Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

One of the pleasures of middle age is to find out that one was right, and that one was much righter than one knew at, say, 17 or 23.

Ezra Pound

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


Today’s deal features a maneuver that every declarer should have at his disposal.

Imagine that you play it in three no-trump on the lead of the spade jack. Naturally, you put up the queen. In the unlikely event that East wins the ace and returns the suit, you will duck once, win the third spade and try to set up clubs without letting West on lead. You will be able to accomplish this whenever East has three clubs or with quite a few of his possible doubletons. For example, if West has any three clubs including the four, he will have to follow with that card on either the first or second round of the suit, and you can simply cover that card and keep him off play.

Curiously, the reverse logic applies if the spade queen wins trick one. Now you have to set up clubs, without letting East on lead if possible, which might be more difficult than it looks if East has three clubs.

It is crucial to maximize your entries to hand by leading the heart queen to your king and then a low club toward dummy’s honors. When West plays the 10, you win the king and follow up with dummy’s low heart to your jack. Now you lead a club, ducking West’s queen. East cannot overtake, and West cannot broach spades from his side, so he will get off play with a red suit.

Whatever he does, though, you have one spade trick, one diamond, three hearts and four clubs, making nine tricks in total.

This call is simply natural and does not guarantee a fit. (There are plenty of ways your partner might not have enough for a two-level overcall.) I would pass now, but be prepared to compete to three clubs over further red-suit competition.


♠ A J 10 9 7
 10 9 2
 K 7 6
♣ Q 10
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass 1
1 ♠ Pass 2 ♣ 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 ClimieSeptember 5th, 2018 at 11:51 am

HI Bobby,

A hand form last night which reminded me that I should keep up with modern trends. I held KQJ10xxx Ax None Qxxx and (2nd in hand, pairs) opened a rather over-strength 4S – 1S really is much better especially with one hand passing; I think that was lazy on my part. Partner went into a huddle before bidding 6S and turned up with A8xxx Kx AKQxxx None and 7S rolled in although clearly the DAKQ are wasted!

If I’d opened 1S, partner could bid 5C (exclusion RKC Blackwood) asking for key cards outside clubs. I show the HA, SK and the SQ and Christmas is early. This does seem like quite a good idea (until the hand arrives where you want to bid 1S 5D and forget it, of course). Any thoughts?

If partner bids 5C over 4S (cue-bid obviously) we’re fine if I bid 5H, not 5D. The double void and 12 card fit just throw all the usual assessments out of sight, which is why I think the extra shape argues for 1S not 4, especially given the rubbish we sometimes have for 3 bids. 4S is probably OK without the HA given the 7-2-0-4 shape.



Iain ClimieSeptember 5th, 2018 at 11:59 am

Just an afterthought. If I open 1S, a sensible sequence could be 1S 3D 3S 4C (cue) 4H (not 4D with a void in partner’s suit) 5N (GSF) 7S. Maybe clever bidding tools aren’t necessary after all.

bobbywolffSeptember 5th, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Hi Iain,

During your next couple of lives on earth, of course, assuming you will be drawn to bridge each time, you will be unlikely to pick up such an unlikely combination of 26 cards between you and your partner.

So much firepower, almost too much, but still with a grand slam so exacting, it seems a shame to combine heartbreak and shame with getting it wrong, comparing it with the enthusiasm and good feeling, with not.

Yes,exclusion BW would be perfect for partner (if he would be sure you would hold the king of spades for a 1 spade opening (likely but far from sure and how about, if not playing key card or, at least on this hand, 4 card majors.

Then consider the huge value from opening what appears to be in front of your face, and what you did, 4 spades? By not doing, perhaps the opponents reach game or slam in one of the red suits, or at least drive you past what your partnership can score up in spades?

Not that I do not agree that perhaps opening 1 spade is better percentage than 4, but, if so, who can correctly measure the success of that conundrum?

Next, exclusion BW, being perfect after a 1 spade opening, but if a forget occurs (and when is the last time you used that convention and more troublesome with that same exact partner? Yes 4 spades would probably be easier to make than would 5 diamonds, if the opener would have forgotten.

In order to reach that Emerald City we need to overcome both multiple wicked witches, not to mention many poisoned flowers, as well as not be tempted to leave the Yellow Brick Road, and even if we accomplish all of that, how about the Wizard turning out to a fraud (the one and only Frank Morgan behind drapes)?

None of the above is excuse enough to accept not reaching that ice cold 13 tricker, but only if competing against the best, but even that circumstance is in jeopardy because of the likely dream you were experiencing before waking up suddenly in Kansas, no doubt a venue, not nearly as exciting as you now possess;.

None of this may be Baum for your experience, but any of the above is enough to accept your gaffe (particularly if playing money bridge, where the stakes are coin of the realm) and more, be able to relate this hand of a lifetime to a willing and loving audience.

All of your scores of friends are thinking of you and that alone could, should, melt your heart with happiness. Our universal thinking is “But for the grace of God go I”.

Iain ClimieSeptember 5th, 2018 at 3:11 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that. The last time I saw so many high cards prove to be waste paper was in an 8-5 hand where partner chirpily overcalled 2NT with 3S, was predictably doubled and wrapped up +930 without any difficulty. Still not as good as the Duke of Cumberland (Whist) hand also used in Moonraker I think where AKQJ AKQJ AK KJ9 can’t beat 7C!


bobbywolffSeptember 5th, 2018 at 6:45 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, so true, but it seems a better ploy being an optimist, so with the above hand, yes not taking a trick, but at the same time showing good judgment, and possibly even more the setup, deciding not to double without what might be considered, not a sure defensive trick.

Iain ClimieSeptember 6th, 2018 at 9:10 am

HI Bobby,

Just for info, the Comments field on the next day’s blog hasn’t shown up; obviously a new breed of Gremlin and not your fault.



bobbywolffSeptember 6th, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Hi iain,

Thanks for the heads-up.

For some unknown reason, at this time TBD, comments are indeed prohibited on today’s column. Unlike love, that gaffe is not “a many splendored thing” but we will eventually, if not sooner, determine why.

Meanwhile, since, thanks to you and similar to two jail mates in adjoining solitary confinement cells have found a way to communicate through yesterday’s allowed mutuality.

While nothing extremely complicated, but indigenous to our often beautiful game, probably the least sort establishment of the “setting trick (4th)” is available, a club uppercut, although a simple spade continuation will also accomplish same.

Obviously after making what looks to be a standout lead, the opening leader will then likely go over a time limit, trying to figure out the effective continuation and all roads may start (and end) with declarer having the singleton king of diamonds.

Once that thought is virtually confirmed that same poor devil, will then eventually arrive at one play (low club shift or spade continuation) or the other.

No doubt a thinking bridge person’s result, but one who has gained the ability to at least attempt to visualize winning defenses as opposed to just spinning wheels.

Takes time (you betcha) but not to be condemned, same response. Since before he or she plays to trick two all possible winning defenses need to be checked for both flaws and for at the very least, some chance for success, which also comes at least close to match the overall bidding.

Up to now (the last over ninety years since contract bridge was invented) it is doubtful that any sort of different circumstance, thus proprieties should be available, and I am one to vote for that statement to be “right as rain”.

Iain, what say you?

Now to check on what is going on with our process (may take a few hours).

bobbywolffSeptember 6th, 2018 at 1:34 pm

Hi Iain,

Sorry for making the horrible error of singleton king of diamonds (5th paragraph above) instead of the obvious ace.

Iain ClimieSeptember 6th, 2018 at 1:39 pm

Hi Bobby,

I was wondering whether 4S X might have been cheaper on the column displayed 6th September – all depends on whether East’s powers of analysis were good enough. West obviously thought so!

Also, what if West plays another spade at T2 (although a small club and trump promotion are better)? Ruffed on table but now what? if South draws trumps, he has 2C 1 early spade and one late spade to lose. Diamond to hand doesn’t help either.



bobbywolffSeptember 6th, 2018 at 2:57 pm

Hi Iain,

Entries apparently become a difficult problem
for EW to save key tricks, if sacrificing against 4 hearts (especially when 4 hearts comes up short). Entries to hand are in short supply.

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