Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann

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


After some aggressive bidding from almost everybody at the table, West led a top spade against five clubs and shifted to a heart. When East won and returned the suit, South saw that it would be suicidal to try for a heart ruff in dummy, since West was all but certain to ruff in ahead of dummy. So declarer banged down the club ace-king and breathed a sigh of relief when the suit split.

Since his heart seven was surely going to be a menace against East, declarer could see that both opponents were going to be squeezed dry on the run of the trumps. West was in sole possession of the spade guard, so who would be able to hold onto the diamond guard?

On the last club, everyone came down to three cards. West had to keep the spade ace and reduced himself to two diamonds. When dummy let go of the spade queen from the board, East came under the gun. He had to allow declarer his game-going trick by unguarding one of the red suits.

Hard as it may seem, West could have attacked the entry to the double menace by shifting to diamonds at trick two, or East could have broken up the timing for the squeeze by ducking the first heart.

I suppose East might have figured out that even if South had four hearts, the heart losers were going nowhere. And if declarer held the diamond ace-queen, they would have to be doubleton. So, ducking the first heart must be right, hard as that might seem.

It is risky, but three no-trump is where the money is. I hope to run the club suit, scoring nine quick tricks with partner’s hoped-for major-suit ace. If my major suit holdings were swapped, I would of course raise partner’s suit. And will I sit for it if doubled? I’m glad I don’t have enough space to answer that.


♠ 10
 7 6 2
 A 3
♣ A K 10 9 7 6 3
South West North East
  1 1 ♠ 3

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 ClimieSeptember 18th, 2019 at 9:28 am

HI Bobby,

One defensive gadget which works well here is that leading the “wrong” high card from AK followed by a switch shows a singleton. So, if EW lead K from AK (as here) the failure to lead A before the heart shows it isn’t a singleton and East can safely duck, at least provided West hasn’t got Hxxxx. I’ve got to say that with SAK, a few bits and a singleton heart I’m probably going to double 5C though. As it transpired, West did well not to.



Iain ClimieSeptember 18th, 2019 at 9:32 am

Also, how did North miss the “obvious” 4N (to play)?

Michael BeyroutiSeptember 18th, 2019 at 9:49 am

Iain, if I bid 4NT my partners will never think it’s “to play”.

Iain ClimieSeptember 18th, 2019 at 11:33 am

HI Michael,

Too true I know, although if North wanted to go slamming 4H first would be more sensible and we all know (or should) not to use BW with a void H or Hxx. There is also the minor point of needing a 2-2 club break or a stiff Q / J over the AK which knocks out one of the 2-2 cases. There again on a heart lead to the K vs 4N, declarer leads a small club, East plays the J from Jx so declarer comes back to hand and finesses into the now stiff C going huge numbers off. Good old Grosvener coup, although it is best used at teams. Do it at pairs and the victim(s) will mess up the next 4 or 5 hands while muttering furiously to themselves too which is not what you want.



bobbywolffSeptember 18th, 2019 at 2:50 pm

Hi Iain,

Whomever thought of such a thing…..trying to think of solutions to new and original problems which unfortunately, one way or the other, frequently occur in bridge?

Yes, when doing so, it is often difficult to always be pragmatic, but to not, only serves to make light of various situations which, though only sometimes passing in the night, are definitely worth the effort to be, at the very least, aware of them occurring, if you pride yourself on being a bridge journalist, especially when praising the vast originality ever present often within our game boundaries.

bobbywolffSeptember 18th, 2019 at 3:22 pm

Hi Michael,

Simple! Just, over partner’s 4 club bid, make an insufficient bid of perhaps 3 diamonds, and then when noticed by the opponents and the director called, then change it to 4NT instead and rely on your partner to understand when your bid will automatically bar him from the auction.

Another cooler method might be to again be insufficient with a 3NT call over partners 4 clubs and then when and if forced to react, then make it sufficient with 4NT, to which partner should cooperate by simply passing.

However, either attempt could possibly have you spending time in a bridge jail for flagrant unethicality (not a word, but it sure does apply) but might not the penalty for so doing, become less than the glorious feeling of having a chance to beard that lion, which sounds similar to being accused of lying, but sort of worth taking that option.

Please accept the above jest without my exposing myself (another possible misunderstanding) with my weird intention, but only brought about by that evil man, Iain, that “evil man made me do it” similar to Boris Schapiro’s comment about his partner, Terence Reese, in Buenas Aires, Argentina, during the 1965 bridge World Championship.

Iain ClimieSeptember 18th, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Hi Bobby,

Moi – really (although it is a step up in street credibility from annoying)? I thought Boris described JTR as “Horrible” or “Dreadful” rather than evil though. Ironically Ralph Swimer, the British team’s npc who pulled the team afther the allegations, was vilified in many quarters; so much for the belief that the British have an automatic sense of fair play. I try to but wondered whether one of partners pushed his luck a few weeks ago. He opened 2N, I bid 3D (transfer) next hand bid 3S and partner bid 3H (insufficient). My RHO pointed that out and he glibly said they could accept it if they wanted. Inexplicably they decided that was a good idea instead of calling the TD. I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do that, but he said yes.

The material result of the hand was unaffected (4H and 3N both make in comfort) but what was RHO thinking here? To be fair my partner is a regular TD at that club and a good player, but maybe I should have insisted on the actual TD being called.



bobbywolffSeptember 18th, 2019 at 7:05 pm

Hi Iain,

Forgive me for recalling an event which occurred so many years ago, and I certainly did not do so to “show up” the British if, for that matter, to do an injustice to any other country or nationality.

I sometimes forget (especially in these turbulent political times) that pride of country is a cornerstone of many people’s belief.
The USA is now going through a devastating time period of hate, disgust and disagreement influencing and detracting from the greater generations which now seem so long ago.

In any event, much of my discussion is only spoof and unless and until I write more clearly others may deem, I am much more serious than I meant it to be.

Thanks for understanding to which you always seem to oblige.

Iain ClimieSeptember 19th, 2019 at 8:43 am

HI Bobby,

No worries or offence taken; Swimer’s treatment at the time (including a libel trial) and today’s trials by tabloid (newspaper)” and social media trolling just show that the British sometimes kid themselves about how well or sportingly they behave. As a shocking indictment of the modern world a young lady called Jesy Nelson, a member of a band called Little Mix over here, was driven to a suicide attempt by on-line abuse about her appearance, presumably by people in dire need of a trip to the optician. The occasional dust-up at the bridge table is much more manageable.

I love the UK but there are times when its collective behaviour (especially over Brexit, and by politicians & public alike) makes me despair. It is worrying that countries are increasingly divided and debates turn into screaming matches, especially given the challenges facing them in the next few years. There again, perhaps this is rose-tinted as the UK and the US both had ferocious civil wars in the past and at least we’re not going back to that!



bobbywolffSeptember 19th, 2019 at 11:05 am

Hi Iain,

So well understood by you, thoughts concerning diversity reverberating and expressed, thanks to give (because of learned civility, at least, not yet).

Ironically and overall, not much different than when two top bridge teams collide, with all their learned talent, legal deception, visible ethicality always palpable, but nevertheless intense and immensely challenging.

The incredibly emotional, but decisive end result, whether razor close or not so, always determines immediate both joy and despair for all, but the surrounding and immense difference
in the future in bridge as opposed to civil wars, lies in what is left to the combatants, death, thus annihilation for the latter, but only a lost night’s sleep or so for our off-the-charts mind game competition.

All we can do is keep the above in perspective and then, of course, always choose the right method to illustrate and thus satisfy human beings born instincts.