Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

Mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Lady Caroline Lamb, of Lord

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



In the daily bulletin from the North American Bridge Championships last year, a tongue-in-cheek article appeared in which the author commented that the late Rixi Markus had penned a volume titled, “Bid Boldly, Play Safe.” By contrast, Marty Fleisher, who was fresh off his world title in Lyon, had jokingly suggested that if ever he wrote an autobiography, he would title it “Bid Boldly, Play Like a Lunatic.” He suggested that this deal, from the first semifinal session of the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs, would be a candidate for the title page.

Here, Fleisher, playing with Chip Martel, managed to bid the spots off his cards and then had to justify his approach after a top heart lead. He ruffed, then decided West was favored to hold the singleton spade king, so he laid down the ace. It turned out that he had the wrong idea, but it is results that count. The king duly put in an appearance, albeit from an unexpected quarter.

Since Fleisher still had all his entries to dummy, he could cross to the club ace to ruff a heart and then play a low club from hand to West’s king. Fleisher won West’s diamond shift with the ace, ruffed a third heart, ruffed a club, ruffed a heart, then drew the last trump.

When Fleisher played the spade queen, East was forced to surrender his guard in one minor or the other, and Fleisher had his 12 tricks. Martel consoled the opponents: “You were lucky he didn’t bid the slam.”

I would respond two diamonds rather than two clubs, planning to compete over two hearts by bidding my clubs. It is also quite likely that partner has a good hand with spades, in which case I will again be better placed to bid my suits in economical order if I start with diamonds rather than clubs.


♠ K
 J 4
 Q 10 8 6 3
♣ Q 10 9 4 2
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


Iain ClimieDecember 11th, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

The missing word in the quote is Byron, I believe. Very impressive piece of declarer play; at least East managed not to double! Is it a better try if West returns a trump not a diamond when in with a club? I suspect it doesn’t actually make much difference, although maybe it would have stopped the overtrick if East had one fewer diamond.



A V Ramana RaoDecember 11th, 2018 at 3:37 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Well played hand. But perhaps east’s response of 1 NT indicates both minors instead of only clubs. And , As the cards lay , five spades is cold but the big question is ( considering vulnerability) had west bid six hearts, would south venture six spades? Perhaps not. You may please reflect

JeffSDecember 11th, 2018 at 3:40 pm

In BWTA, is there a way for South to show both minors here as a passed hand?


bobbywolffDecember 11th, 2018 at 4:10 pm

Hi Iain,

When West was in (their only time) he did sense to lead a diamond, but like any other suit, was to no avail. However an original diamond lead (practically impossible) would have prevented the overtrick, but, no doubt a “tangled web”.

Thanks for the fill in, “Byron”, and who and what she was, at least to me, is still a mystery. Perhaps we are leading “Lambs” to slaughter or instead being slaughtered because of.

bobbywolffDecember 11th, 2018 at 4:15 pm


Yes, but almost always during these high level competitive auctions sooner or later, and at some tables in a large pair game, almost every possible logical sequence will occur, signifying not much except a different result.

If you are asking what should be done from both sides, I will only reply, whatever gets the opponents to do the wrong thing and to accomplish that, to use different strokes for different folks.

However the when and if will forever never be mentioned in order to protect the reputation of the winning side, if for no other reason, than to not give away the winning psychology.

bobbywolffDecember 11th, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Sure! The correct bid by South is clearly “two climans”.

Nice work if you can get it. but if playing by the rules is one’s choice, perhaps 2 diamonds first with the hope of showing clubs later, but with this “real” hand (I suppose) 1NT (in their style showing clubs, with 2 clubs perhaps instead showing a heart raise, likely slightly stronger than an immediate 2 hearts).

Another gimmick by seasoned pairs to turn artificiality into a plus, (small one that it is).

Iain ClimieDecember 11th, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Hi Bobby,

Wikipedia’s info on this society lady is:

Lady Caroline Lamb, known as the Honourable Caroline Ponsonby until her father succeeded to the earldom in 1793, was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat and novelist, best known for her work Glenarvon, a Gothic novel. She is also known for her affair with Lord Byron in 1812.

As an aside, do you approve of North’s double today? It isn’t my style (with better spades, even just 4, I might drag up 1S) but you can’t argue with success.



bobbywolffDecember 11th, 2018 at 5:26 pm

Hi Iain,

At least right now as we speak, it seems that we both feel as close to exactly same to either not double or slightly prefer passing, since overcalling one spade with QJ82, an alternative, is also just too bizarre.

Likely in truth and with a conservative partner go ahead and do one or the other, but if partner is more aggressive, stay calm, pass, and await developments.

Ken MooreDecember 11th, 2018 at 8:37 pm


Do you always see “spots” when you play the game?

However, I have to admit that hanging around this site has greatly improved my awareness of them.

Ken MooreDecember 11th, 2018 at 8:53 pm

Another question on the play. Shouldn’t he lead to the AD and lead the QS. That way he could get the singleton King in either hand.

Then, give a Club and a Diamond and cross ruff D’s and C’s.

Ken MooreDecember 11th, 2018 at 8:55 pm

Oops. Cross ruff H’s and C’s

You know, you really ought to figure out a way to let us edit our own posts and not look so stupid.

Iain ClimieDecember 11th, 2018 at 11:03 pm

Hi Ken,

Honestly, don’t worry. You should have seen some of my slips over the years. A great point about thi site is tolerance, starting from Bobby.



bobbywolffDecember 12th, 2018 at 3:13 am

Hi Ken,

The column hand was played in a matchpoint game, thus allowing the squeeze which Marty effected scoring up what had to be a crucial overtrick (making 12 tricks instead of 11).

The play of the ace of spades instead of going to the dummy to lead the queen is just as good technique, since no one would defensively ever cover the queen with Kx, much less Kxx, at least in that pair game.

To your earlier question, yes high spot cards sometimes become important, even crucial, but rarely, before the dummy goes down, can anyone count on when they will be or not.

Also IMO the best bidders among the elite players do not necessarily use any point scale nor honor trick method, nor even some kind of loser trick count in order to complete the bidding.

Rather they excel in their feel for when certain combinations of cards will provide tricks and when they are only ornaments.

Consider Jx opposite K1098 as opposed to Jx, opposite K432 and with the Q76 in front of the Kxxx. If left to having to play the suit oneself there can be a three trick difference in result but not one hcp.

However, suffice it to say that good spot cards are almost always important when balanced hands are declarer and especially when the final contract is in NT.

But to bet the farm on any one hand is a big losing proposition since lady luck is in charge and she, being fickle, is no one to count on.

The secret of winning begins and ends with intense concentration which is required for the whole session with no breaks allowed.

Also a consistent winning attitude and positive view also helps, along with, treating every hand, while on a good streak or poor one, ever causing a distraction.

Ken MooreDecember 12th, 2018 at 4:27 am

This why a good partnership is crucial. You “sense” what the other one is doing.

Bill CubleyDecember 12th, 2018 at 2:22 pm

Nice to see a quote about my slam bidding. This year I made 6 Diamonds +1 for 1390. I saw some preempted with my hand and made 190.

Merry Christmas.

bobbywolffDecember 13th, 2018 at 12:25 am

Hi Ken,

With professional bridge partnerships, dollars are more than 100 times more valuable than sense.

bobbywolffDecember 13th, 2018 at 12:34 am

Hi Bill,

However, the preempt at least kept one partnership out of the slam.

Happy seasonal greetings! 15th, 2018 at 10:38 pm

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