Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness.

Sidney Poitier

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

*Forcing raise

**Keycard Blackwood


Today’s deal from the qualifying stages of the US trials saw one of the more serendipitous swings that I’ve seen.

At one table North-South reach the diamond slam on a more complex auction than the one shown. North had used keycard and East had been able to get in a heart lead-directing call, so West led a low heart. Declarer sensibly rose with the ace, drew trump and stripped out the spades, then exited with a low heart from dummy to leave East on lead.

East correctly guessed to rise with the king, and shifted to the club jack. Declarer knew East was expert enough to have shifted to the club jack without the other high honor. He elected to win in hand and finesse against West; down one. The percentages in this position are close enough that one could hardly blame him too much.

In the other room North-South avoided the grand slam; but they played six no-trump instead, by North, when East had also shown the heart king during the auction. After a spade lead there seemed to be no squeeze or endplay. Declarer, Gary Cohler, spotted a slim chance, but he needed to find East with sole guard of the clubs and the heart king.

He ran the diamonds, then when East discarded spades he cashed the remaining spade honor. Finally he exited with ace and another heart, and in the three-card ending he had already committed himself to play East for real clubs. So when East shifted to a high club, he played him for both honors, and made his slam.

Despite your decent club stopper it feels right to me to give preference to spades initially, and to try to get your club stopper across at your next turn. In auctions of this sort your partner should assume you have doubleton trump support not three, since on many hands with three trump, you might have raised at your second turn.


♠ A 6
 Q 4
 Q J 9 7 6 4
♣ A 10 7
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 Pass 2 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


David WarheitMay 25th, 2016 at 9:34 am

Well, I think that the first South missed some clues. At the critical point he knows that E was missing either the HJ or 10 (W’s lead promised a suit headed by an honor) and in spades, E had a most the J. So did E overcall at the 2 level with one king and at most 3 jacks? Maybe, but I think he is a strong candidate to hold the CQ.

On a side note, I believe that this is the first time I have ever seen a pair have mirror distribution of 2-2-6-3.

A V Ramana RaoMay 25th, 2016 at 11:21 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
At the second table, if declarer places heart K & club Q & J with east, he could have simply drawn trumps, stripped spades and play A, K and another club. East is hopelessly endplayed and has to lead away from heart K or provide a ruff & sluff. Obviously he cannot unblock in clubs because declarer would score ten. Elegant lay of cards
And on the first table, perhaps declarer should have played for east to hold both club Q & J particularly after the overcall. But who knows. It has become fancy to overcall with a near yarborough hands now a days

bobby wolffMay 25th, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Hi David,

As 2nd Citizen so famously said, according to the Bard, after Mark Antony’s famous speech eulogizing Julius Caesar, “Methinks there is much reason in what he said”.

Although I do not think the lead of a low heart, holding either 3 or 4 but having not supported his partner, demands, or even suggests an honor, that technicality does not keep what you claim to be inferentially valid. East had little enough to chime in, being vulnerable between two strong hands, without that QJ combination in clubs.

However, the detective work necessary to survive in the topsy-turvy high-level bridge world might just be exciting and random enough to interest many others to merely sit down and test their mettle. I know that it did for me, so why not others?

David, from now on your first name may be thought of as Sherlock or do you prefer Philo?

bobby wolffMay 25th, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Hi AV,

Yes, since in truth you echo what David has voiced, only changing the main thrust, it only comes down to which endplay is more likely to work. East, not West holding the king of hearts is a moral certainty but. since both opponents will sense what is being planned for them, they will make every effort to enable West not East to win the third round of clubs. However with East holding both of them, they will be stuck with more or less the same ending.

Thanks for your accurate analysis.

ZacheryMay 29th, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Residents haven’t had a lot luck combating warehouses up to now,
having been forged as opponents of a lot-wanted jobs.

SherlynMay 29th, 2016 at 10:10 pm

This program will equip senior and mid-career professionals
in enterprise and shopper markets with the mandatory confidence and expertise
to design and execute a superior technique.