Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 22nd, 2013

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.

Helen Keller

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


Six diamonds was obviously a fair contract in this deal from rubber bridge, with several chances. But when South did not select the best route, the slam failed.

First. a word about the auction. North was playing two-over-one, so his raise to three diamonds was forcing. (Had the call not been forcing, North would have used the fourth suit, then supported diamonds.) In the actual auction, when South cue-bid in clubs, North placed his partner with a singleton heart and pushed on to six diamonds.

West led a trump against the slam (doing well to avoid the heart lead that would probably have solved South’s problems), and declarer elected to start by drawing trump. Then he tested the spades, throwing a heart from dummy, and, when they proved to be 4-2, tried his luck with the clubs. When that went wrong as well, it was all over, and South ended up with just 10 tricks.

East and West were delighted with the outcome, and North remained calm and polite — after all, he had to stick with the same partner for the rest of the rubber!

Note, though, that if declarer had tested the clubs first (before drawing trump), he could have established the suit even against the 4-2 break. Then dummy would have been high except for two hearts, at least one of which would go away on the spades. In short, the contract would have been easy if either black suit had divided 3-3 but, if both were 4-2, it was essential to play on clubs first.

I do not tend to open one no-trump with 5-4-2-2 shape, but it is sometimes the only sensible call. You'd normally upgrade any 17-count with a 5-4 pattern into a reverse, and almost all hands with five of a major and four of a second suit should open the major. But open one no-trump when you hold 15-16 with a long minor where you do not want to reverse, and you also hold stoppers in both your short suits.


♠ A 5
 K 7
 K J 10 6
♣ A 7 6 4 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Greg NowakDecember 7th, 2013 at 12:33 am

Hi Bobby
Before I read your text on the play, I checked to see if there was a guillemarde play. That’s a name given by the French for ruffing in a side suit before drawing trump. Its not in wikipedia or in the encyc.but I first heard of it from my Polish friend. It’s not as good as dummy’s fifth club on this hand but I think it still works. Take the dia lead in the dummy. Play SA, SK, ruff a spade, back to hand with a dia and lead a heart.

Greg NowakDecember 7th, 2013 at 12:37 am

I meant pitch a heart on the SQ, then lead a heart.

jim2December 7th, 2013 at 3:42 am

That line seems to require the person with the doubleton trump to also have both a doubleton spade and the AH.

bobby wolffDecember 7th, 2013 at 5:44 am

Hi Greg,

Yes it does make the hand and you never promised me or any other reader, a rose garden.

However, as Jim2 pointed out, setting up the clubs instead, appears to be Poles apart from the guillemarde experiment and besides on this side of the pond, not many would even know the name of the play that they executed to score up the slam.

The good news is that all of the readers and from around the world have learned something new. Thanks for that and, of course, thanks to Jim2 for rescuing me.

Greg NowakDecember 7th, 2013 at 5:55 am

I think guillemarde is rare and double dummy. I just wanted to see if it bothered Bobby. Writers are like that sometimes.

Iain ClimieDecember 7th, 2013 at 10:56 am

Hi Bobby,

Not sure where that last one came in, except perhaps for the number of makeable contracts I’ve let go down the drain over the years!


jim2December 7th, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Greg Nowak –

Actually, to use one of Our Host’s lines, I consider your line to be “well spotted.” I generally look around column hands after I have read them looking for just such double-dummy lines and “what if” things and I completely missed it.

Greg NowakDecember 7th, 2013 at 5:47 pm

As our level goes up, we stop missing things like dummy’s 5 card club suit and find things like guillemardes even though they are “Poles” apart.