Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 11th, 2019

The surrender of life is nothing to sinking down into acknowledgement of inferiority.

John Calhoun

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


We saw yesterday how ducking an honor could persuade declarer to take his eye off the ball. An even more desperate duck was performed by Jeff Meckstroth in this deal from the 2000 U.S. Team Trials.

South played in four spades doubled; West led the heart ace and ruefully shifted to a club. Declarer won dummy’s ace, disposed of his other club on the heart king, then ruffed a club to hand and led a spade toward dummy. West split with the queen, and dummy’s ace won. This was probably a mistake both in theory and practice — declarer would retain control if he ducked, by not having to reduce his own trumps again to get back to hand.

Be that as it may, declarer took another ruff in hand to play a second spade. West won and tapped declarer yet again, and now declarer could not afford to draw the last trump, so he ran the diamond queen.

Had East won this, the defense would have been doomed. A diamond return would allow declarer to draw the last trump; any other lead would let declarer ruff in hand and cross to dummy in diamonds to draw the trump.

However, Meckstroth, East, was ready. When declarer led the diamond queen, he followed in tempo with the 10. Declarer repeated the finesse. Meckstroth won with his now-blank king and returned a club, allowing West to throw his last diamond and eventually obtain a diamond ruff.

Whatever you may think of declarer’s play, Meckstroth deserves plaudits for finding a chance to set the game.

This sequence is quantitative, not Blackwood, but you have a maximum and should bid on. The question is whether or not to bid six spades and offer a choice of slam; I’m not sure you should. With a completely balanced hand, there seems to be no reason to believe spades would ever play better than no-trump, so bid six no-trump.


♠ A J 7
 K 10 4
 A J 7 6
♣ A Q 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 NT Pass 4 NT 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


A V Ramana RaoMay 25th, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Passing Q of diamond is south’s second mistake ( the first one being not allowing west’s spade K to hold earlier ) Missing K 10 and 9 , south should have worked out that he can prevail only if K of diamond is doubleton with either E or W . So he should have led low diamond to J in dummy and now even if east ducks,south goes by his conviction and leads A of diamonds triumphing. Unfortunately, instead of becoming a winner , he ended up a loser

A V Ramana RaoMay 25th, 2019 at 12:08 pm

But Meckstroth’s duck of Q of diamondds needs to be commended for his presence of mind
Sorry I omitted this in above post

bobbywolffMay 25th, 2019 at 3:27 pm


All true, but one must admire his diamond king duck, since it took such a spectacular play for declarer to be taken in for allowing the opening bidder to not have the king of diamonds for his already well below standard opening bid even with the king of diamonds.

Methinks declarer either did not reconstruct East’s hand or rather played him for a psychic opening bid.

Iain ClimieMay 25th, 2019 at 6:02 pm

Hi Bobby,

I don’t regard myself as over-cautious in the bidding but what did you make of the opening bid and overcall. The first I can just about live with but in terms of lead direction, taking away space and generally giving partner any idea of what you have, that 1S seems a bit out on a limb.



bobbywolffMay 25th, 2019 at 8:08 pm

Hi Iain,

While just assuming that the above 1st and 2nd seat actions are not the norm, it doesn’t totally surprise me, since many of the younger players (with talent) are suggesting (mainly by their choices, possibly more accurately called, experiments) that the one level is for fun and frolic and even have gone so far as systematically promise to always open the bidding while in 3rd seat when not vulnerable.

Of course, that intent needs to be announced before the auction starts and is indeed an alert.

My belief goes back many years that the scoring system we have been using since contract bridge started in 1927 needs to be adjusted for greater penalties for down tricks, of course both vulnerable and not, but the opposition, to whom I respect, is that by doing so, many of the older players (and we have many) will not like something that everyone has gotten used to.

However, the more that we see to which you refer, the more I think that the time to do so is approaching, and on horseback, not just walking.

Much more can be said, but perhaps it should wait till we join a group who can influence the change some of us think, at the very least, is wise.