Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much;
Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.

William Cowper

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


When South hears his partner open then raise spades, it suggests a minimum hand, typically with four trumps. So South decides that jumping directly to small slam is more likely to attract a favorable lead than result in missing a playable grand slam.

West has a natural diamond lead; declarer wins the ace and takes the trump finesse. When West wins the king and leads another diamond, the slam now depends on not losing a heart trick. South can simply try to guess which opponent has the heart queen, but one should try to postpone a decision of this kind until the last possible moment.

The idea is to play on side suits first in the hope of finding out something about the distribution. Sometimes one cannot discover anything useful, but it should cost nothing to try.

Accordingly, South uses dummy’s trump entry to ruff dummy’s last diamond, then plays three rounds of clubs. He is rewarded when West discards a diamond on the third round of that suit. At this point, declarer knows that East started with precisely six clubs and two spades. Since East has followed three times in diamonds, East could not have started with more than two hearts. If East began with more than three diamonds, he has room in his hand for at most one heart.

Whatever the case, South knows West has more hearts than East. Thus the odds are that West has the heart queen, so he finesses through West in hearts. When the finesse succeeds, the slam comes home.

This is an area of modern bidding that is somewhat undiscussed. There are three plausible calls to consider: You could raise hearts, rebid one no-trump or introduce your spades. I don’t like bidding spades on such a poor suit with only three clubs, and I am not enchanted with raising hearts on such a square hand. So this looks like a one-no-trump rebid to me. I’d risk losing the spades on a part-score deal.


♠ 10 9 8 4
 K 9 4
 A Q 4
♣ K 5 4
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 13th, 2018 at 11:49 am

HI Bobby,

A very minor point but isn’t the end position: South down to just HAJ10xx and dummy has S109 HK9x? South should now cash the HA (East might have singleton Q) and run the HJ while closing his eyes. He can open them when East doesn’t say “Hard Luck, 1-off, I blame TOCM”.



jim2March 13th, 2018 at 12:36 pm


Iain ClimieMarch 13th, 2018 at 1:18 pm

Sorry, dummy has S8x or similar but you get the picture.

Bobby WolffMarch 13th, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Hi Iain & an admiring Jim2,

Yes, of course, since West is known to have more hearts than East and might have four, along with declarer still having 2 trumps for both an entry back to ruff and another one to cash, the safety play of the ace of hearts first gives, if nothing else, bragging rights for superior technique.

So naturally we didn’t feel it necessary to even mention what you did, although others may suspect we neglected to show obvious play*.

*disclaimer for our mistake, but if the spades had been West holding 3 instead of 2, that extra advantage might have evaporated.

Besides, I keep records concerning differentiating the only good from the very good, and you Iain, succeeded, at least this time.

Please Jim 2, no smileys, since it might be inferring the horror of discrimination against lesser players.

Iain ClimieMarch 13th, 2018 at 10:48 pm

Hi Bobby,

I just admire Jim2 for smiling when the pigeon of TOCM sits on his head and does what pigeons do.

Hi Jim2,

Ever considered falconry, shotguns or a very big stick?


Bobby WolffMarch 14th, 2018 at 1:03 am

Hi Iain,

But sometimes a respectable pigeon will just fly away straight to the pigeon room.

And what about falconry? Don’t they have sharp claws? Very big sticks and especially shotguns, let George do it.