Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 10th, 2017

Neutrinos, they are very small. They have no charge and have no mass And do not interact at all. The earth is just a silly ball to them, through which they simply pass, Like dustmaids down a drafty hall.

John Updike

S North
None ♠ K Q J
 A K 5 4
 A K 6
♣ Q 10 9
West East
♠ 9 3 2
 J 10 7 6
 5 4
♣ 8 5 4 3
♠ A 10 8 7
 9 3
 J 9 8 7
♣ 7 6 2
♠ 6 5 4
 Q 8 2
 Q 10 3 2
♣ A K J
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
1 NT Pass 6 NT All pass


I’ll let you be the judge of whether someone made a very good or bad play to generate a slam swing here, or whether you might have made the mistake that was committed at the table. In today’s deal at both tables six no-trump was reached in short order and the club five led .

In both rooms declarer led a spade to the king, and at one table East took his ace. As declarer, in which order would you cash your winners now?

South did well to cash hearts early, knowing no competent defender would unguard that suit, but that the rest of his distribution might be less clear. On the third heart East discarded a club, and now the rest of the top clubs forced East to discard, revealing he had begun with only three clubs. The late Jean Besse referred to the small clubs as neutrinos and emphasized that defenders had to be careful to avoid such revealing plays.

After taking the rest of the top spades, South discovered West’s original shape had to be precisely 3=4=2=4. So declarer took the diamond ace and king and finessed the diamond 10. Nicely done.

In the other room both the first and second spades were ducked; now declarer could not afford to play a third spade. He cashed all the clubs and hearts, finding some information but not enough to be sure on the spade count. So eventually he went with the percentages and played diamonds from the top; one down.

Playing two over one, although you have three spades, you want to rebid two no-trump here. This is forcing and allows you (if partner gives you space to do so) to show delayed spade support. But if your partner simply raises to three no-trump you intend to pass. Doesn’t your hand look more suited to play at no-trump?


♠ 6 5 4
 Q 8 2
 Q 10 3 2
♣ A K J
South West North East
  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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Paul FlashenbergFebruary 24th, 2017 at 1:21 pm

It is routine to duck spades twice to prevent declarer from rectifying the count, especially holding 4 diamonds. The level of the game is not mentioned. Hopefully this was not even at the intermediate level.

jim2February 24th, 2017 at 1:53 pm

If I held up twice, declarer would have a fifth diamond and it would have been Board-A-Match.

Iain ClimieFebruary 24th, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Hi Folks,

I was just idly wondering if there were any cases where ducking the spade twice could cost, but I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. Cheers Jim2!



jim2February 24th, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Or the JH instead of the 8H. Then, what two card should I keep at the 2-card ending with the lead in dummy?




Mircea1February 24th, 2017 at 5:47 pm

Hi Bobby,

Is there a case to be made for North to consider going after the grand with his hand after the 1NT response from opener?

Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 25th, 2017 at 4:28 am

As you can gather from Bobby not responding, his site is down again. Hang in. They are working on it!

Bobby WolffFebruary 25th, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Hi Mircea1,

That case for a grand slam leaps out the window when North learns, with South’s rebids, that his partner has a balanced minimum. Grand slams usually need a long source of tricks from one suit in order to reach 13 and when both hands are balanced seem to need around 37 of the 40 HCP’s out on every hand.

That holding is rare to almost non-existent, including the above hand in question.

Bobby WolffFebruary 25th, 2017 at 5:59 pm

As you are aware, we have had computer/posting problems off and on this week. Hopefully we are back on track. Thus, this is a repeat of Bobby’s reply from yesterday which never appeared. …JKW

Hi everyone,

This hand, although being a potential slam, is somewhat mundane (to many), but, to me, can and would (at least to me) become a telltale indication of the prowess of the defense (especially to the player sitting East).

Why? Simply because there is so much known to East in the way of almost being sure of what South holds for it to be a problem. The distribution will undoubtedly unfold and all that remains is to eventually find out whether declarer, not partner holds the 10 of diamonds. Without it all good declarers will go down against only decent defenders, but the idea for the defense is to make it tough for declarer if he indeed, does hold it (so East must assume that he does).

However, the holding of that key card will only allow declarer to guess the hand correctly or not, but the challenge, of course, will always be, if indeed he does possess that card, we need to not make it obvious to him to take at the death, the key finesse, but rather play our cards, while on defense, in such a way to give him a real guess.

From the defensive standpoint it should become obvious (based on the bidding) what declarer needs to hold to give the defense a chance to succeed. Indeed it is the exact distribution South possesses, including big casino (aka the diamond ten which in the game of casino is a key factor). Without the diamond ten all declarers should and would go set against all experienced East players who would never part with a critical diamond (especially holding what he has, but also if only holding three small (making declarer guess if he indeed was not able to, by implication, count the hand, eg. partner was dealt Jxx).

A relatively straightforward hand, but to me, is the epitome of what our great game is about, the defense defending in a way to give declarer a difficult guess in the endgame, rather than only a slam dunk.

All relatively aspiring players should delve as deeply as they need to, in order to understand how important this hand becomes when attempting to improve one’s game to a very high level. Without fully understanding what is involved will only leave a gap which, until done, will relegate that aspirant to having a glass ceiling beyond which he needs to rise.

Good luck and please forgive me if I am appearing to you to be fixated on requiring any reader to go beyond his thought to be, skill level, thereby hoping him (or her) to rise above the herd. My desire is only to encourage, not to demand.