Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected.

Charles Dickens

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


On this deal from the first qualifying session of last spring’s Silodor Open Pairs, you would really like to play seven no-trump, but the textbooks don’t cover how to bid 29-point hands — unless you are playing a relay system.

At the table where Bill Pollack was declarer, his auction saw him struggle to reach six notrump. When hearts didn’t split, even the small slam was not cold.

Fortunately for him, Pollack received the Goldilocks lead of the spade jack – a low spade lead would have handed him the contract, while he would have been sunk on any other lead. The spade lead was “just right.”

Pollack cashed the heart king and heart queen, then the diamond ace and king. The second string to his bow was a diamond break. But when that suit also failed to break, he overtook the diamond jack with dummy’s queen, and pitched a club from hand on the heart ace. On the red-suit winners West had been forced to let go one spade and two clubs.

Pollack returned to hand with a club, cashed a second high spade, then played the club king, and threw West in with a third round of clubs. That forced the defender to lead into the spade tenace of the Q-9, for a shared matchpoint top.

The winners of the Smith Life Master Women’s Pairs, Yiji Starr and Pamela Granovetter had an unlucky but enviably brief auction to the grand slam. North responded two hearts to a strong club, showing 5-7 points and a moderate heart suit and South could jump to seven hearts.

How should you evaluate this hand – should you insist on spades, and should you play partscore or game? My best guess is that we should play four spades, ignoring the club suit altogether. The best way to do that is to transfer to spades at the four-level if playing Texas transfers, or to transfer and raise if not doing so.


♠ J 10 7 4 3
 8 2
♣ J 9 7 5 4
South West North East
    2 ♣ Pass
2 Pass 2 NT 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Jane AMarch 29th, 2016 at 1:32 pm

So for us peons not playing in elite competition, why not play the safe slam of six hearts which is cold on any lead? North has promised a six card heart suit, in my opinion, and south should consider that reaching the north hand in NT might not be possible. North has shown slam interest but is more interested in hearts. South has those proverbial stars in their eyes with 29 points, and who wouldn’t? Do all roads have to lead to NT?

What would you lead if not a spade? Anything but a spade sets six NT as the cards sit, but we don’t have the luxury of knowing that.

bobbywolffMarch 29th, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Hi Jane A,

If the hearts break 3-2 about a 67% chance, you’re in for a grand salami. And those odds are plenty to make bidding a grand slam well worth it.

Even if they don’t, but the 10 of diamonds falls, either 3-3 or other, there are sound squeeze chances for also making it, making the slam well over 70% to land.

While, as Billy Pollack proved even with neither of those above chances succeeding, because of the fairly normal lead, he was able to make apple sauce from apples and therefore achieve making his conservative contract.

All in a day’s work in our very challenging game.

Such is the chance element often present on exciting hands, proving how exciting good, better, and best bridge can be.

Certainly all roads did not lead to NT, but with a good heart break and while playing in the Silodor Open Pair matchpoint event the extra 10 points gleaned for bidding and making 7NT would have landed several more match points instead of the “normal” 7 hearts.

You are correct in that hearts, with certain minor changes in the cards held (no queen of diamonds) would be infinitely better, but the key entry was there, but nevertheless the patient would die because of having our hearts broken, by not breaking.

No doubt, easier written about than having it happen at the table.

You are definitely right in what you say, but never underestimate the electricity often generated when good bridge is played. BTW, it never hurts to be lucky!