Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 21st, 2018

Passive defense is also known as purely defensive defense or pure defense. Passive defense is actually a sham defense; active defense is the only real defense, the only defense for the purpose of counterattacking and taking the offensive.

Mao Zedong

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

*5-4 or better in majors


At the 2019 European Open Championships in Sanremo, Italy, Boye Brogeland gave the bulletin a splendid hand. See if you can match his analysis.

He declared five clubs on a heart lead after West had shown the majors. Clearly, he needed to win the opening lead, or a spade shift would have doomed the contract. Then, his club finesse lost to East’s king.

Had East lazily played a heart back, West might have continued the suit to tap the dummy. Now what would declarer do? Leading out the diamond ace after drawing a second round of trumps will allow you to play the suit for no loser, but the blocked suit will keep you from enjoying any discards. Perhaps leading out the diamond jack would be a reasonable shot, since it appears that West has most of his values in the majors and appears to be short in diamonds. The only losing situation for running the jack would come when West had the singleton diamond queen.

At the table, though, East played back a spade after winning the club king. You can now succeed by running the diamond jack at once. But an alternative option now emerges on the hand. You can take the space ace, draw a second round of trumps with the ace, then play the diamond ace and run the diamond jack, which allows for West holding the diamond 10-x and loses only to the actual layout — which is what Brogeland did, to go one down.

If the defenders had cashed their heart winner, declarer would have had communications in hearts to survive by following either of the lines above.

There is no reason your partner’s last call should be based on a four-card suit, but whether it is or not, you can raise to three spades and let partner pick the game he prefers. In this auction, I believe a call of three spades should be forcing (landing on a pinhead in a part-score is just too hard here).


♠ K 10 6 2
 10 9 3
 Q 6 4 3
♣ K 5
South West North East
    1 Pass
2 Pass 2 ♠ 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 ClimieJanuary 4th, 2019 at 4:31 pm

Hi Bobby,

One of the strangely appealing aspects of bridge is that players dine out on hard luck stories. I wonder why we take such pleasure in telling all those who will listen about the undeserved disasters that have crashed down upon us. Needless to say, I’m as big a culprit as any, although THAT Bermuda Bowl hand (7C with AQ opposite J98xxx finding CK10 alone onside) still takes some beating.



bobbywolffJanuary 4th, 2019 at 6:12 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt an emphatic yes to your always topical theme.

However, since that lovely hand only occurred about 44 years ago, I now only think about it a couple times each week, instead of letting it bother me.

Also since Eddie Kantar of Los Angeles, likely the most lovable absolutely top player ever to compete, in that very Bermuda Bowl event (who held the K10 of clubs), but instead in our semi-final squeaker against France (another razor close finish, but this time, for us, a winner) discussed a defensive hand wherein he switched to the right suit, despite a strong indication to do otherwise, and therein defeated a crucial vulnerable game, simply explained that he would have jumped out that window (pointing to the hotel room window located on the 16th floor of the Southhampton Princess Hotel in Bermuda) if he had guessed wrong.

To which Bob Hamman, standing closeby rapidly replied, “Don’t worry Eddie, you wouldn’t have had to”.

Joe1January 5th, 2019 at 2:24 am

Your quote comes from a dictator who by many accounts is responsible for the most deaths, 45-75 million, than any single individual in history. While this column is apolitical, and a treasure to innumerable readers, his twisted ideas should be left out in the future, in respect for those who were not given the chance to enjoy the “pursuit of happiness”.
BTW finesse or play for drop in clubs? As cards lie no but in general?

bobbywolffJanuary 5th, 2019 at 5:25 am

Hi Joe1,

Sorry for my gaffe to humanity.

The good news, which is not intended to make up for General Mao’s butchery, but nevertheless worth reporting, in 1993, in one of my visits to China, I suggested, upon their request at the Peoples Hall of the Republic, on how to help with the promotion of bridge, that they place the teaching of bridge, as an elective in their educational public school system. Several years later (about eight or nine), they got it accomplished and as we speck, 200 million Chinese students are now learning bridge as part of their school day curriculum.

Not only done, but to rave notices from the teachers, students, and most importantly, the parents of the students.

Possibly a helping hand was a simple fact, Chairman Mao (so the rumor goes) would not allow anyone to become a general in his army. without also being a credible bridge player since unfortunately, at least according to what he thought, the tactics of war are similar to the strategy of winning bridge.

While we cannot change the past, nor even make history gentler, perhaps we can learn from it, and at least try to make our still very troubled world. a trifle better.

BTW, bridge is also a course for credit in eleven different European countries to which I had nothing to do with. but meeting with the same positive views and vibes.

In the USA, where have all the flowers gone? Perhaps they have not been planted.

Regarding your question about the finesse in clubs, I think the percentages strongly favor the finesse, since it is for the king, but if the missing honor was the queen instead, then my guess the percentages (based on the bidding) strongly favor playing East for the queen third rather than a 2-2 break. However this 2-2 club break then allowed the declarer to finesse East for the diamond queen since West was likely to be (what he was ) 5-5 in the majors.

FWIIW the odds start out when missing four for them to be split 2-2 52% to 3-1 48% when one round has already been played with everyone following to the first lead, eliminating the 4-0 possibility but of course, subject to different G2 when the defensive bidding so indicates.