Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

It is permitted me to take good fortune where I find it.


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


Today’s deal from the Chennai world championships last year came from the match between USA1 and Brazil. Nickell and Katz made four hearts with an overtrick in the other room when North produced one try for slam and respected his partner’s sign-off.

However the Brazilians constructed a slam-bang auction to a slam when North closed his eyes and drove to slam. Was it a sensible idea to be aggressive? Well, slam had the merit of having play, even if not good play. As it transpired, it was critical to opt to play spades not hearts, because that allowed the delay of the guess as to how declarer, Roberto Brum, was supposed to negotiate the heart suit. The slam needs the finesse of the heart king, but once it wins, there is a guess as to how to handle the second round of the suit.

At the table West led a club to the ace and East returned the suit. Declarer drew four rounds of trump, advanced the heart jack and was happy to find the king onside. Now how do the odds work out? When they say eight ever, nine never, they mean that if all things are equal, the finesse is a fraction worse in this position. But all things were not equal here. Once the 4-1 spade break came to light, the odds tilted to West being short in hearts, so at the next trick declarer finessed the heart nine, and collected 11 IMPs instead of losing the same number.

Not all good hands are equal; some are more (or less) equal than others. I hate the high-card make up of this hand, with the club honors not pulling their weight, the bad trump spots and the flat shape in the side suits. Since partner could have produced a cuebid raise with any decent passed hand, I’m inclined to pass out two hearts and not look for more.


♠ K 7 5
 A 8 4 3 2
 A 9 4
♣ K Q
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♣
1 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


jim2November 9th, 2016 at 3:45 pm

On BWTA, I would be inclined to bid 3H.

I would like to make it tougher for West to bid spades. My fear with so many clubs missing is that West has a club fit but not enough to raise directly since East could be short. However, having passed once, West might toss in a spade noise at the two-level — once N-S reveal below game strength — holding a spade suit and a bit of a club fit to retreat to.

Bobby WolffNovember 9th, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Hi Jim2,

While respecting your point of keeping those normally competitive opponents out of the auction, for the moment, I would like to address another issue

To the tune of “What a difference a day makes” how about substituting a small club to go with the KQ in hand for either a small diamond or a small spade. If done, I will even suggest bidding a game, by first testing NT then settling either for that or, of course, for 4 hearts.

Which is not to say, that the actual constructed hand is not worth a game try (think Jxx in clubs for partner). On such a petty point (pun included) do often bidding worthwhile games depend.

Now returning to your actual comment, IMO it becomes a decision to risk a nine trick contract (3 hearts) when fate (and, of course, poor placement of cards for our heroes) which may restrict us to only eight tricks instead of nine, which, of course, is the reason for passing.

Whether it is worth avoiding West the ability for sneaking back in or not, is, of course, the important question to which you have addressed your attention.