Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 16th, 2015

Man needs to suffer. When he does not have real griefs he creates them.

Jose Marti

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

*Texas transfer to spades


At last year’s spring nationals in Dallas the Swiss Teams event threw up this technical problem, on what looks like everybody’s four spade contract. Incidentally, the auction featured a Texas Transfer. Yes, everything is bigger in Texas, but on this occasion North was playing a style where a transfer and raise to game would have been a mild slam-try.

The defenders lead a top club and shift to the heart jack — a normal if unchallenging defense. You win the queen, then play the spade ace and a second spade. West follows with the 10 then discards a club. How should you take it from there?

It looks natural to try to find West with the diamond queen, but this is not very much better than a 50% chance. If you misguess diamonds, (imagine the same layout as in the diagram but with the diamond queen and five switched) the defenders will clear hearts, and then East may be able to ruff the third diamond, to prevent you from getting the discard you need of dummy’s heart loser.

The solution is simple: cash the third top trump, to prevent accidents, then take the diamond king and lead towards the diamond ace. If East ruffs in, you have no diamond loser. If East follows suit, you win the diamond ace and play a third diamond. The defenders cannot stop you from winning the heart ace and pitching the heart on the remaining high diamond. Even though they can ruff in, the loser has gone away.

It feels right to lead trumps here, as dummy will surely be very short in spades, and you may get the opportunity to prevent declarer scoring his trumps separately. Because you have the clubs under control, declarer is relatively unlikely to be able to obtain too many discards on that suit.


♠ K 8 5 4
 8 5
 Q 5 4
♣ K 10 7 4
South West North East
Pass 1♣ 1 1♠
2 Pass Pass 2
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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 30th, 2015 at 10:34 am

Hi Bobby,

With Texas transfers, what should 1N 4S mean? A slam try with both minors perhaps, or a determination not to let pard play it (my hand looked better concealed, honestly).



bobby wolffMarch 30th, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Hi Iain,

Since, while playing normal transfers at the two level, 2 spades is then often played as both minors GF. Therefore an immediate 4 spades is available to a budding partnership to be some kind of specialized slam try (without a 4 card major, but slightly better than a 4NT quantitative jump or perhaps a good 2 suiter, pointed or round, slam force which then in turn asks for the suits and then specific aces). However the result of that discussion will be similar to putting that bid into cold storage, not to ever be used and likely to be forgotten.

Better to not discuss it, be a hand hog, apologize to partner, get a diamond lead from East and waltz home with your opponents scalp in tow. BTW, while sitting West, playing against a hand hog and getting a diamond lead from your ox as a partner, with declarer inserting the nine West should, using his fast wit, contribute a quick deuce and perhaps even a very good declarer will misread where the diamond lady remains. Of course, if Jim2 is your partner and, on another hand, he has brilliantly led from KJ5(x), it may wind up with different words exchanged.

What’s in a name, a famous poet once asked, to Victor Mollo and his many readers, HH meant Hideous Hog, but to you and me, it is probably more often used as only a random hand hog.


Bill CubleyMarch 30th, 2015 at 2:29 pm

I usually let partner play the slams. There was once a difference of opinion in Seattle in the NA Swiss over hand evaluation. Partner made 6 hearts doubled for 1660. We compared to -170 for 16 IMPS. I still marvel that someone in a national event did not bid a vulnerable game.

HH did send my cat a card for bidding 7 clubs and winning by half a matchpoint.

bobby wolffMarch 30th, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Hi Bill,

First of all, you should have complained to your teammates, if they would have held them to only making 3 hearts, like they should have, -140, your team would have picked up 17 IMPs.

Second, your cat, not being a good enough bridge player, could never take 13 tricks on any one hand. Furthermore the dog from Throckmorton, Texas, my home state for most of my life, and having just a little help from some of his friends, made Life Master in two years and had no trouble wolfing down his opponents for however many tricks he needed.

Iain ClimieMarch 30th, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Hi Bill,

Were your oppo trying to limit the damage by having both pairs mess up on the same board? Missing a vulnerable game is -450 while letting a slam make (undoubled) when 1-off in the other room is -1530 or -780 if they don’t bid it and make 4H up one. If doubling 6H helped declarer (quite likely) the double was even sillier. So, if both opposing pairs were going to mess up one board badly, they almost got lucky if they picked the same hand. Somehow I don’t think saying this would have amused your oppo, nor would telling them they were lucky to have managed such a coup


angelo romanoMarch 31st, 2015 at 7:17 am

Easy hand for a beginner: he ruffs three club losers (!) in dummy and has ten tricks

bobby wolffMarch 31st, 2015 at 11:31 am

Hi Angelo,

Yes, you made a perfect description, assuming the heart finesse is taken, which goes along with.

Furthermore, and in order to make it easier and more natural, the transfer enabled the dummy to be the hand which takes the three club ruffs.

Dame Fortune or whoever first deals and then motivates bidding (doubtful to exist), has laid the groundwork for the beginner you suggest.

Should one then describe it as, “Seeing the trees as making up the forest”?

jim2March 31st, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Most of my brilliant leads come when a card falls out of my hand and I pretend it had been intentional ….