Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 17th, 2013

Every time you get out of bed in the morning, you take a risk. To survive is to know you're taking that risk and to not get out of bed clutching illusions of safety.

Maria V. Snyder

South North
Neither ♠ A Q 6 5 2
 K J 10 6
♣ J 5 3
West East
♠ 9
 5 4
 Q 10 9 7 5
♣ Q 9 7 6 2
♠ K J 10 8 7 4
 8 3 2
 6 3
♣ 10 8
♠ 3
 A Q 9 7
 A J 8 4 2
♣ A K 4
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠ Pass
2 Pass 4 NT Pass
5♣ Pass 5* Pass
6♣ Pass 6 Pass
6 All pass    

*Trump-queen ask


A word about today's auction: After a reverse, a raise by responder of either of opener's suits is best played as forcing. However, at his second turn North simply asked for keycards with hearts as trump, and then for the trump queen. South's answer showed the heart queen and the club king. North might now have bid the grand slam, but the partnership settled in six hearts. West led the spade nine taken by dummy's ace as East followed with an encouraging signal. Thirteen tricks might be available on a crossruff, but that is irrelevant. Assuming that neither defender has a singleton in a minor suit, what is the safest line to make 12 tricks?

After winning the first trick with dummy’s spade ace, lead a club to your ace, followed by a diamond to the king and a second club from dummy. Once the club king holds, throw the club jack on the diamond ace.

Now comes the fun part. You have five tricks already, and you make sure of the next six tricks by conducting a high crossruff. At trick 12 you will ruff the minor-suit card left in your hand with dummy’s heart six. Either that will win the trick or East will be able to overruff it with the heart eight. In that case, your heart seven will be high and will take the last trick. You will make a spade, seven trump tricks and four tricks in the minors.

The double calls for dummy's first-bid suit. Geniuses might lead a low diamond, hoping partner will work out that he can win the lead and put you back in, but that is for geniuses only! The rest of the world leads the jack and apologizes later if it does not work out perfectly.


♠ J 9 6 4
 J 6 5 2
 J 4
♣ 8 4 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1
Pass 2♣ Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT Dbl. All 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuJune 30th, 2013 at 10:15 am

Hi Bobby,the high cross ruff(safely) for twelve tricks is easily missed if we are still thinking about seven hearts, in view of those two minor doubletons in the East hand,coupled with the eight of trumps.Regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffJune 30th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, if one is ready to play, he must thought to be focused on making his contract, a small slam, rather than a grand.

It is entirely possible, almost likely, that, if playing matchpoints, a good or even great declarer may go down trying for the extra trick, get overruffed and a trump back, throwing the contract away to the wolves.

This hand, rather than a real life report, is a contrived 52 cards, showing the way to why this bad breaking hand should be played in the manner suggested.

At least to me, this is real bridge, featuring the grace, beauty and overall problem solving necessary to overcome adversity. Neither Pollyannas nor extreme pessimists usually reach stardom in our great game, suggesting a necessary balance resulting in the “right stuff” to succeed.

Thanks for your usual right on point comment.

Iain ClimieJune 30th, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Hi Bobby,

Can I ask a slightly off beat question, perhaps more suited to the Q&A column. Twice in the past few months I’ve faced claim / concession concerns, although only at club level.

The first was where declared held S96 (trumps) on table plus red suit losers but had only club winners in hand. I had the remaining trump (the S7) under dummy and declarer had enough winners that I couldn’t ruff in early enough to avoid the trump coup at trick 12; partner had already shown out of trumps. Declarer (a good player normally) had a brainstorm and tried to concede a trump trick, thinking I had a higher trump. I declined to accept the offer as there was no way that she could have failed to make the remaining tricks just by playing normally.

The second involved a similar position but with dummy having something like SJ9 (trumps again), declarer void (there had been a transfer after 1NT) and I held the S10. Declarer ( a relatively weak player) tried to claim at trick 12 but all depended on which plain card he would have led and trumped – one gave 2 tricks one would allow me to over-trump. We called the director and had our options explained (I seem tio recall I could have insisted on the trump promotion) but, not wanting to deter a fairly new player from coming again, I suggested he pick one off the two carfds at random. He appreciated the offer, and picked the right one (from his viewpoint). I cheerfully told him not to put himself in that dilemma again.

Both incidents were well received but should I have been so generaous (or arguably masochistic)? After all, it could be argued that I have a duty not just to partner (who didn’t mind in either case) but to other players in the field. Against that, both were in friendly club sessions, not any sort of serious competition or even a heat of the club pairs.

Any thoughts here – was I hero, over-tolerant, idiot, trying to be too
popular or accidentally doing more harm than good?


Iain Climie

Patrick CheuJune 30th, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Hi Bobby,you commented on the forcing situation after responder’s response to a reverse, is it not possible to stop in 2NT or 3D (given a reverse could be 16 or more and responder could be 5+)?regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffJune 30th, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Hi Iain,

There is no really right and wrong answers when these conundrums arrive.

However that will not stop me from giving personal opinions.

If you are like most humans, and that fact, especially on this type of problem, is very hard to determine, you, like everything living and breathing are subject to emotions, one which favors behavior you admire while at the same time disfavors personalities you do not. Add to that, the mood someone is in, and consistent reactions usually have left the building.

I’ll first say that all the rationalizations of owing one’s partner or team, maintaining a reputation as a tough competitor, being fair to the field, teaching the importance of following the rules, encouraging novices to not being made unhappy by being ruled against, are all not worth the paper it is probably not written on.

In spite of yours or my efforts, the world will continue to exist as it really is, not as either of us would want it to, basically with human nature being the supreme ruler.

You are a kind man, not unlike Santa Claus, who wants to bring happiness to all you are associated with, so we are now back to square one. For me to even suggest that neither you nor I do not fit the mold would be nothing more than sophistry.

Continue to be who you are, which when adding me, only represents two different individuals, but sometimes ones which do things in common, but at other times do not.

Sorry for not answering your question, but, while hoping that I am trying to be honest, am not sure myself why I do things sometimes but not always, so how in the world can I be the judge of your behavior, in spite of totally accepting that you have the right to be who you choose to be.

That immediate fact above is, at least to me, what freedom is all about.

Bobby WolffJune 30th, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Hi Patrick,

Reverse bidding has to be thoroughly worked out between enthusiastic partners who also have high expectations for their alliance.

One of the first suggestions is that, for the responder who is first presented with the reverse, say 1 club P 1 spade P 2 diamonds by the opener then there will be 4 minimum sounding bids to deal with, 2 hearts (4th suit), 2 spades (rebid), 2NT (4th suit stopped for a possible future NT contract) and 3 clubs (a preference to partner’s first suit). My suggestion is that the last 3 bids are all at least one round forces while attempting to find the proper eventual strain, leaving the 4th suit 2 hearts as a way of getting out, asking the reverser to probably return to clubs so that a very weak responder can conveniently pass e.g Qxxx, Jxx, Kxx, xxx.

Forcing is forcing so that a 2 spade rebid may be KQJxx, and an unlimited rest of the hand, TBD. while 2NT would have hearts possibly double stopped, but might have only a single stop, and a return to 3 clubs should have at least 3 clubs and a reasonable playing hand with clubs as trump in the way of a side doubleton so that there will be an extra trick developed via a ruff in the short trump hand. Of course raises of partner’s suit, such as 3 diamonds are both forcing and encouraging with at least 4 card support.

Other nuances are left up to the particular partnership, but are very important in the development and therefore future of that duo.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

Patrick CheuJune 30th, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Hi Bobby,thanks again for your,as ever helpful,insight into bridge and life in general.Best regards~Patrick.

Iain ClimieJune 30th, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Thanks for the non-answer, Bobby: it was still interesting, thoughtful and entertaining!