Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.

Francis Bacon

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

*heart raise with unspecified shortness


After North uses Stayman and finds the heart fit, he may have a useful gadget available to him – one named after the late Grant Baze. He can jump to three spades, an artificial call promising slam interest with heart fit and an unspecified short suit, which he later reveals to be diamonds.

South’s hand fits his partner’s nicely if North has a singleton diamond, given his own outstanding trumps. If partner makes a try for slam when you have all the top trumps, you should never sign off. So he makes one effort, and that is enough for North to drive to six hearts.

It is never easy to know when to count losers, and when to count winners. In six hearts, if South can take three club tricks and four trumps he needs to take two diamond ruffs in dummy. The problem is the entries back to hand: how is South to get to his hand to ruff a second diamond after taking the first ruff in dummy? Declarer needs to ensure that if he loses a club trick, it must be at a time when the opponents are not in position to take a diamond trick also.

The solution is to win the spade lead in dummy, cross to the diamond ace and take a club finesse. If it loses, play to ruff two diamonds while drawing trump, using the club jack as a re-entry to hand. If the club finesse holds, use trumps to come back to hand to ruff two diamonds, then ruff a spade to hand to draw the last trump.

Whether or not you play this as showing extras, the sequence can hardly be forcing (partner had many ways to show a better hand, such as jumping in clubs or cuebidding). That being so, since you are very much at the bottom end of your range, you can pass happily enough. Had your partner bid two hearts, that would have guaranteed real extras.


♠ Q 9 8 6
 9 8 7
 Q 9 7
♣ Q 9 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. Pass
1 NT 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


David WarheitJuly 5th, 2017 at 10:26 am

Or S wins the S, cashes DA, ruffs a D and leads a low C toward the J. E wins the Q, but S now has 2S, 4H, 1D, 3C & 2 D ruffs. If W has the CQ, S has the same 10 non ruffing tricks, and he can still ruff another D and return to hand with a trump to draw trump. The suggested line makes an overtrick if W has Qxx of C, but will probably fail if the C finesse loses & someone has doubleton S, so I think this line is better.

A V Ramana RaoJuly 5th, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff & Mr Warheit
If declarer is fairly sure that diamonds are no worse than 5-3 and clubs no worse than 4-2, then win spade in dummy, play diamond to A, ruff a diamond and lead 10 ofclubs which assures the contract. This is only slightly different from what Mr Warheit suggests

Bobby WolffJuly 5th, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Hi David and AVRR,

While appreciating your two suggested different lines, but shirking the difficult task of trying to prove specifics, it seems that the column line is likely superior since it also encompasses the more or less, 50% possibility of West holding the club queen and not scoring it up.

Like, which often happens, hands do not always break anywhere near perfect, and while the human mind, even for great bridge players while they are declaring, meet up with unlucky combinations (whether card placement or unlucky distributions) leaving the common sense of, at the very least, choosing the line where Dame Fortune may be smiling (club queen with West), possibly overcoming a correspondingly bad break or card placement or non-percentage distribution, somewhere else.

Some hands, this one an example, could have many twists and turns, but only an exhaustive research of all suit distributions could even begin to solve what is best.

Meaning, yes I am going to chicken out in doing the work (very time consuming, not to mention extremely tedious frustration).

While not claiming to be making an iron clad declaration, I will leave it to anyone who is industrious, talented (and thick skinned) enough to accept what I deem to be an enormous task of rendering an accurate and complete analysis of this not so simple hand.

Peter PengJuly 5th, 2017 at 8:02 pm

hello Mr. Wolff

another bidding misunderstanding ….

LHO passed, partner bid 1H, RHO passed, I bid 1NT.

This is 2/1, 1NT is 100% forcing.

LHO overcalled 2S.

Partner jumped to 4D.

I heard a message = “Partner, choose between the two suits, I do not care what you have”

I had 2 spades, 1 heart, 2 diamonds and 8 clubs, only 6 HCP

KQxxxxxx of C and Jx of S.

So I passed 4D. I read something like a 1-5-6-1 hand, perhaps
AQJxx in hearts and AKJ10xx in diamonds hand.

So I passed. Simple suit preference, not strong enough to bid 5C.

Partner had xx, AKJ10xx, AQxx, A

How do we sort out our misunderstandings?

It is amazing that we got a 32% hand.

I appreciate my fellow readers opinion.

jim2July 5th, 2017 at 9:04 pm

I am not Our Host, but I would regard 4D as forcing – jump in a new suit.

With 1-5-6-1, I would expect 1D to be the opening bid, planning to reverse in hearts, if the hand were strong enough to jump like that.

Thus, I would try my best to keep a straight face and bid 4H.

Iain ClimieJuly 5th, 2017 at 9:11 pm

HI Peter,

I have to say I think your partner should just have bid 4H not 4D. Yes, you might even have a void and walk into a 5-2 break, or have a perfect hand for 6D like Axx x KJxxxx 10xxx but 4H does seem the most likely making game.



Iain ClimieJuly 5th, 2017 at 9:21 pm

OK, one less diamond. I keep on thinking there are 14 in the pack!

Bobby WolffJuly 6th, 2017 at 12:32 am

Hi Peter. Jim2, & Iain,

I would like to agree with the herd, but Peter’s problem reminded me of a question asking me long ago from an up and coming player, but relatively new to the game. “Is there any other name for a bridge player who holds an 8+ card suit?”

The answer (and mine) is simply, “Yes, declarer”.

And so it is my choice here. I do prefer 4 hearts by partner, instead of 4 diamonds, but the latter might or might not, allow the partnership to arrive at a making game or slam in diamonds, wherein 4 hearts should quickly end the auction.

However, since no suit has been agreed by your partnership, 5 clubs (over 4 diamonds) should show approximately the hand you have (a two suiter, but both suits are clubs) and asking partner to respect your wishes. Sure you could have started out with 2 only clubs, but to do so is to run a live risk of getting too high before all would pass.

However, the lesson, as always, live and learn, learn and live, so next time after, of course, this hand has been thoroughly discussed, your partnership (and I hope others) will be better placed to get an improved result.

And Iain, after looking at so many clubs, no wonder the 14 card hand, so all is forgiven.

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