Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 15th, 2017

With the help of a surgeon, he might yet recover, and prove an ass.

William Shakespeare

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

*heart raise


In today’s deal South could not bear to conceal his five-card major at his first turn. West’s cuebid of two hearts showed 5-5 in spades and a minor, and now South tried to make up for lost time by rebidding three no-trump at his next turn. North read him as having a far stronger hand than this and leapt to six hearts, a contract that would have been easy had South held a doubleton in diamonds rather than spades. As it was, though, slam was very tricky to play after a spade lead, since the diamond king was surely going to be offside. Can you spot declarer’s best chance?

Declarer should win the spade lead and draw only two rounds of trump with the ace and queen. Then he must rely on four rounds of clubs standing up – almost a given, since the two-suited overcall means West can hardly hold more than two clubs. After pitching a spade on the fourth club, South can ruff a spade to hand, draw the last trump with the heart king, and reduce to a four-card ending where he has three diamonds and a trump in each hand.

Now he can lead the diamond nine from dummy, planning to let it run to West to endplay that player. If East holds one of the jack or 10 of diamonds, he will be at liberty to cover the nine, but South can play the queen. Though West can win the king, he must next lead back a diamond, and dummy’s eight will win the trick.

I’m sure many of my readers are saying ‘I bid one no-trump; what is the problem?’ That is the right answer, but bear in mind that in balancing seat the range for this call is not 15-17. The range is 11-15 (give or take a point or two – slightly less over a minor-suit opening). You can’t afford to sell out cheaply in these positions, which in turn means that you need to double and bid no-trump with 16-18 HCP.


♠ 7 3
 K 7 5 2
 A 9 8
♣ A K J 3
South West North East
  1 Pass 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 29th, 2017 at 11:18 am

In the other room, after the same auction and opening lead, S won the SA, drew trump, played 4C pitching his losing S & ruffed a S. Only then did he realize that he couldn’t cross to dummy for the near certain endplay the other declarer pulled off, so he led the DQ. W covered, S played dummy’s A and then led another D, endplaying E. Declarer’s name? Lucky Lou.

David WarheitJuly 29th, 2017 at 11:22 am

If Lou had really been lucky, E would have had DJ10, & he would have made 6H while the other declarer would have gone down.

Iain ClimieJuly 29th, 2017 at 3:12 pm

HI Bobby, David,

On a bad day, West started with QJ98x x KJ 1098xx and look what happens! Meanwhile in the other room, a relatively weak player either stops in 4H or, having blundered into 6H, draws trumps sheds a spade on the 4th club, ruffs a spade, plays diamond to the Ace, a diamond back to the Queen. They slump in their chair when it loses to the KIng while West, seeething inwardly, concedes the contract; if chivalrous, he / she might even say well played.



bobby wolffJuly 29th, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Hi David & Iain,

Oh yes, unusual things happen and since cue bids are not necessary to alert (since by practically they raise enough attention to cause many opponents to seek their meaning, (aptly named self-alerting), but if thought obvious (not to remind the conventioneers) West, while starting out with West’s suggested hand and not being queried by the declarer simply stated, “See Henry, I told you it is more sensible to play our immediate major suit cue bids as the other major and clubs, since in the event of the partner of the opening bidder jumping to game in their suit it becomes valuable for the Michael’s partner to know specifically which minor” (BTW, a treatment I agree wholeheartedly with, and for that reason).

So, assess the blame, NS for not asking, the ACBL for including that rule, or the defense, after the auction, for not volunteering an explanation which might be thought as 1. not necessary, which applies, 2. illegally reminding partner, 3. a non-predictable advantage, or 4. breaks of the game, even if playing against relative novices.

The good news is that we all get to discuss not only excellent (sometimes not) bridge, but also the administration which governs it, best choices, and even sometimes the pros and cons of both sides.