Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 24th, 2018

When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

Bob Dylan

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


After the first final session of the Mitchell Board-a-Match Teams from San Diego last year, Steve Sanborn was full of praise for his wife’s play in four spades doubled … but despite the fact that everybody was supposed to be playing the same deals, nobody else recognized the hand. Steve and Kerri were playing against Dennis Bilde and Giorgio Duboin.

The late John Lowenthal — everyone’s No. 1 choice for “Mad scientist on opening lead” — might have led a red suit at trick one. Bilde, however, looked no further than a top club for his opening salvo. At the sight of dummy, he shifted to a diamond, which went to the three, nine and queen.

Kerri played the spade 10 to the king and ace, won the spade return and ran all the trumps. She had come down to the doubleton ace in each red suit in her hand and the doubleton jack in each red suit in dummy, but what four cards was East to keep?

To keep the diamonds and hearts guarded, Duboin also had to retain two cards in each red suit. Declarer then played the heart ace and another heart; Duboin could win the latter trick, but he was then endplayed to concede the last two tricks in diamonds. Making the doubled game was good for a win on the board.

So why did no one else know the deal? It was board 28 in a 14-table section, but all the other sections had only 13 tables, so they had only played boards one through 26.

Does this hand meet the minimum requirement for a call of two diamonds? My instinct is that acting here, while technically very dangerous, is something that you will tend to get away with more often than not. If you are going to bid, do it confidently! Who is to say you don’t have an ace or extra card more than you actually have? I might be more cautious when vulnerable at teams, though.


♠ A J
 K Q 9 5 3
 K 10 9 4
♣ 6 4
South West North East
      1 ♣
1 Dbl. Pass 2 ♣

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


Matt WilliamsDecember 8th, 2018 at 12:39 pm

I’ve long been an admirer of Kerri Sanborn. Some of the plays I’ve seen her make in The Bridge World are utterly amazing. And the fact that she was able to play so consistently well with Barry Crane is a feat unto itself.

jim2December 8th, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Well, in last year’s Slush Cup, I knew my opponents would make 4S. So when pard doubled 4S, I knew I could not sit for it, so I bid 5C. North doubled with body language screaming “trump stack,” so I rescued myself to 5H. This was also doubled, but with much less eagerness.

North led a low spade indicating an honor to me, and there I was, in a 3-5 fit.

I needed to take 10 tricks to have a chance to win the board and had two red aces to lose and at least one minor red suit honor in diamonds. It looked like I needed North to hold a diamond honor and the non-ace heart honors. With North holding black suit honors and South’s bidding, this looked like a decent chance.

Accordingly, I won the spade and ruffed another and advanced a heart. North played low and it went to South’s ace. South got out with a club, I went up and led a diamond intending to cover whatever North played. The 9D went to South’s queen, who got out with a heart. I drew trump, came to hand with a club, and advanced a second diamond, making 10 tricks.

bobbywolffDecember 8th, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Hi Matt,

Yes, and no doubt, Kerri (Shuman) Sanborn has been and still is one of the best players (man or woman) in the USA. She, likely because of her gender, has likely not received the attention nor glory to which she has deserved, but all that, including her partnership with the heralded Barry Crane, has not lessened her value as a true bridge Icon to those who have followed her illustrious career.

No doubt Kerri, was one of (if not Barry’s best) partner ever, and to be that required her to also be humble in his eyes, otherwise he might have realized himself to be no better than, let alone the possibility of, only him being the 2nd best player at that table.

bobbywolffDecember 8th, 2018 at 6:11 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, and while researching the disease of TOCM TM, a positive feature of that malady is listed (possibly as compensation) the victim having what could be called night gleams instead of nightmares. If so, your story is likely an example of such, but very realistic and no doubt true, that is, if assuming that you have gone to sleep at least one night since the last Slush Cup to which you have attended.

One last question…..have your opponents congratulated you (if only in your dreams) yet on the obvious top board that you produced for your partnership and if so, I would like to nominate them as bridge sportsmen of the year?

jim2December 8th, 2018 at 6:28 pm

I never shared what happened it the other room.

Sometimes good play has to be its own reward.