Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 18th, 2019

The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high-road that leads him to England.

Samuel Johnson

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


This week’s deals all come from the Gold Coast tournament in Brisbane. This is one of the most enjoyable events on the calendar, with sun, sea and sand all augmenting a venue packed with cheap accommodations and excellent restaurants. The bridge is of an excellent standard, too.

Michael Rosenberg and Ross Harper, two expatriate Scots, constantly threatened to break into the top three in the main pairs event, eventually finishing second. Here they benefited from some careless declarer play.

Harper led a diamond against three no-trump by South, reached after that player had upgraded his hand into a 15-17 no-trump — a perfectly reasonable call.

Rosenberg took the king and shifted to the spade queen. We should all be familiar with the idea of ducking the first round of the suit when we hold the ace facing king, but is this the time to put that notion into effect?

That play might be necessary at trick two to try to neutralize the defender’s spades if the suit breaks 5-2. But since West appears to have the diamond ace, it may be safe enough to win the lead and play on clubs at once. At the table, though, declarer won in hand and guessed very badly when he led a diamond, maybe thinking West would duck. Harper was having none of that; he took his ace and played back a spade, and now Rosenberg had the entry to run spades when he got in. That was two down, and all the matchpoints.

Note that if you do duck trick two, then on a heart shift you may well find yourself forced to guess the ending well.

I can see a case for leading a deceptive diamond seven, simulating shortness in diamonds. Similarly, if declarer is really short in diamonds, we must cash our black-suit winners at once. I’d argue for leading clubs rather than the doubleton spade, since partner had the chance to bid spades and didn’t take it.


♠ Q 10
 6 4 3
 Q 7 6 5 3
♣ K J 3
South West North East
  1 Pass 1
Pass 2 Pass 2
All 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 4th, 2019 at 12:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

Dr. Johnson’s cynicism about Scotland was well known even though Boswell, his chronicler, was Scots. Another famous exchange went something like “Sir, it is a very vile country”. “Well Sir, God still made it”. “True, but although comparisons may be odious, God also made Hell.”

My late father was Scots, though, and drummed in the Scots passion for education. Hence the Scots retort: when a Scot emigrates to England, the average intelligence increases on both sides of the border.

Back to the subject, though. South really wasn’t awake here – knocking out the CA ensures 8 tricks with the possibility of a diamond trick or the HQ coming to come. The urge to try and pull a fast one cost plenty of match points as I suspect -100 would still have been worth a few, and the cards lie such that 9 tricks fall into his lap or 10 if he boldly takes the 2nd spade after knocking out the CA



Bobby WolffMarch 4th, 2019 at 3:23 pm

Hi Iain,

Your local bridge history blends beautifully with your accurate bridge advice. It seems that between close proximity and friendship, rivalry
often trumps respect and both today’s acidic quote and East’s careful
rise with the ace of diamonds exemplified both acts.

Perhaps bridge competition, more a mental challenge than physical,
is a sore point when bridge partnerships collide. However in any event,
it is always an uplifting moment for me to learn UK history, simply because British history was my favorite subject in primary school.

Not to say that intense rivalries are all good, especially when through the years, violence was often present, but not so with bridge, at least until now when dirty filthy cheating has been proven, and no doubt the victims to which there have been countless great players included, likely not to go easy on their predators.

The older I get, the more I have learned and although that fact has always been part of life, it often makes me very sad to have to hear
about the scoundrels which have infested our heretofore great enterprise.

Iain ClimieMarch 4th, 2019 at 3:49 pm

Hi Bobby,

Sadly it isn’t just bridge and physical sports. There have been suggestions that chess players have headed for the rest room with an App on the phone while a newspaper reporting on Hegelmo this weekend said something had happened at a petanque / boules event in Europe. Holland and Belgium are quite fierce rivals in some ways but one international pair reckoned their opponents had snorted cocaine during a toilet break! If there’s money at stake, cheats are drawn in, but sometimes it is just the glory that seems to make people behave badly.

Some years ago a team playing in the Hubert Phillips (mixed but total points scoring)were found to have cheated in the days before computer dealt hands. Everybody supposedly dealt some hands but some had been pre-fixed by a not overly strong team so that either a good pair would bid a good but unlucky slam (where trumps broke badly) or the weaker team might overbid to an appallingly lucky contract needing (say) 2 3-3 breaks and a finesse. Faked outrage at partner’s supposed overbidding then occurred followed by apologies for the good luck. Yeah, right …..



Bobby WolffMarch 6th, 2019 at 1:09 pm

Hi Iain,

And who can forget the opening line from “Tale of Two Cities”, “This is the best of times, this is the worst of times.

At least in bridge with all the past and present “real cheating” which went on (always strongly suspected) and of course, current exposure together from our honest (I hope) current youthful players who are fast becoming respectful icons for our challenging and delightful pass time is indeed glorious to imagine and thus “feel”.

Well the Dickens to that and let us not be stupid enough to not forever rid the pass transgressors from applying their learned art of horror or otherwise the shallows of fear from frauds will always be vitally present.

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