Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Paradox has been defined as ‘Truth standing on her head to get attention.’

G.K. Chesterton

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


Bob Hamman’s frequently repeated saying that the best play lousy and the rest play worse may be supported by what might appear to be an absurd series of results here. But some deals are just too challenging for ordinary mortals.

This deal comes from Salt Lake City 15 years ago. Where I was watching, Nicholas Gartaganis for Canada opened three spades as East, and Jacek Pszczola overcalled three no-trump. His partner, Michal Kwiecien, raised to four no-trump, and that ended the auction for plus-460. Nicely bid — but not all the other pairs were so reticent. In fact, the potential for swings was huge, since in all four matches of the playoffs and finals, one table opened the East hand four spades, and South overcalled five diamonds and was raised to six diamonds by North. With two aces to cash, can you guess how many of the four pairs of defenders allowed the slam to make?

Naturally, all four Wests led a spade. While I suppose you could make some sort of case for the club ace, it is just too likely to cost your side the second trick in that suit. All four Easts won their ace and knew that the most likely way to beat the slam was to collect a slow club trick or to cash an ace. If an ace was out, then a heart return now would only let through the contract if declarer had a doubleton ace-queen or ace-jack, along with a singleton club. So all four Easts played back a heart — contract made!

Sometimes you have to close your eyes and guess. Here, my best guess would be to bid slam rather than introducing my suit at the five-level or raising partner to five. I would bid six spades rather than six diamonds, since as little as ace-king-fifth of spades appears to give partner some sort of play in slam.


♠ Q 10 2
 A J
 A K 10 7 6 5 4
♣ 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ 5 ♣

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 WarheitNovember 17th, 2017 at 10:42 am

Note that if E would have returned a spade, S makes 6 without a finesse. He knows that W has CA, so he simply runs all his diamonds and spades, squeezing W and therefore making, even if E had HQx.

bobbywolffNovember 17th, 2017 at 11:53 am

Hi David,

Yes and educational to many, explaining in enough detail, the essentials necessary to execute a trick gaining squeeze ending.

It then should probably be asterisked with the additional possibility that if East was dealt Qxx or longer in hearts that squeeze would not work. However, as you were wise to mention, if East would have been dealt the Qx of hearts that trick would not be lost to the defense, making the squeeze ending by far the best percentage declarer play, for this “shaky” slam.

Note the inference as to the location of the club ace, for the relatively new, but aspiring player to take note. Much of correct bridge play concerns itself with both the “barking dog” in the bidding, and sometimes in the signalling, but also, on the silent one, but involved in why he was (in this case, East returned a heart, indicating he did not possess the ace of clubs).

Not unlike how great detectives (both real and fictional) sometimes solve criminal cases.

As an epilogue, I would suggest a wannabe improving bridge player, to play out the hand, to possibly begin to understand what David mentioned about nabbing East’s Qx in hearts, assuming he started with that holding.

Bill CubleyNovember 17th, 2017 at 3:38 pm

I might have led the Ace of Clubs myself. If not, it is more helpful to lead the 5 of Spades as a suit preference signal for Clubs. I always try to help my partner.

I guess I am not a great mind as all the great minds thought alike. 😉

Iain ClimieNovember 17th, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

Can you suggest a ssensible sequence (i,e, one with brakes) for the following 2 hands:

OPener x AKQ109xx Axx Ax Responder KQ xxx Q8xxx K9x.

HI Bill,

If great minds did think alike, why do philosphers fight so much? I suppose they all know they’re right and anyone who disagrees with them isn’t….


bobbywolffNovember 17th, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Hi Bill,

After leading the ace of clubs, then having your partner follow in a relatively slow way, unless you now continue clubs, the opponents will be furious and call a TD, which wouldn’t change the result since there is no legitimate way to now shut out losing a spade trick.

However, after a fist fight now breaks out, you will be thought, if Iain is right, to be a philosopher. And all because you didn’t lead partner’s suit. That is similar to going to a prize fight and a hockey game breaking out.

bobbywolffNovember 17th, 2017 at 10:43 pm

Hi Iain,

Sure, simply with only one side bidding 1 heart, two hearts, 4 hearts, that is, unless the king of diamonds is singleton. Then 1 heart (5 card majors), 3 hearts (limit raise) 4 clubs, 4 spades, 6 hearts, making (either as above or a diamond lead away from the king).

Playing results?, “Who, me”

Iain ClimieNovember 18th, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that, although I suppose there are slight squeeze chances as well (same hand with DK and CQJ). Make the SKQ into the Ace and life is totally different, of course.


slarNovember 19th, 2017 at 1:44 pm

I’m really late here but RE: BWTA why not 5NT? I’ve been told by multiple experts that a 4NT bid over a 4C preempt would be takeout, not natural. Wouldn’t the same be the case here at the 5-level? You have two perfectly good places to play. Why not let partner decide?

bobbywolffNovember 20th, 2017 at 6:56 pm

Hi Slar,

I do not believe that 4NT over a 4C bid should be a general TO any more than I do believe it should.

Those types of unusual actions need to be determined before hand. Possibilities:
1. Ace asking, 2. Natural, 3. A general TO, but what is a more or less a balanced hand, holding only a minimum (more or less) number of the suit opened, supposed to respond.

Unless that is agreed nothing makes sense, and very lazy is how I would describe that partnership to be. True, I am being tough on aspiring partnerships, but no one has suggested that moving up in class while developing a bridge partnership takes time and considerable effort.

Yes, it would be different if 5NT was bid (BWTA problem) and then (at least IMO) if the opener then bid 6 clubs, responder would certainly choose 6 diamonds, but the opener would have the right to then bid 6 hearts or even 6 spades if he was short (even 2 small) in the selected suit

NEVER FORGET: Bridge logic should prevail, but the caveat which goes along with is that it should mean something within reason and not just fitting some hand the opener may hold. An example to remember is that, in this case, 6 clubs does not show extras, courting a grand slam to bid, simply because the eventual strain not the level should be forefront in importance.

The above is just the beginning between two would be talented players, intensely interested in getting better, to scale the necessary walls to get on the same wave length. Also it is unlikely, if not impossible, to discuss all potential problems so that a fail safe between partners should guide this necessary solution.

bobbywolffNovember 20th, 2017 at 6:57 pm

Hi again Slar,

First sentence above should end with NOT.

mixing and masteringNovember 21st, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Have you ever thought about writing an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs?
I have a blog based on the same ideas you discuss and would
really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my readers would enjoy your work.

If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me
an e mail.

moni prestamosNovember 22nd, 2017 at 12:30 am

Tenemos estudios excelentes, pero escasos.