Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 8th, 2016

No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious.

G. B. Shaw

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


As East you see your partner lead the diamond king then play the diamond seven to your ace, declarer following with the nine and five. What now?

Declarer surely has solid hearts, but maybe it is just possible for partner to have a club honor. Could he have the king and have returned what looks like a high diamond? The question as to whether this is a suit-preference position or a count position may be dependent on individual partnerships. West can be fairly sure his partner has three or more diamonds, or he would overtake the first diamond.

But there really doesn’t seem room for declarer not to have the club king or he would have opened four hearts – wouldn’t he?

The point is that if you play a club now and partner has the queen, declarer is even money to guess right. But try playing a spade, a defense that wins whenever partner has a doubleton spade and either the heart jack or the club king. It still leaves declarer with a guess as to what to do, if missing the ace-queen of clubs.

What is more, declarer’s communications are now decisively cut, since you have prevented him from drawing trump and running the spades. He can cash two spades safely, of course, but then if he plays a third spade, your partner will be able to ruff in. Equally, of course, if he plays a club instead, you rise with the ace and play a third spade, promoting partner’s heart jack into the setting trick.

Your quick tricks are enough to invite slam. A quantitative jump to four no-trump gets your values across nicely. Alternatively, you could bid four clubs – natural and not Gerber. The advantage of this route is that you can stop in four spades, but your skewed honor structure might get you to six clubs with a feeble trump suit. Switch the queen of spades into your club suit and I’d bid four clubs.


♠ A K Q 7 4
 9 4
 5 2
♣ J 9 8 4
South West North East
  Pass 2 NT Pass
3 Pass 3 ♠ 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


jim2July 22nd, 2016 at 11:42 am

With my partners I always ask that Gerber is off once a suit is bid naturally in opening notrump (or two clubs followed by notrump rebid) auctions. Hence, in the BWTA auction our clubs would indeed be Gerber for us. So, our four notrump would clearly be quantitative.

This brings me to two questions:

1) If Gerber and Blackwood are both off in the BWTA auction, how would the partnership check for aces?

2) With my partnership understandings, I think the right bid is four notrump. Do you agree?

Peter PengJuly 22nd, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Good morning Mr. Wolff

Since W has shown the QD already,
shouldn’t W play it and then switch to the 9S herself

Small stuff

bobbywolffJuly 22nd, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Hi Jim2,

While your ace asking theories are close to the norm and would apply over 2NT, there is a positive tweak available over 2NT (or starting with 2 clubs then 2NT). 4 clubs would become a 2nd suit and 4NT would indeed be quantitative, making a jump to 5 clubs asking for aces. Complications set in concerning space available leaving either 5D=0-3, 5H-1-4, 5S=2 with no queen ask since 5NT asks for number of kings, or 5S=no queen and 5NT=queen of the transferred suit and no asking for kings.

My experience with 5 clubs asking for aces with 4NT=quantitative is all positive with no remembrances of complications and I recommend it. Four clubs definitely needs to be available for showing a natural suit simply because it becomes needed every now and then. Of course a direct jump to 4 clubs over 2NT is, of course, asking for # of aces.

If the truth be known however, I believe that the hallowed KCBW is overrated since it makes it much easier for those wily opponents to defend a slam better by being able to lead away from the jack of trump (or even lead the suit without, fearing partner may have that key queen), but when the opponents have shown the queen and also take a winning sacrifice when they have a long suit since those slam bidders often seem to be sure of making after announcing that key queen.

More often than most realize (I suspect) confident slam bidding results in a loss if the opponents are zeroed in on what to do (and, of course, have the choice of doing it).

However, the above is only my opinion subject to illusions of the moment, but it seems, through the years, to have worked for me. Like the three bears, the porridge becomes the right temperature when both sides have to deal with their opponents confidence in addition, of course to the exact hands dealt.

Sometimes winning bridge revolves around stealing some situations, when available, and not always positive to play aces and cinches like it sometimes deveops in poker.

Finally in answer to question #2, I am not wild about treating the column example as a NT hand, since with a 5-2-2-4 pattern the five card suit sometimes needs to be set up, making clubs (in this case very playable opposite a super four or more relaxed most 5’s.) Of course if responder holds 5 good clubs he can jump to 6 clubs, but what if he decides not to.

Maybe the answer would be to merely bid a natural 4 clubs over the accepted transfer to spades, risking partner thinking that suit may be better.

Only the Shadow knows!

bobbywolffJuly 22nd, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Hi Peter,

Yes on this hand it might work, but everything considered my trusted partner should know better than I (while only he is looking at his spade holding and is in better position to make that critical decision)

One of the difficulties of jumping forward quickly in the hopes of getting better fast in bridge is that for it to happen it is much smoother for both partners to be close to the same ability, but still having the enthusiasm and work ethic to accept getting better.

When there is a disparity in desire or ability to succeed, often there is a problem which is unlikely to be overcome, unless those two players go different directions. Alas, sad, but it can be overcome with changes, sometimes in the best interests of both.

Getting back to your question, have trust in the ox you are playing with and just perhaps he or she will surprise you with excellent play.

Anyway, let that be the positive thought of the day.