Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 4th, 2020

The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art. If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost.

John Foster Dulles

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


The World Bridge Federation for many years organized junior programs around the world. When they had a camp in Poland, the following deal came from the nightly duplicate event there. Nick Brink, who was on his way to Rio to play for the Dutch Juniors in the World Championships, found an ingenious way to squeeze blood from a stone on the following deal. He needed some co-operation from the defenders, but isn’t that only right and proper?

Nick received the lead of the heart ace and a diamond shift, which he won in hand. If diamonds were not splitting, spades were likely to be 3-2, so he drew two rounds of trumps and cashed the heart king to pitch a club from dummy. Then he played the top clubs and exited with a third club to West as East pitched a heart.

Now, while any card West played would give a ruff-and-discard, his next move was critical. The winning defense is to play a club rather than a heart, so East would be able to pitch a diamond. In fact, West exited with a heart and Nick ruffed, pitching a diamond from dummy. He then got out with his last trump to East. That player had only diamonds left; he had to lead into the tenace in dummy and concede the rest.

As you can see, if West plays a club, declarer can again ruff in hand and lead a trump to East. But that player can exit with his last heart, forcing declarer to ruff in dummy and concede a diamond to East at the end.

Double here is for take-out, even with your hand being so well-defined at your first turn. This looks like a partscore hand, and you must not be silenced so easily, especially when you have spades. If partner has four spades as well, odds are you can make two spades. If not, length in either minor will be almost as good — and incidentally, a call of two no-trump from your partner would ask you to pick a minor.


♠ K 10 9 2
 K Q
 K 8 6 4
♣ A 3 2
South West North East
1 NT 2 Pass 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 2020. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJanuary 18th, 2020 at 9:17 am

Although you don’t specifically blame either defender, the strong implication is criticism of W. The real culprit, however, is E. At trick 8, when S loses a C to W, E knows where every single card lies as between his partner and declarer. A little thought will tell him to discard a D rather than a H, and now even if W leads a H, the contract is doomed.

A V Ramana RaoJanuary 18th, 2020 at 9:27 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Perhaps East should get part of the blame. Had east discarded a diamond instead of a heart on third club , he could have escaped the endplay in diamonds by returning heart when in with the trump. Since the diamond deuce lead from West at trick two is a certain Singleton, East should have seen what was coming

A V Ramana RaoJanuary 18th, 2020 at 9:30 am

I was drafting on my mobile and did not see David’s post which makes my post redundant

Bobby WolffJanuary 18th, 2020 at 3:18 pm

Hi David & AVRR,

Both of you are right on target, and in AVRR’s case, being crossed in the mail behind David,, occurs frequently, and in my view, is not preventable, and certainly, no reason to apologize.

However, from the Polish Juniors standpoint, when on defense, likely as much as declarer emphasizes counting, counting, and counting
some more is what it is all about (as the unseen hands, slowly, or sometimes not so slowly, become inferential). Without which, the defenders will instead, merely guess what to do, which in turn, is simply neither accurate nor satisfactory.

Until or unless, that critical final step being vitally necessary, even a player with vast potential will never reach the goal he needs to compete with the world’s best. And once done, like learning to ride a bicycle, never forgotten.

That said, perhaps Nick’s East hand opponent, at least a bit later, learned how he had erred, allowing him to move forward in what had to be a powerful moment in advancing toward his future bridge career. In the earlier stages of learning the necessary tools for bridge success, it can be difficult and, at least, a little embarrassing to fail, but better when very young then later, when one’s discipline kicks in and those types of errors almost never occur.

And for a commercial for bridge in the schools, that type of essential compliance is often part of many, if not all worthwhile occupations in life, therefore encouraging youngsters to encounter it early, while only learning to play which at times, becomes very challenging.

Thanks to both of you for joining in and rightfully assessing the blame where it belongs, which could open up doors for others to benefit.