Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 10th, 2017

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.

R. Buckminster Fuller

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


In today’s deal, North forced South to respond to his take-out double, then jumped to game at once, hoping his partner did not have a complete bust. He was disappointed in that regard, but the game still had decent play.

West would have done best to cash two diamonds and exit passively in spades. Declarer would then have had to read the position very precisely to come home. But it was tempting for West to lead a third diamond, hoping to shorten declarer or dummy. When he did that, South ruffed in hand and immediately took the club finesse.

Once the finesse succeeded, declarer’s only problem was how to draw trumps safely.

It would have been fatal to draw trumps by leading the ace and king, followed by the jack. West would have won the third round, and at that point, South would be out of trumps. West would then have led another diamond to force out dummy’s last trump, and declarer would lose control of the hand.

But South smelled a rat from the earlier defense, and instead simply drew one round of trumps with the ace, then gave up a trump trick. If West had ducked, dummy would have cashed the heart king and run his winners in spades and clubs, leaving West with one trump trick.

But when West took the heart queen, and led a fourth diamond, South still had a trump to ruff the diamond in hand. He could then lead a club to dummy, draw the trumps and claim.

This is a quantitative sequence; you have shown a balanced 22-24 or so, thus you have maximum hand for the auction and must bid on, despite the uncomfortable feeling engendered by your diamond holding. There is something to be said for bidding five no-trump — pick a slam — to get partner to bid suits up the line. He might, after all, have four small in one major.


♠ A K Q 3
 A K J 10
 8 2
♣ A Q J
South West North East
2 ♣ Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 4 NT 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


Mircea1November 24th, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Hi Bobby,

Nice problem.

Why is playing the singleton spade at trick 2 by West better than the forcing game? I could be wrong, but declarer can pretty much follow the same line of play as outlined in the column to bring home the bacon.

One more question, if you don’t mind. On BWTA, I’m glad to say that my answer was 5NT (“pick a slam”). But if partner has four cards in any major, he should have probed for a 4-4 major fit with 3C instead of bidding the quantitative 4NT. If that’s correct, then what do we do if partner responds 6C? He could have 5 cards in that suit, and so we should pass.

jim2November 24th, 2017 at 4:49 pm

The author of that quotation had balls, and tiny ones, too.

Iain ClimieNovember 24th, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Hi Jim2,

I suppose the smart alec reply to today’s quote would be “Its DNA”.

Hi Mircea1, Bobby,

I think the difference is that after the ruff-sluff, dummy’s CJ has gone and South now only needs to take 1 club finesse. As the cards lie that is all he needs but declarer doesn’t know that. On a spade switch, won in hand, and a successful club finesse it would be terribly tempting to play 3 rounds of hearts hoping West has (say) Qxx and has to give you a trick or let declarer dump the Cx on the 4th spade. Here, West takes the 3rd heart and exits with a heart which would work if he had a club more and a diamond less. Not today, though.


Bobby WolffNovember 24th, 2017 at 8:02 pm

Hi Mircea1,

From the defense viewpoint, a spade switch, if declarer has no quick entry to hand such as the jack (or shortness) in spades, thereby dis-enabling the declarer from taking a profitable finesse in one of the rounded suits as opposed to the “forcing game” which will immediately allow declarer to enter hand with a low trump, throwing a potential loser away in dummy.

Yes, using Stayman will probe for a 4-4 major suit fit, but as long as a slam will be bid, might as well accomplish the same thing (as long as both partner’s agree on playing that treatment) with little chance of a later misunderstanding.
BTW, that treatment is worthy of discussion since, although it is rare, when it does come up, it should get the job done.

Bobby WolffNovember 24th, 2017 at 8:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since I am ignorant in entomology, does a caterpillar have to be female before she eventually emerges as a butterfly?

Not exactly a common question on a bridge site, but who thinks our group is just a normal cross section of people? And besides, there are probably a person or two alive, who are more interested discussing this question than, for example, a compound squeeze, or for that matter, a striped-tail ape penalty double.

Bobby WolffNovember 24th, 2017 at 8:24 pm

Hi Iain.

Right on!!

It makes me think that whomever said “the only things certain are death and taxes”, should add, complicated and difficult bridge choices to that well known bromide.

ClarksburgNovember 24th, 2017 at 9:28 pm

Oh yes, the striped-tail-ape penalty double.
Comes up rarely, and only used when on safari in dangerous places.
For use only against their two-of-a-Major.

jim2November 24th, 2017 at 11:38 pm

Dear Host –

Iain Climie made the caterpillar-butterfly remark, not I.

I was referring to very large and then verrrry small spheroids associated with the quotation author. The first he made (geodesic) and the second named for him (bucky balls) because the molecular form of carbon resembles his creation.

Bobby WolffNovember 25th, 2017 at 6:30 am

Hi Jim2,

I thought you were referring directly to the metamorphosis of a bug, to which I don’t have a clue.

Now it appears you were referring to a Mr. R. B. Fuller to whom I also have never heard. And then geodesic added to discussing the molecular form of carbon has overmatched me beyond repair.

BTW, for those who may feel overmatched when discussing bridge terms like Striped-tail ape penalty doubles, they are merely the thought of doubling someone in 5 of a minor while they were on their way to a small slam.

If they redouble and make an extra trick (when either vulnerable or perhaps not) they will come up with a slightly smaller number than they would have, if they had bid and made the slam.

Yes it’s real and no doubt, has been done in real bridge life (you have to be old, have a good imagination, and have a partner with a great sense of humor) but think of the fun, not to mention the stories, by pulling it off).

And for the name, someone else has to come to my aid and, if so, please send it directly to my ward at the loony bin.

jim2November 25th, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Dear Host –

From wikipedia (Parenthetical added):

Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983) was an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, and inventor.

Fuller published more than 30 books, coining or popularizing terms such as “Spaceship Earth”, ephemeralization, and synergetic. He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, and popularized the widely known geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes (popularly known as “bucky balls”) were later named by scientists for their structural and mathematical resemblance to geodesic spheres.

Bobby WolffNovember 25th, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Hi Jim2,

Really appreciate your help.

I have already memorized Mr. Fuller’s resume just in case one of his buddies or family members needs a job.

No doubt someone proficient with carbon molecules may change the responses to Blackwood so that 5 spades shows no aces, but then this statement is made out of pure envy.

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