Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 6th, 2015

But what’s the odds, so long as you’re happy?

George du Maurier

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


Since the Yeh Bros Invitation teams is about to start in Shanghai, this week’s deals all come from past Yeh Bros Cup events. This deal is simply an exercise in percentages. How should you play the diamond suit for one loser in that contract?

Both tables in the match I was watching bid to the diamond slam here, in one case after a strong club and contested auction, in the other on an uncontested sequence. What are the three sensible options here? The first, selected by both Souths, is to run the diamond queen, planning a second finesse if appropriate. This loses when West has both honors – and therefore pays off to an original East holding of: void, either of the two small singletons and the small doubleton. The second line is to cash the ace; this loses when East began with a void or all four cards, or K-J third.

Better than either of these two lines is to run the eight from your hand, planning to finesse against East for the king, should the eight lose to the jack. This line of play loses when East has jack-singleton, or to jack-doubleton (assuming that West ducks stoically from his doubleton king — don’t we all?) and you misguess, but does not lose out to either void. Accordingly this is the best line, and it works today.

If you have a 5-4 as opposed to the 6-3 fit, playing the ace no longer loses to a void in East, but psychologically running the eight is still the best play.

Since partner is marked with scattered values, I can see a good case for leading the diamond king. I agree it could cost a trick, but it might turn your heart queen into a winner via a ruff or overruff. My second choice would be a club as the most passive option, rather than a spade, I think.


♠ K 9 4 2
 Q 5
 K 3
♣ J 8 6 4 3
South West North East
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


David WarheitApril 20th, 2015 at 10:09 am

Seems to me 6C is a better contract than 6D. It’s child’s play if C are 3-2, but if they are 4-1, 6D is not so good either, assuming the opening lead is a C. I think that N should have bid 6C instead of 6D. So, do you agree that 6C is better than 6D and do you agree that N should have bid 6C?

jim2April 20th, 2015 at 11:54 am

I also thought 6C might be the better percentage contract, but I have not done the math. It’s just too easy for me to see that when I have all four hands in front of me and see clubs are 3-2.

The play at 6C could get real interesting if the opening lead were a spade, won by AS, then when South leads to QC, East plays the J/10/9.

Bobby WolffApril 20th, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

Since your basic subject is the same, I’ll include the three of us in what could be construed to be a round table discussion.

First the genesis, which, of course, especially with good players involved, with choices of bids during the early and middle parts of a potential slam auction.

The first five bids (three by South, two by North) seem somewhat automatic as both players attempt to describe their hands, first establishing early a game force and then ticking off distribution as best they can (which is often not perfect, including here with South 0-4-6-3 instead of 1-4-5-3). Note: if North would have responded one spade instead of two clubs, I think South would merely have rebid two diamonds instead of his two heart reverse, no doubt, on this layout, emboldened by his club fit.

At this point, I being North and worse, more impatient than is preferred, and not looking for perfection might just take charge and after checking for controls (depending on my partnership’s control structure and ace asking mechanisms) merely wind up in 6 clubs, but whether that is the best contract or not is definitely up for discussion, since usually, and rightly so, the longest combined suit (here, diamonds) is rarely the wrong choice.

However, back to the auction, North’s choice of three diamonds instead of taking control is indeed a partnership effort and although admirable in nature sometimes confuses more than it helps.

Does sometimes too many cooks spoil the broth? I think yes, but whether that is my impatience talking, rather than good bridge technique, I’ll leave it up to you two to judge.

In any event, once South raised to 4 diamonds (suggesting either 0-4-6-3 or 1-4-5-3 with excellent diamonds and not so great clubs), that suit was likely set in stone with only the level then to be determined.

Another note, often stated by me, but I think necessary since so many already excellent or young up and coming bridge stars seem to optimistically forget, that bridge is in no way a perfect science like possibly serious lethal disease inoculations, or developing weapons of mass destruction become, more or less, once perfected, a foolproof solution.

This hand is certainly a case in point with an overlap in values (ace of spades with North) but only with diamonds trump, not with clubs.

With that fact in mind, how could it be possible to exchange enough information to find what is needed to know in order to estimate which slam is better? My answer has been for many years, it is not, which has, no doubt added to my impatience, which in turn stamps me as sometimes taking different views, quicker and more direct, than others.

A good partnership by two excellent players, perhaps like a good marriage, requires not only appreciating commonality between the two, but also understanding what the other one thinks is so, even though everyone wouldn’t always agree.

Like the coward that I am, I will not attempt to hazard a guess as to what is the best contract, 6 clubs or 6 diamonds. I’ll leave that up to the bridge genius of the day to determine. Any volunteers?

Mircea1April 20th, 2015 at 2:38 pm

Hi Bobby,

Do you favor 4H on this auction as RkCB in diamonds, or is it too dangerous?

Bobby WolffApril 20th, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Since you ask a many faceted sensitive question, I think I need to respond in kind, in order to tell you true (or at least what I believe)

There comes a time, very early in the development of what is hoped to be an effective partnership. when certain boundaries are discussed.

Misunderstandings are misunderstood!
They are, in fact, treacherous and besides being very difficult to endure, tend to include both partners, even though it is usually only one of them who either forgot, or, in truth, never knew.

No one of us ever takes any random event, such as a bridge hand, exactly the same way. Even if we were identical twins with the same kind of brain focusing on a game we both love and are willing to sacrifice for, on any one issue our individuality emerges to rain on that hand’s parade.

All of the above emphasizes, at least to me, that all conventional action, certainly other than Gerber (not always) or Blackwood (4NT other than quantitative), any ace asking bid, MUST, under dire threat must be discussed so that both partners are 100% sure, 100% of the time that the other is totally aware of its meaning.

4H (and you could mean over 3 clubs by South or over 3 diamonds by North, the latter being my guess as to when you meant it) could, of course be ace asking (in either case) but what good is it when either a misunderstanding is definitely in the mix, or even just perhaps, but no one can be sure.

I’m sure you get my emphasis and, if anything I am understating it. Clear rules (and I mean really transparent) must be adopted before any conventional treatment even has a chance to be successful and then following that, it becomes a judgment decision whether it is necessary since that convention becomes a real disadvantage when an opponent either by doubling or, for that matter, not doubling tends to possibly give crucial information to his partner who may be on lead.

Finally to get positive, yes certain conventions, particularly ace asking which allows that partnership to be able to stop at a lower level, sometimes, on any one hand, becomes critically important, but it needs to be discussed in such a way which indelibly remains in both partner’s minds.

Also, in order to attempt to discuss it completely, the other meaning of that bid is then lost (often a cue bid toward slam showing a control), which is sometimes reason to not change it.

Sorry for the rant, but the above needs to be considered before change becomes automatic.

Iain ClimieApril 20th, 2015 at 9:29 pm

Hi Bobby,

An interesting nightmare for TOCM, although I can see a practical reason for bashing down the trump ace – there is no possibility of a misguess if you do this, regardless of %ages. If you can’t stand the threat of an anguished pause, a slightly against the odds play has its merits.

I hope the delayed lost for yesterday is interesting,



Bobby WolffApril 20th, 2015 at 10:59 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, there is always some merit in quickly finding out the result, and if all goes smooth we score it up. It is only when the distribution favored taking one’s time, does it feel especially bad to not have performed up to one’s ability.

We all, from time to time, have paid the price for impatience, with me, more than once.