Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 14th, 2015

It is hard to imagine the things you have never seen.

Steven J. Carroll

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


In this deal from the finals of the US trials the Deutsch team took the lead over the Nickell team in the middle of the match and pulled away thereafter, winning comfortably in the end. But this coup went to the Nickell team.

Both tables had an unopposed auction to four spades on the lead of the heart 10. For Deutsch, Michael Rosenberg took his king and played a club back, won in dummy for a trump finesse. Now although the defense could get a club ruff, it was with a trump winner, and declarer could discard his diamonds on dummy’s clubs.

By contrast, where Nickell was defending, Dick Freeman led the heart 10, won by Nick Nickell with the ace. Nick returned the diamond six to his partner’s king. His logic was that if his partner had the diamond king it might go away unless a diamond was played immediately, and that by his shifting to a high diamond, West should work out there was no future in the suit.

This was exactly what transpired. Freeman found the third defensive switch in three tricks, to the club four, which was won by the ace in dummy. Chip Martel played a spade to the queen, and now king and a club ruff beat the contract. It was irritating for Freeman to discover that his partner’s ruff was with a natural trump trick, but the 12 IMPS his side picked up was doubtless quite satisfying enough.

You can follow the trials this week at

You can be sure that West is likely to be coming again in hearts, and you are surely planning to compete to at least the tree-level. To help partner plan the auction and defense, if necessary, jump to three clubs now. Having passed over one diamond this is unambiguously a fit-jump for spades, suggesting good clubs, and describes your hand very nicely.


♠ 10 8 5
 Q 10 9 4
♣ A K 10 8 6
South West North East
Pass 1 1 ♠ 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


Joe1May 28th, 2015 at 10:07 pm

I don’t get the 3S response by N. Partner could have a better club or diamond holding, e.g DK and slam would not be out of the question. As the cards lie the bid worked, since at least one team made game. But N committed to S too soon? Maybe 2C with delayed S raise? (This game is hard to figure out!)

jim2May 28th, 2015 at 10:48 pm

I am not Our Host, but I believe 2C would have been a game forcing bid while 3S was invitational.

In this case, 3S had the additional advantage in North’s eyes of making it difficult for E-W to find their heart fit. Some partnerships require four trump for a limit raise, making the auction have to go through 1N forcing then the jump to show a limit raise with 3-card support (1H/S-1N, 2C/D-3H/S).

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Hi Joe1,

Your inquisitive nature is a plus, but likely your optimism is a bit too high.

Most tournament players are now playing 2 over 1 in a new suit over a major suit opening, a game force and in this case it probably is only worth an invitation. True, your partner could have solid spades and the AK of diamonds as well as the right club holding, but even with that magic there may be handling charges, e.g. bad breaks or less than expert play may be fatal to the spade slam.

Add the above reason to the possibility of partner, holding the above, would cue bid 4 diamonds, showing both a slam try a usually 1st round control by the stronger hand (and like Wendy’s old time ad, BEEF) and a willingness to explore for bigger bonuses. Then with your singleton heart and very good clubs you should bid IMO only 4 hearts, giving room to partner to sign-off at 4 spades, even though in other people’s opinion they would choose 5 clubs (1st round control, rather than 2nd).

Bravo to you for searching for the heavens, but also it is important to not overstretch. Bridge bidding is NOT EVEN CLOSE to a perfect exercise, but rather one which needs both scrutiny and good judgment. It is also very dependent on partnership cooperation so if excellence is what you are searching for, make sure you have a partner who also wants it and more importantly, put in the effort and time to work hard for it.

And then the two of you working together will be on an elevator going up instead of just biding your time.

jim2May 28th, 2015 at 11:10 pm

By the way, on BWTA, just how tall a tree did you have in mind?


bobby wolffMay 29th, 2015 at 12:18 am

Hi Jim2,

Will you please, leaves me alone and help me count to one, two, twe. and what in the h (as in three) are you worried about.

BTW you may not know it, but you have a huge bridge advantage since it being almost impossible for you to ever make more than nine tricks on any possible layout (because of TOCM tm), you can simplify your system.

I can only imagine you picking up a 13 card suit as dealer, and then immediately looking straight up to see if this hand is about to be rained out. Probably not, but sacrificed against, you betcha!

Jane AMay 29th, 2015 at 12:19 am

On BWTA, my partner and I would cue bid two hearts to show the limit raise in spades, but this is our agreement so my bid would be understood. Now the opps can do what they want and so can my partner.

Enjoyed your recent comments on Bridge Winners. You tell it like it is!

HerremanAugust 25th, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Cool diamond switch by Nickell !