Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 21st, 2018

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot … your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.

William Thomson

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


Although South has only a minimum take-out double, the five-heart call asks him to bid slam with a club control. Holding the ace, he can hardly reject the invitation. With another high card, he might even make a grand slam try rather than re-raising hearts.

The defenders lead the diamond 10 to the ace. With both club and diamond ruffs threatening for the defense, it looks logical enough to draw all the trumps.

When East follows to the heart ace and king, declarer can place him with seven clubs, two hearts and at least one diamond. But what is the rest of his pattern?

The next move is to cash the diamond king. When East shows out, he surely began with precisely 3=2=1=7 shape. Careful! Do not cash the third top diamond! Instead, play the spade ace-king and ruff a spade, then cash the club ace and duck a club. East has no choice but to win and lead away from the club king. You will let a low club run to dummy’s queen, or ruff the king and use the diamond queen as the entry to the club queen.

If East had followed to the second diamond, you would cash the spade ace-king next, to get the complete count of his hand. If you find that East began with a singleton spade and three diamonds, you play off the diamond queen and proceed as above, without ruffing a spade loser in dummy, planning to use the spade ruff as the last entry to dummy. You would play in the same way if East had a 2=2=2=7 shape.

This sequence is best played as artificial. (With four spades, North would bid three or four no-trump; with five spades, he would have transferred.) The call should show slam interest with a heart fit. Your honor location and minimum values are not strong enough for a four-diamond cue-bid. But if you feel too good to sign off in four hearts now, you might use three no-trump as artificial here.


♠ J 8
 A K J 4
 A K Q
♣ Q 7 4 2
South West North East
2 NT Pass 3 ♣ Pass
3 Pass 3 ♠ 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


David WarheitAugust 4th, 2018 at 9:27 am

At some point before playing clubs, S must draw W’s last trump. You seem to mention this in paragraph 2 but you never actually say.

jim2August 4th, 2018 at 11:18 am

Another line would be:

– AD
– AH
– AS
– KS
– ruff S
– QH
– S ruff
– AC
– draw last trump and claim

Does require East to start with two spades but West’s opening lead from length suggests both majors are likely splitting.

Michael BeyroutiAugust 4th, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Jim2: The club ace will be ruffed by West. A rare oversight on your part!

Michael B

Bill CubleyAugust 4th, 2018 at 2:08 pm


SWMBO decreed I return yesterday from the Atlanta NABC.

I had a pair of very angry opponents who were about to fly home. I mentioned the car key rule and they smiled! And they stayed. Made me feel I did some good.

I find I have not one but TWO distinguished fans of my Bridgewinners comments! David Gold and Barry Rigal both volunteered kind comments. One may believe this is an expression of English eccentricity.

This might be my final NABC so my famed red headed friend partied with me and several others Thursday night. She laughed when I told her how I beat her GM ex by putting my bar tab on his bill at Charleston a couple of years ago. The field thinks he deserved it!

Thanks again for mentioning the car key rule for partnership discussion.

Bob H and I laughed about his playing in CA without you in the early 1980s. He had been hired to play with a newer player as a reward for the guy’s great legal work for the hiring attorneys. Bob waived his fee and they failed to shuffle in the team game. As the guy said, “I am in Bridge Hell. I have the world’s greatest player as my partner and team mates who cannot shuffle!”

bobbywolffAugust 4th, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Hi David,

When I awoke this morning, (later than usual) the first thing I do (well almost) is re-read our day’s column. No doubt and apologetically I did exactly what you explained, in the middle of the fourth paragraph I neglected a specific mention of drawing the last lurking trump from West before then leading the ace and one club (ducking in dummy) with the still high diamond left in dummy in order to reach the contract trick (when East then leads his king of clubs after winning the first one cheaply).

One may ask, “How can one explain how to do it right, when that may be less difficult than it is while more pressure is on while playing, but not when writing about it?”

My answer is that somehow, after years of experience, and while at the table, one can easily drift into the lullaby and smugness of being in tune with, as declarer, the 26 ducats you possess as well, of course, as the remaining 26 and how they are likely distributed, not necessarily exact, except for often the high cards, but almost always the specific distribution.

Only mind training which when faced with the task, will develop automatically, when one focuses. BTW and IMO, that quality, will come to any and everyone who genuinely love the game, but not necessarily to those, who only play for recreation. Possibly similar to air-traffic controllers.

Thank you for your vital correction.

bobbywolffAugust 4th, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Hi all,

No doubt our site has become a minefield to navigate. Take it from a wounded warrior me, who has unofficially won hundreds of purple hearts.

bobbywolffAugust 4th, 2018 at 4:10 pm

Hi Bill,

Just received a special announcement from ACBL headquarters. All future Bridge Nationals have been cancelled due to lack of its most influential player deciding to hang ’em up.

You’ll just have to adjust your venues to continue your romantic ventures. Honeymoon Bridge, anyone?

And to your humorous story why not, “Play with him on the team, are you kidding, he can’t even shuffle” unless he is on the way to Buffalo?

jim2August 4th, 2018 at 6:44 pm

Michael Beyrouti –

Yep, and hardly rare!