Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 13th, 2017

When constabulary duty’s to be done, A policeman’s lot is not a happy one.

W. S. Gilbert

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


The system in use at the Dyspeptics Club rubber game include transfer responses to one no-trump. So when South picked up his usual collection of high cards and opened one no-trump, North could look with favor on his aces and kings and transfer to spades, followed by a quantitative jump to four no-trump. That was a sensible valuation of his cards. South, who had never met a 16-count he didn’t like, leapt to the spade slam, and there they were. For the record, to set spades as trump then use Blackwood, start with a Texas transfer at the four level.

At the table the play matched the speed of the bidding but not the accuracy. South won the second round of hearts, then played three rounds of clubs, ruffing in hand as West pitched a diamond. Then he tried the spade queen and jack, deciding not to overtake because of the sight of East’s spade nine on the first round. He barely had time to pat himself on his back when West ruffed the second diamond, and down went the contract.

South’s protestations of being born under an unlucky star cut no ice with North – who knew how many points that player was normally dealt. But there was a second reason too; can you see it?

South should have cashed one round of trumps, then the diamond ace and king, before ruffing the club in hand. Once that passes off peacefully, declarer can unblock in trumps then safely ruff a diamond to dummy to complete the drawing of trump.

Even though you expect the opponents to raise spades, there is no reason to be deflected from your plan of bidding clubs then raising diamonds. Unless partner doubles a high-level spade call (and maybe even then?) you will see through your plan. You may have only 9 HCP but this hand correlates to almost a full opener when you take the likely fit into account.


♠ 9
 A 10
 Q J 5 4
♣ Q 9 8 7 5 2
South West North East
    1 1 ♠

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A V Ramana RaoJuly 27th, 2017 at 11:39 am

Dear Mr. Wolff
I think this alternate line would work. South wins second round of hearts. Draws two rounds of trumps and when they do not break, leads A, K of diamondsruffs a diamond in dummy with honor card, just in case diamonds break. When they do not, ,south comes to hand with trump, leads a club to dummy and draws trumps and comes to hand with third heart simultaneously squeezing east in minors

A V Ramana RaoJuly 27th, 2017 at 11:52 am

Belatedly I found that, on doubledummy, win second heart ,just draw one round of trump, cash third heart and crossruff the hand for twelve tricks.

Mircea1July 27th, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Hi Bobby,

Isn’t there a risk that two aces are missing on this bidding sequence? To use Texas, responder needs a 6+ suit. What is the solution? Bidding 3C followed by 4NT RKB over 3S from opener?

bobby wolffJuly 27th, 2017 at 2:25 pm


Since even the failed first column line appears to be a better percentage attempt to score up the slam, it seems the attempt at cashing the third heart and then cross ruffing is not as safe (although, no doubt, your suggested line would work) as cashing two high diamonds before ruffing a club, allowing West to make the killing diamond discard which triggered the unnecessary set.

At least it seems to me, the proper technique of cashing the two high diamonds first, then when the 4-1 trump break is discovered becomes the timely and most effective medicine which cures the malady, similar to becoming vaccinated against a dangerous disease (e.g. going down in a slam which should be made) before it has a chance to develop.

However, thanks for reminding all of us of alternate lines which, while in the ball park, may or may not make, but, though I think are inferior, nevertheless, are choices.

A V Ramana RaoJuly 27th, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,
The line I described in my first comment is foolproof. When south draws second round of trump and ruffs third diamond, west will be known to have four spades and two diamonds and when south returns to hand with third heart which east does not follow, the count is complete. West has 4-5-2-2.East is known to guard diamond and can have only one club. South leads club at twelfth trick and when west follows with small card, climbs up with A dropping Q from east.

bobby wolffJuly 27th, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Since bridge bidding, because of the natural obstacles, of not enough room to be able to answer multiple type questions, has never been anywhere near ultra scientific, or a short description, as accurate as we all would like, and as this hand is a good example of merely asking the NT opener to revalue his hand and make the key decision of either passing short of slam or accepting and if so, determine what suit (normally spades, but possibly a good 5 card+ other suit or even, by bidding 5NT, an acceptance but asking the responder to bid 4 card suits up the line, if he indeed has another one beside his longer spades.

Therefore the number of aces will be left unanswered, but since the responder has 2 aces plus the always powerful king of his longest suit, it is, unlikely to almost impossible, that in order for the NTer to accept the invitation to slam he will have, at the very least, one ace.

The above is just a byproduct of what we, as players, should expect, inferential knowledge, which in order to achieve, should be a normal expectation throughout the bidding process by learning the flow of bridge language back and forth.

No doubt, these kinds of questions are meant for further discussion, both before sitting down to play, as well as after, to hope both partners are on the same page and if not, how to get there, because without that necessity, our hoped for successful partnership will be basically born dead.