Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 31st, 2019

No treaty is ever an impediment to a cheat.


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


In today’s deal, let’s look at how North-South should decide whether to play slam, and which contract to head to in a pairs event.

South hears his partner force to game, then support hearts. At his third turn, South can jump to three no-trump to show specifically a strong no-trump in values, plus a spade stopper. With less (or more), he can bid two no-trump, planning to move on with the extras over any signoff from North. North can then select the no-trump slam over hearts, since there is no ruff necessary in his hand.

After a spade lead against six no-trump, most declarers will lose the heart finesse to East, then win the return and cash the heart ace, finessing against East’s 10 and wrapping up 12 tricks. But what if East wasn’t born yesterday and ducks the first heart smoothly? South will probably continue with the heart ace and still emerge with 12 tricks.

Thus, East has to go the extra mile to coax South down the primrose path. He must drop the heart eight under the queen, suggesting that if anyone is long in hearts, it will be West. Be honest: Playing matchpoints as South, wouldn’t you cross back to hand to lead the heart jack, trying to pin East’s putative doubleton 10-8 of hearts? If you do, you will have turned 12 tricks into dust and ashes — and East will own you. Correct is to give up on the overtrick and run the heart nine at trick four, which guards against all possible bad breaks at the cost of the overtrick.

The problem with bidding three no-trump is that you have no tricks — but that will be the case in any contract. It may be right to temporize with a call of three diamonds and hope partner bids three no-trump. If he rebids clubs, you can raise to five, conscious that he may not be favored to succeed either way.


♠ Q 9 4 2
 Q J 3 2
♣ 9 5 3 2
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 14th, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Hi Bobby,

A minor point is that South intends to run the H9 at T4 but then changes tack when West shows out, but that is barely worth the mention (it should be obvious). On BWTA, though, if I’d dredged up 1S on a slightly weaker hand (D10 instead of DJ), I ‘d think about breaking discipline and passing 3C, especially at Pairs. Teams vulnerable might be different. If you do bid 3D, though, and pard bids 3N he / she is surely 1-5-3-4, 2-5-2-4 (although 2N with a 20 count might be better), 1-5-2-5 or similar. Decent oppo should then be finding the spade lead easily so a direct 3N may be a better shot.

Every time I do dredge up 1S on this sort of hand, though, partner bids 3H…..



Bob LiptonFebruary 14th, 2019 at 1:49 pm

Even on the hand given with BWTA, there are potential problems. If you bid 3D, what do you do if partner bids 3H, showing the 6-4? Isn’t 4C now forcing? Or worse, if partner bids 3S, as he should, oh Kxx AQxxx x AKQx? Remind me to lead a low spade.

Ian’s suggestion of a pass looks more and more tempting. Of course, at that point, it will turn out that partner has jumped to 3D with xx AQxxxx Kx AKQ. Wouldn’t you?


Bobby WolffFebruary 14th, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Hi Iain,

Like the road to the Emerald City, bridge declaring, especially while playing matchpoints, sometimes meets up with wicked witches and poisoned flowers, often in the form of creating temptation for overtricks.

That evil becomes a talent of a bad guy or girl (though, in fact, only a fierce competitor) aimed at taking advantage of the hoped for greed of his opponent.

Today’s hand is a living, breathing example, represented with specifically the play of the eight of hearts by East when declarer finesses the queen and necessary to follow in normal tempo (eg, without apparent thought).

Will he or won’t he, but definitely he should, since when West follows with any small heart (he did with the five) the ruse is on. This type of numeracy, while appearing to many to be almost superhuman, is just another day at the office for a world class player, fully endowed with both the love and more importantly the tricks with numbers, when applied to bridge.

No more, but no less, and if a player who while sitting East, does not play the eight
would and should get a black mark in the critique of that hand, if he misses that golden chance to be a tempter or temptress.

And Iain, please allow me to now also to address Bob when discussing the interesting BWTA.

Ken MooreFebruary 14th, 2019 at 5:38 pm


Playing match points is a little like Olympic diving where the amount of splash matters. When I dive in, the only goal is to get into the water. When I am declared, the only goal is to make the contract.

So, I will continue to NOT try out for the Olympics and to NOT play anything other than contract bridge.

Bobby WolffFebruary 14th, 2019 at 5:49 pm

Hi Iain & Bob,

My choice the first round of bidding, though controversial, is to merely pass, taking my chances that partner doesn’t have a very good 2 suiter, to which, and emphasizing the upside, we might have a favorable play for bidding and making a game.

However, if being aggressive and responding, which sometimes, but rarely has a positive effect of stealing a part score, or perhaps even a game, from timid opponents, especially when and if, partner now rebids a suit I can provide at least some trump support, allowing my first bid to become a positive venture.

However, as the above BWTA relates, partner did rebid a fitting suit of mine, but both of you mentioned what I would be inclined to do, pass (remember, I would have passed the first time) including the possibility of leaving partner high and dry with his 3 club bid being passed out.

The success of that apparent improvement in what suit will become trump might be dashed if and when partner was conjuring up an artificial force, Bob mentioning holding the AKQ, but how about partner holding: s. AKx, h. AQJ9xx, d, Kx, c. KJ, just short of a GF opening bid, but one, after partner’s one spade response, which seems to now deserve a GF response, but in order to do so, may resort to manufacturing one, a choice far and away, from an opener who could tolerate such disobedience (as a 2nd round pass by partner) causing his present partner to now become his ex.

To say it quickly but possibly on target, “You makes your choice, you takes your chances”.

Playing good bridge can sometimes be devilish in nature, with even the above a barely logical very sad happening. However the awareness of its possibility should never lurk too far away from occurring, causing us all some concern with the fun and good fortune which instead sometimes happens when responding with such junk.

Finally, no one has ever suggested that playing winning bridge is an easy task.

Bobby WolffFebruary 14th, 2019 at 6:08 pm

Hi Ken,

There is no doubt I agree with your overall philosophy about Olympic diving, splashes, and playing rubber bridge.

However, though in bridge, playing both rubber bridge and matchpoints are almost as different as two individual games can be, they both have their fans, so when playing either or diving, one needs to adopt to the specific scoring system for the one selected in order to succeed.

jim2February 14th, 2019 at 7:28 pm

On this column hand, I confess that East dropping the 8H would not tempt me.

I would consider that making 12 at 6N rather than 6H would be a great result, especially since 31 HCP slams are themselves not bid a lot of the time in the absence of a long suit. Many who bid it might know the HCP and decide the suit contract was safer.

Bobby WolffFebruary 14th, 2019 at 8:17 pm

Hi Jim2,

As happens much too often, your correct logic, makes my fabricated fantasy, as good as extinct.

Why cannot you let me have unrelenting pleasure, describing greed in all its shame and how it wrecks havoc with long lasting winning results?

Cannot you understand when you do nothing but make sense, it keeps others, with me as a prime example, from plying my trade?

Oh well, perhaps your doctor or the nurse who calms your TOCM TM has learned to live from you, the always truth to which you have become so ridiculously dedicated.

Soon I’ll probably have to train a brand new cast of characters, who I will have to convince all over again, how to not get there from here.

In truth, the absurd politics by both sides, which have engulfed our beloved (by some) country may act like a beacon to help eventually, if not sooner, destroy it.

However and I must admit, LONG LIVE JIM2

Bobby WolffFebruary 14th, 2019 at 8:20 pm

And again, hi, Jim2,

Even if Sadie Kumquat is the one who dropped the eight?

Bobby WolffFebruary 14th, 2019 at 10:15 pm

Yes, I know what others may say,

Especially if it is Sadie who dropped the eight, since she was taught to give count.

jim2February 14th, 2019 at 10:43 pm

Not even her!

You see, many RRs have traipsed across both flanks of the bridge tables as I sat. Too many times I tried to read their mind and perceived “War and Peace” when all that was actually there was “See Spot Run.” I learned not to credit so many plays and, generally, was the better for it.

One glaring exception happened to me when I was defending as East in a game in DC a few decades ago. The declarer pursued a seemingly bizarre line in an impossible contract. I knew it was impossible because I could see my hand and he could not. We were getting a very good board no matter what, but the line made no sense at all unless declarer had a very strange holding.

The individual was a short, spare, balding, not particularly impressive gent, and I duly discounted the chance of that holding.

He DID have that holding. We got our strong board, but could have had a complete top if I had “taken him at his word,” so to speak.

I bitterly said something to that effect as the table turned over.

At that point, my partner looked at me oddly and said, well, the conversation went something like:

“That WAS Steve Robinson, you know.”

“What?!! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to scare you.”

Well, truth be told, it probably would have.