Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Better mendacities Than the classics in paraphrase!

Ezra Pound

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


Since the world championship is taking place this week in China, we’ll be looking at last year’s event all week. Today’s deal is from the quarterfinals of the 2018 McConnell Cup.

When the Russian North-South climbed to the perilous contract of five hearts, it provided the Swedish East-West a fine chance for deception, which they duly took. (In the other room, their teammates Marion Michielsen and Meike Wortel had stopped safely in four hearts.)

West, Ida Groenkvist, started her campaign of deception by leading a diamond rather than the unbid suit, clubs. Had she led a club, declarer would have put in the jack, and the hand would have been over.

After the lead of the diamond six to the queen, king and ruff, Victoria Gromova, the declarer, led a low trump toward the jack — an interesting choice and as good as anything as the cards lay that day.

Groenkvist ducked, so declarer came back to hand with the club king and cashed the heart ace, dropping the 10. Next, she took a spade finesse, and Cecilia Rimstedt, East, ducked very smoothly. Declarer advanced the heart nine; West won and played back a club. Declarer rose with the ace, pitched her losing club on the diamond ace, then played the spade ace and another spade, expecting West to win, whereupon South would be able to claim the balance. But instead it was East who took the third spade, and she then gave her partner a spade ruff for down one. Very nicely done.

You do not yet know where you want to play the hand, five diamonds or three no-trump. It would therefore be premature to raise partner’s second suit. I would temporize with three hearts and pass three no-trump if partner bids it. In all auctions of this sort, where opener jump shifts, give priority to supporting opener’s first-bid suit if you can.


♠ K 8 6 5
 10 2
 K J 9 4
♣ 10 5 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 3 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 ClimieOctober 8th, 2019 at 9:16 am

Hi Bobby,

Nice defence today but didn’t North bid her hand twice here? 3N could presumably have been passed (and in retrospect maybe should have been given South’s black suits) so is 5H really worth it? Partner needs to have very precise cards for a slam to be good news (e.g. HAK10 to 7 and DK) although even then there could be a hole in one or more of the black suits and partner might have opened 4H anyway. Any thoughts?



A.V.Ramana RaoOctober 8th, 2019 at 10:18 am

Hi Dear Mr.Wolff
The good defense notwithstanding,South’s play was faulty. She had eleven sure tricks. The spade finesse is a mirage. Once heart J held, she could have played low spade from dummy. If East takes , she cannot lead diamond and if East ducks, South wins and leads trumps. If West leads spade when in with heart K, dummy wins A , South comes to hand with club A, draws trump and leads spade . When East wins he has the option of leading into the either minor tenace in dummy or lead spade allowing South to score spade and later diamond A provides for club pitch and Assuming West held spade K , she would win and at best can lead another diamond but South is not inconvenienced. She ruffs east’s J and leads trumps and with all suits controlled, comes to eleven tricks losing just a spade and a trump

Iain ClimieOctober 8th, 2019 at 11:48 am


Good point. Also, DA at T1 shedding club, run HJ. If West ducks, C to hand, HA, HQ. If West wins, you take the next trick (although you could run a spade to hand) and bash down trumps from the top, losing a spade at the end. North may have overbid but South underplayed!



angeloOctober 8th, 2019 at 12:02 pm

this looks like double dummy. After HJ holds, South doesn’t know that H10 is dropping, so with 2 possible losers in heart he tries the spade finesse. Looks reasonable to me

A.V.Ramana RaoOctober 8th, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Hi Angelo
It is not necessary for the heart ten to fall on second round. Even if it is three carded , which means hearts are 3-3 initially , ( it does not matter who holds K) South makes the contract . And just in case someone held K ten to four hearts , South has two certain heart losers and can try for spade finesse but will go down if either the finesse fails or if West has K thrice guarded. ( South knows for certain that someone was not dealt with doubleton heart K ) Without going into detailed mathematics , perhaps line suggested by me has a distinct edge

A.V.Ramana RaoOctober 8th, 2019 at 12:57 pm

And if either E or W held five hearts with K ten initially, South always goes down due to the force in diamonds

Bob LiptonOctober 8th, 2019 at 1:15 pm

I don’t know the details of the Russians’ system, but as responder, my second call would have been 3 Clubs. Now it’s south who should bid 3NT, which is pretty chilly.

And even though opener should have let 3NT lie, I see no reason to raise to 5 hearts. The hand sounds like a misfit.


Iain ClimieOctober 8th, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Hi Bobby, folks,

Just out of interest, who won the Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup? I haven’t dug out the results yet.


bobbywolffOctober 8th, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Hi Iain, AVRR, Angelo and Bob,

Trying to explain anywhere close to exact thoughts among these worthy high-level bridge combatants is difficult to impossible, but let’s give it a try.

Both teams are made up of relatively natural players who all have high-level talent, but, at least to me, are aggressive, competitive to an extreme, difficult to play against (and sometimes with), as well as willing to take risks, usually optimistic, and do not shy away from accepting being wrong, rather than taking the low road of sometimes missing relatively good slams which make.

Additionally, when playing against these types of “naturals”, it is never easy since their opponents need to be on their toes or else much of the time they will be stepped on.

South was from the old school when, after rebidding 2 hearts, but hearing partner jump to 3NT, while holding a good playing suit type hand (void in diamonds) made an old time decision of avoiding NT and simply hoping that partner’s NT jump didn’t include solid diamonds and semblances of stops in the unbids, but rather more useful values for a suit contract and certainly not absolutely solid diamonds.

When the Russian South, Victoria Gromova removed 3NT to 4 hearts, her partner, because of the specific heart singleton (jack) and all three of the other aces decided to get ambitious and invited a slam. However that invitation (likely because of both the diamond void and the questionable six only heart suit), refused. All in a hand’s work when these dazzling ladies compete, especially against one another.

The play followed normal expert lines with South particularly glad she held both the nine and eight of hearts, but, of course, disappointed that the two finesses taken, diamonds at trick one and spades later, didn’t succeed and the one not taken, clubs, would have.

Yes, everything you guys said above with all of the comments made having much merit, but look at it, as at least, fairly normal, when aggressive players compete, such as this group, against each other.

After all, bridge at all levels, from novice to world class, have only code language (bidding) to suggest to the partnership, approximately what is being held, no where near as valuable as would be sitting on the same bench as each other while then looking at how the two hands mesh.

bobbywolffOctober 8th, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Hi Iain,

The Poles won the Bermuda Bowl (a young group including a player named Jacek Kalita, whom I had seen play before and considered him as almost a sure fire choice to be the next really great player).

And Iain, you will be glad to know that I think the British women won the Venice Cup with both of these championships coming down to the wire with great excitement. LONG LIVE THE QUEENS!

Iain ClimieOctober 8th, 2019 at 3:11 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for that, cheers up my day!


Iain ClimieOctober 8th, 2019 at 5:55 pm

HI again Bobby,

I think they were 3rd behind Sweden and China. Sounds like a loss in a tight semi-final. Have China added bridge to the school curriculum? I think you said so.



bobbywolffOctober 8th, 2019 at 10:01 pm

Hi Iain,

First, sorry for my misinformation regarding the 2019 Venice Cup World Championship. China beat Great Britain in the final, winning gold while the UK won silver.

Yes, bridge is now in the Chinese schools which
is estimated for it to be available for over 200 million students to add to also being in 11 countries in Europe.

Playing adequate to good bridge will teach partnership discipline, fundamental logic used in all aspects of life, with a strong dose of numeracy, which turns ordinary arithmetic into
numbers influencing critical decisions within the
game itself. It also demands ethicality between the partners which can be monitored at the table, forbidding unauthorized information, such as physical signals (even unintentional) to exist between partners.

At least to me, the above seems like learning how to become a successful but forthright and thinking person. BTW, at least in Europe with China yet to be officially heard from, the bridge in schools have an overwhelming positive reply
from both the students, but also the teachers and probably the greatest testimonial, from the parents of the bridge learning youngsters.