Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Life always gets harder toward the summit — the cold increases, responsibility increases.

Friedrich Nietzsche

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

*Short diamonds, agreeing hearts


Splinter bids in response to major-suit opening bids help a partnership determine whether they are in the slam zone and whether their cards fit. One style is to play that responder’s double jumps in a new suit are limited by the failure to use the Jacoby two no-trump. Another style says that a jump like one heart – three spades shows an unspecified splinter in the range 10-13 (over which opener can ask or sign off), while the direct jump shows a full opener, and one heart – three no-trump shows the equivalent splinter in spades.

In today’s deal, North-South reached slam, and West looked no further than his spade sequence. How would you plan the play to avoid needing to rely on a favorable lie of the opponents’ cards?

The answer is to win the spade ace and ruff a spade high, then play the diamond ace and ruff a further diamond. Now ruff a spade high, ruff a diamond high, draw trumps and lead a club from dummy, planning to cover whatever East plays. If East plays low, you put in the nine and force West to lead back a club or give a ruff-sluff. If East puts up the 10, you play the queen, and when West wins his king, he is faced with the same unpalatable alternatives.

Note that this play requires both diamonds and spades to be fully extracted and trumps drawn before the first club play. The essence of an elimination is to remove as many of the defenders’ exit cards as you can.

I’m unimaginative here; I lead my long suit and hope we can somehow develop it. With honor-third in diamonds, I might try that suit, but three small requires my partner to have way too much in the suit for it to be a success. Either red suit might work, or even a passive lead, but I prefer to lead what is in front of my face.


♠ J 9 7 5 3
 Q 2
 8 3 2
♣ A Q 4
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♣ Pass 2 NT
All 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


Bob LiptonMay 6th, 2019 at 9:10 pm

I have no comment on the hand, but I do on the bidding. Were I South, I would have bid 5NT over partner’s 5 Spades. This would have permitted partner to conclude we held all the aces and permitted a bid of 7 Hearts with appropriate hands: for example, AKQJx AJxxx x xx.

As the bidding exists, north might reasonably conclude we were missing an Ace and make an overtrick.


bobbywolffMay 6th, 2019 at 11:28 pm

Hi Bob,

I whole heartedly agree. if for no other reason than, to announce to partner that all the aces are held, and thus allow him to still have a say on a possible grand slam, particularly so since he has not limited his hand with his original short diamond response.

However, since a large number of readers may read 5NT as a simple number of kings question we thought it best to only emphasize the elimination play at 6 hearts instead of discussing the bidding, wherein we wouldn’t have had room to do so.

Such is sometimes life in the bridge column business.

However, thanks to you, have now made it possible for readers on this site to know what constitutes good slam bidding.