Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

The aged love what is practical while impetuous youth longs only for what is dazzling.


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


When North opens one heart and hears South respond in spades, he might make a splinter jump to four clubs, but the singleton king is an inelegant holding for that call.

An alternative route (oldfashioned but none the worse for that) is to jump shift into diamonds before supporting spades. This kind of bidding shows a singleton in the fourth suit. A player who bids three suits without jumping might have a doubleton in the fourth suit. However, if he has jumped along the way, as here, he should guarantee either 12 or 13 cards in his three suits. Now South knows that North has a singleton club, with great strength in the other three suits. South has top spades and a perfect fit for hearts. But since he is not completely sure whether North has four spades and three diamonds, or the other way around, South offers a choice of slam, letting North correct back to the major suit.

After a club lead to the ace for a trump shift, South must win in dummy, cash the two top hearts and ruff a heart high. Then a diamond to dummy for a second heart ruff high lets declarer conclude the play by drawing trump, and claiming 12 tricks when they split.

South would not be able to follow this line if he had drawn three rounds of trump. Also note that South must use his top spades in hand for ruffing, to guard against the danger of an over-ruff. The low trumps are used for entries to dummy.

Facing a passed partner you have only two viable options – and doubling is NOT one of them. You can pass and hope to balance when or if the opponents find hearts – and how bad could it be to pass throughout if they don’t? Or you can take the very active position to overcall one spade. I’d much rather do that if my spade king were the queen-jack.


♠ A K 6 3
 K 5
 J 6 4 3
♣ J 7 2
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♣

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


AviNovember 8th, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Hi Bobby
why not make a splinter jump?
If the club K were a small card, the hand is still worth a splinter call vs. almost all 6 counts.

George BartlingNovember 8th, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Why not just ruff two clubs? You have plenty of safe communication. My dog could play this small-slam.

Michael BeyroutiNovember 8th, 2016 at 1:23 pm

@George Bartling:
Better have a word with your dog when the third heart from dummy is ruffed low in hand and overruffed by West…

slarNovember 8th, 2016 at 2:45 pm

@GB that was my initial thought too but the blockage in diamonds makes it fail. You end up promoting a trick for west because you only have three entries to hand and two of them are needed to draw trump.

The trick is to have the experience or brain-power to work this out in a reasonable amount of time.

Bobby WolffNovember 8th, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Hi Avi,

IMO, you have brought up why a splinter is a viable alternative rebid, but also then mentioning the king of clubs (rather than an insignificant small one) as a valid reason for accomplishing the same distribution description, but showing a slightly better hand because that king might make the difference.

The only disadvantage is that the chosen method on this hand, a jump shift to a supposed second suit, then a jump showing 4 card support also identifies no more than a singleton, but also, if anything, shows an even better hand, which is sometimes the difference between a reasonable slam and (if you’ll excuse the expression) a slam dunk. BTW, the method employed on today’s hand (instead of the more modern shortness jump) has been used for many years and, at least for my taste, still has a hallowed reputation for success.

However, your comment, leading the way for a full discussion, is the best way to at least an attempt, to compare differences in possible ways to explore slams.

“Little by little we can do great things” often results in better understandings to different ways in both skinning cats and, in this case, bidding good slams.

Thanks for writing.

Bobby WolffNovember 8th, 2016 at 5:06 pm

Hi George,

First, welcome to our bridge site.

And before I echo both what Michael and Slar have discussed, let it be a not so painful way to get indoctrinated to bridge as it is, rather than the much too casual exercise many others have preferred to view it.

My group will vouch for truth over half-truth, but always with respect and the incredible understanding of how underrated our special mind game stands, in the eyes of so many.

Please join us and learn to give and take, but always with the idea of forever honoring our hallowed game with its constant place in all of our hearts.

slarNovember 8th, 2016 at 5:33 pm

On the hand auction, does 4S promise 4 pieces or just 3? What if responder bid 4C in the second round instead of 4D? Is that a sort of new-minor-forcing that could be used to solicit 3 card support?

Bobby WolffNovember 8th, 2016 at 6:03 pm

Hi Slar,

What you ask will not have an universal opinion.

From my point of view, since the raise to 4 diamonds definitely will promise 4 card support, I would tend to prefer rebidding spades with 5 (although sadly I will admit certain exceptions such as 5 mediocre to bad spades and 4 decent diamonds simply because often a GF jump shift (perhaps 90+%) has either very good support for partner’s suit or in a few occasions an independent original suit (in this case hearts) but just too strong for any action but a jump shift.

The above should (as above mentioned) not be considered gospel, but aspiring partnerships need to make certain decisions regarding controversial areas, always admitting that bridge bidding (especially systems which do not start with a strong club) have to make concessions to attempted perfection.

Yes, definitely a 4th suit bid, (almost 100% of the time) is asking for level disclosure (itself showing a maximum) rather than strain (sometimes the agreed suit is by inference). The exception possibly being: 1D, P. 1H, P 1S, P 1NT, P 2C being either a, 4-0-5-4 or a 4-0-4-5, or maybe even 4-1-4-4, although pass might be a better choice (especially with
a high singleton heart) unless that opening bidder has at least some extra values,