Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 9th, 2019

Give the lady what she wants!

Marshall Field

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

*Asking for the trump queen


The decline in the number of entries in women’s events has me wondering how the women of today would match up against the American teams from 50 years ago. After all, it was only in the ‘70s that the Venice Cup — the most prestigious of women’s events — came into being.

As a small piece of evidence that the women back then could really play, I adduce into evidence this deal from a Spingold knockout match from that period.

Mary-Jane Farrell was playing with Marylin Johnson, and she declared six hearts on the lead of a low trump. She decided to play the diamond ace and take a diamond ruff, then the spade ace and a spade ruff followed by top trumps. If hearts had broken, she would have had 12 tricks, but she needed some more luck when trumps failed to behave.

She played her remaining top heart and exited with a heart, throwing two spades and a club from table. Nancy Gruver as West now made a nice play when she produced the club king to prevent declarer from taking three easy club tricks. Farrell won the club ace and simultaneously unblocked the club queen from hand to leave a four-card ending where dummy had two spades and two clubs, while she retained a trump, a club and two diamonds.

When she ruffed a spade to hand, she would have been home if the king had fallen, but even as it was, since East had sole control of diamonds and clubs, the spade ruff squeezed her into conceding the 12th trick.

My answer here depends on vulnerability and partnership style. I would almost never open this hand two diamonds, but at favorable vulnerability (or with both sides non-vulnerable and a partnership agreement), I don’t mind a three-diamond call. There are, after all, two opponents and only one partner. I’d be equally aggressive in third seat, but not second.


♠ 8 5
 Q J 10 9 6 2
♣ 10 9 7 5
South West North East

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A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 23rd, 2019 at 9:59 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
An extremely well played hand but perhaps Mrs. Guggenheim would have finessed both in spades and clubs and ruff one diamond to land the slam. As they say , perhaps there is no justice

Bill CubleyMarch 23rd, 2019 at 11:04 am


While there is some merit in fooling 2 opponents it is wise to keep in mind partner is the only other person in the room trying hard to help us win. I accept some experts can carry us card pushers quite well.

I leave for Memphis today and hope I have some luck.

bobbywolffMarch 23rd, 2019 at 11:12 am


Yes and with hearts splitting and no change with the black kings, Mrs. Guggenheim would likely have scored all the tricks. assuming no trump uppercut as well.

However with bridge, unlike other physical sports, the evidence of what would happen becomes available for all to see and thus to analyze. Although often visualized in that manner in bridge with other sports (if I may classify bridge, at the very least, a “mind” sport, when a point (tennis), shot (golf), pitch (baseball), and play (soccer, American football and basketball) takes place it merely resorts to imagination with second guessing the result with evidence of alternatives merely conjecture and thus subject to only educated judgment.

The one constant is winning and, of course, sadly losing, but while dreams will be ever present wth all competitions mentioned, only in bridge can the alternatives be clearly stamped, successful or if not, would or would not have been.

Whether the above analogy has enough reason to determine bridge a “real sport” or not is for everyone interested to decide, along with the absence of physicality which to some, categorically denies that right.

And finally, is endurance enough of a physical feature to allow bridge in?

BTW, and attempting to be gallant, we probably need to kibitz Mrs Guggenheim for at least one entire session, before even the thought of justice being present can be properly calibrated.

bobbywolffMarch 23rd, 2019 at 11:28 am

Hi Bill,

I prefer to think of you as the carrier rather than the carriree. Besides if you fool two opponents, but only one partner, the odds still are in your favor.

And since lady luck is usually fickle, all you need is 1/2 your finesses to work, 1/2 your suits to break, and your opponents to not play their very best for you to reach the winner’s circle.

However, when and if you do, please have the good sense to stop there with the intention of bowing rather than doing the congratulating.

ClarksburgMarch 23rd, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Good morning Bobby
I assume the reason you don’t like a 2D pre-empt here is simply that it is unlikely to be very effective anyway.
Is that correct?

Patrick CheuMarch 23rd, 2019 at 1:19 pm

Hi Bobby,Good morning.Last board of the evening,we were in first or second,very close at the top,along came this, West dealer NS vul:I(South) held AK7 Q4 JT64 AQ96.West 4S p p ? Well,West held QJT86543 832 7 K,North 92 KT76 AQ32 JT8 East void AJ95 K985 75432.4S went -2 which was a bad board for us as it wasn’t doubled,as I passed 4S. We missed first by 2 pts..NS can make 4N and North can make 5D..according to data.Should I double or pass? Regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffMarch 23rd, 2019 at 3:31 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Yes, Two diamonds is much inferior to three diamonds for just the reason you gave.

In addition there are better uses for 2 diamonds such as Flannery (4-5 in the majors with about 11-15 in hcps) or almost anything else like any 4-4-4-1 with a speciified point count.

bobbywolffMarch 23rd, 2019 at 4:08 pm

Hi Patrick,

Unless I was allowed as South to double and then say to partner, your lead, I would simply pass and score up +100 instead of +300.

On frequency it has been determined (at least on paper) that doubles of 4 of a major opening bids are primarily TO and if so, especially while holding only a doubleton in the other major, it is just wrong to chance a double wherein one’s partner will try to take it out.

On the actual hand, North with his 2-4-4-3 balanced hand with about an average holding of high cards would probably pass, although a lively minority of very good players would probably bid 4NT, a general TO and perhaps get to 5 diamonds, which in spite of theoretically being able to make it by spearing the singleton king of clubs offside, the chances of that happening is exactly the same as the chances of having the hand records beforehand and even then it is no bed of roses to bring that contract home.

There are many various ways to really feel bad and among them, last hand losses are among the worst, but anything other than pass with the South hand over the normal 4 spade opening by West is just not right.

Sorry for your anguish, but the better you get the more those last hand losses will occur, since competing for the top spot is what it is all about and getting a little lucky at the right time will be a fairly common reward, but no doubt, not all the time.

Patrick CheuMarch 23rd, 2019 at 4:36 pm

Hi Bobby,Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the hand,I feel much better and am looking forward to the next hand. Cheers~Patrick.