Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 13th, 2015

I only ask for information.

Charles Dickens

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

*Regular Blackwood; one ace


In today’s deal you have to defend against a slam. It is sometimes easier to play against opponents you trust, as opposed to those whose bidding or play might be more eccentric.

The auction has been natural enough, the five diamond response to the straight Blackwood ace-asking bid shows one of the four aces. First you must consider your opening lead. With a likely trump trick, the singleton lead is both dangerous and pointless. You are much more likely to cost your side a diamond trick than to get a ruff, so you lead the heart king. This produces the heart ace, the three from partner, and the nine from declarer. Declarer now runs the spade queen, (partner producing the two and declarer the four). You decide to win the trick, and the ball is now in your court.

There is a real danger that partner’s club ace or your heart winner (if you have one) might vanish on dummy’s diamonds, unless you cash it right now. A diamond loser will never go away. So the question is whether declarer is off an ace, or whether he has a slow heart loser. The only clue that you have is that declarer’s jump to six spades over the Blackwood response without checking for kings might suggest he is missing an ace. Additionally, partner’s small heart at the first trick shows an odd number. Against a slam or five-level contract one should signal count on the lead of a king. Could declarer really have three small hearts and have enough to use Blackwood?

I say no, a small additional clue perhaps being that partner’s spade two at his first opportunity is suit-preference for clubs (if he has more than one trump!). All of those three things point in the same direction, of trying to cash a club. Note partner’s play of the heart three at trick one. All you asked for was the count, and despite his beefy hearts, he followed orders.

A trump lead looks highly dangerous here — partner rates to have two or three cards to an honor since declarer might easily have only three spades. The best approach to a passive lead that I can find is the diamond jack, and since your partner is marked with scattered values, it is as good as anything else.


♠ J 9 2
 A J 7 5 3
 J 3
♣ Q 8 2
South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass 1♠
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


BryApril 27th, 2015 at 12:52 pm

What would have been the West opening and trick 3 lead if instead of 4NT South had bid directly to 6Spades?
(How much impact was from using Blackwood giving additional information to the defense?)

Bobby WolffApril 27th, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Hi Bry,

First, you are now exploring what I’ve thought to be true or almost for about as many years as anyone can count.

However, what if the opener had held, s. KQxx, h. KQx, d. K10xxx, c. x, what excuse can South possibly have or give for not checking on aces or controls (KCBW)?

Add this syllogism and its determination to the practical application of how seldom the defense is faced with today’s column type of problem and a bridge supreme court would likely scream no to bypassing ace asking.

In life as well as bridge, most times we have to give in order to get. Sadly that will generally keep, even the best of us, straying too far from basically tested popular expert bridge methods.

However, the good news for all of us mavericks (or wannabes), is that there is often compromise available, likely in the form of key voids (cue bids, telltale jumps or even ace asking) which, lend themselves to both science and just punting to slam (as Brits would describe it).

Most scientist types will accept jumping to slam if profitable sacrifices from wary opponents are in the air, but usually when so, the leaper, to be effective, should be close to only 50-50 in his opinion as to whether that slam will make.

In other words, he is saying to his adversaries “you do or you don’t take that sacrifice option and it will be a gamble either way”. (poker anyone?)

No doubt, in this column hand, West should, almost regardless of his partner’s legal signals, defend correctly and switch to a club (at trick 3), since if South had 2 losing hearts he would or at least should, NEVER use ace asking to get to a slam, but rather use it only to keep from getting to slam while missing two aces and any time the ace asker has two losers in one suit (that has not been either bid or cue bid) proper high-level bridge technique forbids him to do so.

Another however, bridge, at least to me, has never been accused of being anywhere near a perfect science, and methinks that the very best players, being aware of such facts, use that above theory to their advantage especially while playing against their peers.

It follows then, your question to me is answered, supreme impact from the use of BW, to defeat this hand without having to think.