Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 30th, 2017

Brahms’ Variations are better than mine, but mine were written before his.

Franz Liszt

W North
Both ♠ A 4 3
 A 7
 A Q 9 3
♣ A 8 4 3
West East
♠ 5
 K Q J 9 8 6 4 2
♣ J 10 7 2
♠ 9 8 2
 10 5
 K 10 8 6 2
♣ Q 9 5
♠ K Q J 10 7 6
 J 7 5 4
♣ K 6
South West North East
  4 Dbl. Pass
5 ♠ Pass 6 ♠ Pass
Pass Dbl. All pass  


20 years ago this charming deal cropped up in the Cavendish Teams. I have not seen a position since then, with three such different possibilities from the diamond suit.

You declare six spades, and receive the lead of a top heart. You win the ace, ruff a heart, draw trump in three rounds, and now have to tackle the diamonds.

When you lead a diamond towards the dummy you plan to insert the queen if West follows. If it holds, you have a sure-trick line available: you cross back to hand, to lead a diamond to dummy’s nine.

So what happens if West follows to the first diamond, and the queen loses to the king? Then you regain the lead and play off three rounds of clubs, ruffing the third in hand, and run the trumps to squeeze East in the minors should the diamonds not split.

The actual lie of the cards is more interesting. When West shows out, East is marked with eight cards in spades and diamonds. You cannot make the contract if he has three hearts so you should play West to guard the fourth round of clubs.

The winning line is elegant: win the diamond ace, play off three rounds of clubs, and ruff in hand, then run the trumps to reduce to a three-card ending, after two rounds of hearts, three clubs and five rounds of spades.

In this position North, East and South will all have three diamonds left. Now a diamond to the queen forces East to win, and lead up to the diamond nine.

In this auction three of a new minor (unless you are playing the Wolff Signoff) asks whether you have three-card support for responder’s major. Since you do, bid three spades. If you have four cards in hearts you can show it first, en route to raising spades, but since you don’t, simply bid three spades now.


♠ A 4 3
 A 7
 A Q 9 3
♣ A 8 4 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 NT 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJuly 14th, 2017 at 9:20 am

How about: HA, ruff a H, KQ of S, KA of C & ruff a C, SA, ruff a C & lead a D to Q, making 6 EVEN IF E HAD 4C.

jim2July 14th, 2017 at 11:38 am

I think that loses when West began with seven hearts.

That is, trump are gone due to the three ruffs and East will have a heart and three diamonds.

Altering the line to AD before the top clubs allows declarer more options. If West follows, it transposes to text line. If West shows out, it transposes to the line you (and I) are both exploring.

Note that playing the AD before the 3rd trump risks West ruffing but, here, West has shown out of trump so there is no risk. If trump were 2-2, there would be more endplay options. The point here is that if West is revealed to have 3 spades to go with 7 or 8 hearts, the minor suit squeeze line becomes 100%.

Gary DavisJuly 14th, 2017 at 1:49 pm

Please explain the Wolff Signoff and its advantages.


bobby wolffJuly 14th, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

Thanks to both of you. Combining with David the crucial table setter and Jim2, the cook, food taster, and dishwasher.

Seventy plus years ago, through the facility of autobridge, card combinations and their variances created an immediate fascination for me, which has continued through all these years, chiefly based on what needs to be done at the death to effectively set the trap, to which the opponents must fall victim.

First step, plan ahead, 2nd, allow, if possible, for success, with more than one likely final distribution to be determined before execution.
3rd, proof for possible overlooked glitches and/or spectacular counter moves by those worthy opponents. 4th, proceed with confidence.

Requirement for consistent success: 1. Visualization based primarily on the bidding or sometimes lack of it, plus counting, counting and more counting.

2. Satisfactory knowledge of card combinations, almost always including when it becomes necessary to force the opponents to accept a Hobson’s choice on defense.

3. Sometimes having to settle for best effort, through accepting that certain specific distributions will not work, except perhaps if the opponents miss discard.

4, Most important, enjoy and look forward to the process, rather than fear a key play or thought has been overlooked (if so, consider it a learning experience and hence not happening next time),

No other mind competitions, except chess, provide those above thrills and excitement.

bobby wolffJuly 14th, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Hi Gary,

Wolff Sign-off (WSO) is a method designed to sign-off after an opening bid by partner, a response by partner in a major suit and a very strong rebid of 2NT by the opener (18-19).

If the responder classically holds something like: s. QJxxxx, h. x, d. xxx, c. Jxx and has responded 1 spade to any lower suit opening bid by partner and then rebid 2NT over your 1 spade response, then a 3 club rebid by opener forces opener to respond 3 diamonds and then pass the responders return to 3 spades. Obviously then all other rebids by responder such as 3 diamonds, 3 hearts or 3 spades instead of 3 clubs are game forcing.

There are all sorts of additions to different sequences such as responder holding. s. K10xx, h. x, d. Jxxxxx c. xx and having partner open 1 heart, to which you decide not to pass and respond 1 spade then 2NT by partner and again 3 clubs by responder and pass partners forced rebid of 3 diamonds.

To the above there are many other ways to gain by deciding to play WSO, but keep in mind that those sequences do not come up often making the use of it, not important enough to consider it necessary to employ, especially in the formation of an early partnership in the development of bridge interest between two bridge enthusiasts just getting started.

However, let me leave it up to you to create ways where my convention can be used in various ways to make it more and more useful as a basic method to sign off before the penalty doubles begin from those ruthless opponents. As a teaser there are perhaps 10 other ways some form of WSO can be used effectively, but it would take me a whole chapter of a long book to update you on its effective use.

Thanks for asking and let me hear from you with any further specific questions.

BobliptonJuly 14th, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Jim2, the problem with your analysis is that by the time you’ve ruffed the third club, you know that East has three spades, two hearts, five diamonds and three clubs. If you can figure out how to cram an additional heart into his hand, you’re a better player than I.

However, if it makes you feel any better, you can lead a diamond to Queen on the tenth trick, for the same result.


jim2July 14th, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Boblipton –

Follow the text line and his line with W-E:

x ———– xxx
KQJxxxx — 10xx
x ———- K10xx
J10xx —– Qxx

The text line retains a trump in the closed hand until executing squeeze.