no one should be disappointed not to do it. However it is safe to say we all, including I, now have a better chance (up a few % from 1) now that we have seen the enemy and he is not us.

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2018 at 11:32 pm

Hi Iain,

Methinks that a defender (all types of talent) should learn to play at a consistent tempo, not like the 3 bears with their porridge temperature (hope that is the right animal) and thus a 3-5 second pause before winning the king or even the jack, if not holding a higher heart, is not unethical, but merely a proper play, as long as there is not any other theatrical drama.

We are not trying to win at all costs (it says here) but only not giving the farm away either.

Yes, I know 5 seconds is not that short, but if you, the player, play all your cards at that tempo, you are entitled to play the obvious ones doing the same. And, in no doubt, all the genuinely highly respected players, know when they are ethical and when they didn’t strictly qualify, but making the all out effort to be, is as much as anyone can give to our great game.

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2018 at 11:41 pm

Hi David,

Sure, if only the question of the hearts were at stake, you’d be 100% right, but West did have 5 hcps and the KJ is only 4.

Also, the subject of today’s hand would be trashed, if, in fact, we didn’t create a loophole.

On another front, “‘ol Benjamin” sure might have been thinking about our great game, except of course, that his time on earth was even before Whist, (grandfather of contract bridge) when his quote was apparently made.