Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.

Henrik Ibsen

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

*Three hearts


This hand came along at the 2017 Vanderbilt Trophy in the North American Spring Nationals; at the wheel was Jan Jansma of the Netherlands.

West opened the bidding light, then compounded his felony with a support double to show three hearts. This didn’t keep North-South from reaching the spade game, though, after North made an unassuming cue-bid. South suggested no-trump initially, then despite his partner’s retreat to three spades, he awarded himself a fourth spade.

It is difficult to consider any lead other than a top diamond from West’s hand, and it was the king that was tabled. West switched to his singleton trump at trick two, but it came too late. Jansma won with dummy’s ace, finessed the heart queen successfully, cashed the heart ace and ruffed a third heart low in dummy.

Then, planning to ruff his last heart in dummy, declarer played a low club toward his queen. Divining declarer’s intentions, East rose with the ace and played another trump. This served to give declarer a 10th trick, but it was not immediately clear how South could make use of it, given the club blockage and the lack of a side-suit entry to dummy. However, South drew the rest of East’s trumps and cashed his own club queen. He then exited with his last heart. East won with the king, but with no diamonds remaining, he was forced to resurrect dummy’s club king for the game-going trick. East had been used as a stepping-stone to reach dummy’s stranded winner.

I would pass here. A two-level overcall usually promises a six-card suit and for good reason. Even though I have excellent diamonds and want them led, I have no desire to win the contract, and my heart holding is very bad for declaring. The real danger may be that partner leads a club, not a diamond, against a spade game; I’ll pay off to that.


♠ 3
 10 9 2
 A K Q 6 2
♣ 9 6 3 2
South West North East

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


Bill CubleySeptember 17th, 2019 at 1:37 pm

Bobby, I have come close to a stepping stone coup but it is more by accident and hope than skill. So I execute, because I fall into it, a Tripping Stone Coup. 😉

bobbywolffSeptember 17th, 2019 at 4:34 pm

Hi Bill,

From now on you will be known as the namesake (Cubley Coup) of the first accidental execution by stepping stone which, in its wake, will ally you, or at the very least, associate you, with Biblical reference, and “Nevermore” to quote Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” to which both you and that sharp beaked bird have good noses, yours for bridge.

Iain ClimieSeptember 17th, 2019 at 10:55 pm

HI Bill, Bobby,

Many years ago (1978 I think) I was playing with my then regular partner in a selected county (the UK equivalent of state) pairs competition. One night I was just having an absurdly good session where every view was 20-20 and confident play led to opponents blundering. I played one hand purely on feel and lo a stepping stone end position came up which I pulled off without excessive trouble. So partner was pleased? NOT exactly.

He was a Cambridge chemistry graduate who was not only a fine player but a keen student of the game and a real intellectual. Grinning and laughing, he questioned my parentage for rattling off the coup without apparently pausing for thought. Honestly, there is no pleasing some people!



bobbywolffSeptember 18th, 2019 at 12:26 am

Hi Iain,

Al least to me, the playing of good bridge may have a definite negative effect on both opponents and partner. Opponents, because it lessens their position and even partner sometimes, based on his desire to think of himself as superior.

Worse still, is what happened with your tempo, fast, without apparent effort, and almost Ho Hum to the attention of all three of your then table opponents.

Chances are, because of his grinning and laughing, he was only poking fun at you with his remarks, but you only may know, whether your shown talent at this difficult game we love, really was worse for him than if you had not found that superior play.

Usually, winning trumps jealousy, so let us not worry about emotions we cannot control.

However, if not too far fetched, you might have replied, “Indeed Cambridge is a wonderful University, almost the match for Oxford”.