Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 7th, 2014

If it weren't for greed, intolerance, hate, passion and murder, you would have no works of art, no great buildings, no medical science, no Mozart, no Van Gogh, no Muppets and no Louis Armstrong.

Jasper Fforde


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

♣3

Declarer was confronted with a problem here that might have defeated a better player than he. After an uninformative auction to three no-trump, West led from his long suit. South took no time at all to put up dummy's club 10 and win a cheap club trick, but with that play he had given up his best legitimate play for the contract.

The heart blockage meant declarer had just three tricks in both hearts and clubs, so needed to set up a second spade trick. When he ducked East’s spade jack at trick two, that player astutely shifted to a diamond, clearing the suit. When he got in with spades, he cashed the long diamond.

The solution is disarmingly simple — if you look at the problem correctly. The nine tricks declarer should try to take are four hearts, three clubs, and two aces. In order to create an entry to dummy’s hearts, play low from dummy at trick one, and win the trick in hand with a high club. By preserving your two low clubs, you can then play to unblock the heart honors from hand and lead a low club toward dummy to force an entry to the board.

Curiously, after his actual play, declarer can come close to making if he plays the spade ace at trick six. West must unblock his king, and now when declarer cashes the top clubs, East must reciprocate by discarding his spade queen to let West win the spade 10!


Although it might sound likely that partner has spade length and declarer club length here, dummy (or even declarer) could still have four spades, and nobody has really bid clubs in this auction yet, since East has probably just opened a convenient minor. Clubs are much more likely to develop the tricks for your side to beat their game so lead the club three.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 8 3 2
 10 5
 9 5
♣ A Q 10 3 2
South West North East
1♣
Pass 1 Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 NT All pass  

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Playing pairs, and holding ♠ Q-10-7-4-3,  Q-5,  A-5, ♣ K-10-8-3, I heard my LHO open one diamond, raised to two diamonds by my RHO. Should my decision to bid depend on whether the response is inverted (guaranteeing a limit raise or better) or weak? And if I do bid, would it be right to introduce a weak spade suit here, or should I double and correct hearts to spades?

Stepping Lively, San Francisco, Calif.

It must be right to act over a weak bid, since in essence you should imagine that you bid as if in balancing seat. I'd pass over an inverted raise, though, since doubling and bidding again would show real extras (at least an ace more than you have). If you do act, you have to bid two spades and hope it keeps fine for you.

Is it right to play the same methods after a rebid of two no-trump in the sequence two clubs – two diamonds – two no-trump as one does over an opening bid of two no-trump? Are there any other sequences where transfers should apply?

Moving Up, Macon, Ga.

Yes, it is right to play Stayman and transfers in this sequence, just as over a two-no-trump opening bid. One can play them after an overcall of two no-trump (and by agreement, though with a different scheme of responses), after an unopposed auction when opener makes a jump rebid of two no-trump. The real purpose of transfers is to ensure that when one hand is weak and one hand is strong, the strong hand gets to be declarer — and that is especially so with these auctions.

Second to speak, I was dealt ♠ Q-10-3-2,  9-5,  A-Q-5, ♣ K-10-6-3, and passed when my RHO opened one heart. Do you agree with that action? In any event, my LHO responded one no-trump, which was passed back to me. Would a double now show these general values?

Hidden Depths, Chicago, Ill.

A double here is traditionally for penalties with a heart stack over the opening bidder here, not a protective double. It feels better to me to stay silent now than to act — your opponents are well placed to catch you if you have stepped out of line, since they have both limited their hands. I admit I might have doubled at my first turn, but that is a whole different kettle of fish.

At our local club my partner and I use a two-diamond opening bid which we alert properly, and if asked, we describe it as 6-11 HCP with both majors. We have been advised by ACBL directors that 'mid-chart' bids can only be used at Nationals, and in high-level games. Why is this so, when in club games some very irregular, even some made up, bids are permitted as long as they are alerted and explained?

Curious George, Fayetteville, N.C.

Occasionally clubs may give you permission to use such calls so long as proper explanations and defenses are provided. But the club's primary task is to retain members and keep them happy. Allowing complex, and primarily obstructive, opening bids has not proved the way to retain members in the past, in my experience.

Playing duplicate in a decent standard club game, would you advocate an opening in a suit or at no-trump when holding ♠ A-Q-7,  A-Q-J-9-5,  K-6, ♣ A-J-3. Just for the record, my partner had just enough to raise a 2 NT opening to game with a 4-0-4-5 pattern and five points, but he might have passed one heart.

Ray of Sunshine, Montreal

I like the opening of two no-trump. One can play a response of three clubs as Five-Card Stayman (the curiously misnamed Puppet Stayman) or just accept that you miss the occasional 5-3 fit. With 20 HCP it is rare not to open two no-trump. You’d need a small doubleton and a good five-card major to take the low road – and with 21 points I’d always go high, not low.


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Surrender is essentially an operation by means of which we set about explaining instead of acting.

Charles Peguy


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

♣K

Sometimes declarer can predict that the defenders will prevent him from achieving his goal if he follows a direct route to goal. If so, he will need to take avoidance measures to sidestep the killing defense. See if you can match today's declarer, who found a neat way to come out victorious.

When you play four hearts on a top-club lead, you can identify two inevitable spade losers and two likely diamond losers if the defenders can get their act together. Even if spades split 3-3, so long as East wins an early spade and leads a high diamond through you, he may be able to arrange to get in again in spades, whereupon a second diamond play will spell defeat. Conversely, if East has the diamond ace, West must play diamonds through dummy twice.

One possibility is to win the first club and lead a low spade from dummy, hoping that East doesn’t rise with an honor or that he continues the attack on clubs, giving you an important tempo.

But a line that does not rely on defensive error, so long as spades are 3-3 and West has the diamond ace, is to duck the first trick. West can do no better than continue the attack on clubs, and you win, pitching a spade. Then you draw trump, give up a spade, and still have control of diamonds. So you have time to set up the spades to discard your slow diamond loser.


Your partner has shown extra values with precisely four spades, since with five or more spades he would have responded in the suit. You could head for the 4-3 spade fit by bidding two spades, but my preference is to emphasize the clubs. You might decide to compete to three spades if the opponents bid up to three hearts. With even the spade 10 instead of the five, I might be tempted to go the other way.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 8 5
 7 4
 A J 9
♣ K Q J 9 4
South West North East
1♣ 1 Dbl. 2
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 4th, 2014

Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson


South North
Neither ♠ A J 5
 A K J 10
 A J 7 4 2
♣ 6
West East
♠ 10 9 8 6 3
 9 8
 K 10 3
♣ K 7 3
♠ 7 2
 7 6 5 4
 Q 8 5
♣ 10 8 5 2
South
♠ K Q 4
 Q 3 2
 9 6
♣ A Q J 9 4
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 6 NT All pass

♠10

Today's deal from the Dyspeptics Club saw South declaring a slam contract. All the other players allege that he must be a practitioner of the black arts in order to attract the high cards to himself, but as East pointed out, he does so little with them that they allow him to play in their game.

On this occasion North did his best to get his side to a slam other than no-trump —even on a trump lead, six hearts might have been the best spot. But when South opted for no-trump, North acceded to his suggestion.

After West’s spade lead, South won in hand and played a club to the queen and king, then won the return and hoped that the club 10 would fall. When it did not, he could do little but give up a club and take 11 tricks.

South was about to launch into his usual apology — the cards had lain unfavorably and there was nothing that he could do about it — when North forestalled him by remarking that he had overlooked the best line for the slam. Can you see what he meant?

Finessing the club queen (planning to follow up with clubs from the top) can pick up either king-third or 10-third of clubs but not both — unless you always guess perfectly. Better is to lead a club to the nine immediately, which succeeds when East has either three or four clubs to the 10 and works today.


The combination of the double and no-trump bid shows a hand stronger than an overcall of one no-trump, say 18-20 high cards. Your hand suggests inviting game, and a simple bid of two no-trump feels about right. You can rely on partner to put spades back into the picture if he accepts your try.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 10 9 8 6 3
 9 8
 K 10 3
♣ K 7 3
South West North East
Pass 1♣ Dbl. Pass
1♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Anyone who thinks there's safety in numbers hasn't looked at the stock market pages.

Irene Peter


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

K

Bridge is rarely a game that can be seen in black-and-white terms. However, in today's deal, your target is to find a way to play the diamond suit for one loser against as many lies of the cards as possible. After a hotly contested auction (despite your opponents' possessing just nine HCP), you reach six spades.

West leads the heart king to your ace. You take care of all the outstanding trump as West pitches three hearts. Now you take your three club winners, and can end up in either hand. What should be your plan?

As West is almost certain to have the diamond king for his overcall and is relatively likely to have some diamond length, you need to protect yourself against a bad diamond break. The obvious solution is to lead the diamond queen from hand, but, as the cards lie, this would not work. What does work today is to win the third club in dummy, then lead the diamond two. Once East plays a diamond higher than the six, play the diamond four from hand — this is the perfect safety play against West’s having four diamonds to the king.

If West overtakes, he will not be able to lead diamonds without giving up his trick. If East has a diamond to return, you can play the diamonds for no loser. And if he gives you a ruff-sluff, you trump in hand and discard a diamond from dummy, then finesse in diamonds.


There is no need to jump here. True, if you bid two diamonds and partner passes, you may have a frisson of anxiety before dummy comes down. But you do not really want to drive to game by jumping to three diamonds, and while an invitational bid of two no-trump might work, bidding diamonds first emphasizes your pattern to your partner. You can always bid on over a two-spade signoff.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A Q 7 4 3
 A
 A 5 3 2
♣ K 5 4
South West North East
1♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

I'm empty and aching and I don't know why.
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Paul Simon


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

J

Today's deal comes from a duplicate at Honor's Bridge Club, which is always in contention for having the largest table-count in the country, and certainly has one of the strongest standard games every afternoon.

North, who supplied the deal to me, asked for anonymity, but indicated that his first reaction was to jump to seven no-trump at his first turn to speak. Then he tried to protect a putative spade king in his partner’s hand, and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

South had done beautifully in the auction, but fell from grace in the play when West hit on the inspired lead of the singleton diamond jack. How should the play have gone?

Best play is to win the diamond lead in dummy and run six heart winners at once (that gives West, who began life with three hearts, a chance to discard a club prematurely and help you count out the suit). Reduce to two diamonds and four clubs in hand, while keeping a count on the diamonds, then cash the club ace. When West follows, he surely started life with eight spades, three hearts and two singletons. So give up on the overtrick, and pitch a club on the last heart winner, then come to hand with your diamond king. If East has kept two diamonds, throw him in with a diamond to lead clubs, if he has kept one diamond, your last diamond will be good. And if he has kept three diamonds, your clubs will run.


Your partner's double is takeout, and though you are low on high-cards, your shape suggests you are worth more than a regressive four diamonds. I think a jump to five diamonds makes sense, though I admit it is a stretch. Just for the record, with the clubs and diamonds reversed, you might consider a bid of four no-trump, for the minors.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 5
 6 4
 Q 10 7 6 5 4
♣ Q 7 6 5
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 1♠
Pass 3♠ Dbl. Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Dear Night! This world's defeat;
The stop to busy fools; care’s check and curb.

Henry Vaughan


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

The big question!

Most of the critical decisions in the problems I present arise in the middle of the deal, but this time in a teams match you are simply faced with an opening-lead problem.

By the way, did that four-club call on a zero-count shock you? You wanted to take away bidding-space from your opponents, believing they had a good fit and the balance of high cards. Your opponents nonetheless sailed into a slam — but partner (a very good and highly aggressive player) ups the ante. Your lead!

Anyone familiar with the Lightner double might guess that, since you would have considered leading a club without the double, you have been asked to do something unusual, and the spade lead looks like the obvious choice. When your partner doubles a slam, you look for an unusual lead. So far so good, but I hope you avoided leading a fourth-highest spade four. If you did, your partner would ruff the first trick and would then consider underleading his club ace to get a second ruff.

Why? Well, I told you that your partner was an aggressive player. He can guess that six hearts doubled might also be the contract reached at the other table, and so that extra undertrick would be worth 300 points, or 7 IMPs. Since you know an underlead in clubs would be a disaster, lead a suit-preference spade eight, to steer partner away from the club suit.

Incidentally, which opponent, North or South, do you think should have retreated to the cold six no-trump?


This is an awkward one. Your partner heard you suggest diamonds and spades (on an auction where you could have doubled for takeout of hearts). When he overrules you to bid clubs, do you have any reason to doubt him?- He might have seven small clubs. right ? That argues for a pass now; his clubs will be worth tricks when they are trumps but will be valueless to you.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A K J 6
 K Q 6
 K Q 8 5 2
♣ 3
South West North East
1 Pass Pass 1
1♠ Pass 2♣ Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 30th, 2014

Variety's the very spice of life,
That gives it all its flavor.

William Cowper


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

K

Pablo Lambardi of Argentina has been a fixture on his country's international team for a couple of decades — remarkable for one who looks so young! He found an ingenious position in this deal from the finals of a major Pairs game in a recent Australian championship.

He held the South cards and declared one spade after opening one diamond and hearing one heart to his right, doubled by his partner, over which his call of one spade ended the auction. This bid can often be made on a three-card suit, since if opener does not have a heart stop or a rebiddable minor, this may be the least of all evils.

The defenders led four rounds of hearts, dummy pitching a club, with East ruffing in with the spade nine. Lambardi overruffed and led a spade to dummy and a club to the king. West ruffed and played ace and another spade.

As the third spade was led, and won in dummy, what was East to discard? If he pitched a diamond, declarer would come to hand in clubs, ruff a diamond, and take two more club tricks in the ending, since both North and East would be down to just clubs. When East chose instead to throw a club, Lambardi discarded his blocking club ace, and simply set up clubs for one loser.

Making one spade was a near top for him — the field was going down in clubs on the North-South cards, often doubled.


Leading a club (whether you choose the ace or a small one) seems far too committal. Partner's failure to raise clubs suggests he is not loaded for bear in that suit, and there seems no reason to broach diamonds either. My instincts are to lead a heart rather than a spade, since dummy may well be very short of spades and entries. Leading a heart won't do much for declarer that he could not do for himself.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ 8 6 2
 Q 8 4
 K 9 4
♣ A 10 9 7
South West North East
1♣ 1♠
2♣ 2 Pass 2♠
All pass      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, June 29th, 2014

I'm eager to experiment with some home-grown conventions. If any convention is explained to the opponents, should it be allowed? We are talking "club" level, but I am curious at why some conventions might be banned at regional tournaments. How can a convention give a partnership an advantage if the opponents are aware of it?

Rocket Scientist, Bay City, Mich.

There are different degrees of license; general and mid-chart are two such categories, the latter being more wide-ranging. In essence you cannot play any gadget until it is licensed. Most clubs will let you do what you like in your own constructive auctions, but won't let you open or overcall with a bid that requires defensive methods to be discussed. And that is how it should be.

I held ♠ A-Q-4-3-2,  Q-5-3,  K-10, ♣ Q-4-3. My partner opened one club, and I responded one spade. Now my LHO overcalled two diamonds, passed around to me. We play support doubles, so my partner had denied holding as many as three spades. I chose to double (do you agree?) and heard a two-spade response. What now?

Lumpfish, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

What an unexpected rebid! Your double looks fine, and I suppose your partner rates to have a 2-3-5-3 pattern with the doubleton spade king. I'd guess to jump to three no-trump now, hoping partner hasn't forgotten to make a support double at his previous turn.

When responder raises opener's second suit, the call seems to have an awkwardly wide range. Holding ♠ K,  K-Q-10-7-3,  K-10-2, ♣ K-J-3-2, I heard my partner respond one spade to my one-heart opening, then raise my two-club rebid to three. Was I supposed to pass, drive to three no-trump, or explore further for hearts?

Outlier, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Partner sometimes issues a courtesy raise with four trumps and slightly less than an invitational hand, but you should not necessarily assume that to be the case. You have too much to pass, but rather than going directly to three no-trump, you might temporize with the fourth suit, three diamonds, hoping partner can produce heart support or bid three no-trump himself.

Recently my partner opened one club, and I held ♠ —,  A-5-3-2,  A-K-J-9-5-3, ♣ K-8-4. In a noncompetitive auction should I bid one diamond, intending to reverse to hearts, or bid hearts, intending to jump-shift to diamonds? I chose to bid one diamond, and my LHO pre-empted to two spades. My partner bid two no-trump, and I bid three hearts, over which partner dutifully bid four hearts, which I passed. However, we were cold for slam. Where did we go wrong?

Missed Connection, Albuquerque, N.M.

Any time you have game-forcing values, bid your long suit first. So far so good, but your partner showed 18-19 with her two-no-trump bid. That means you should drive the hand to at least a small slam — indeed, you might well be cold for a grand slam on a good day.

Recently in Bid With the Aces, you advocated a two-club rebid after opening one heart and hearing a one-spade response, with ♠ 5-2,  Q-J-10-9-7,  A-K, ♣ K-J-8-2. Might not a rebid of one no-trump keep you comfortably low, and isn't your hand closer to balanced than unbalanced?

Balancing Act, Muncie, Ind.

One can make a case for rebidding one no-trump to get across the basic nature of the hand (minimum balanced). However, the intermediates in the long suits argue to me for the simple rebid in clubs. Whatever anyone tells you, a hand with 5-4-2-2 pattern is more suited to play in suits than in no-trump, all else being equal. At the very least, suggest your shape and let partner decide.


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 28th, 2014

The sharp thorn often produces delicate roses.

Ovid


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

K

Today's deal shows two expert players handling a delicate grand slam from the Open Teams at Ostend last summer. In the auction shown, South (Per-Erik Austberg) knew his side had all the keycards after the five-no-trump bid, and his solid clubs looked like enough for him to accept the invitation.

Austberg won the heart lead and took two top trumps to test the suit, then cashed the club ace and ruffed a club. Now he ruffed a heart to reach hand to draw the last trump. On this, dummy discarded a diamond, but what should East throw? At the table he chose to discard a heart. Austberg crossed to the diamond ace and ruffed another heart. That left only West guarding the hearts, so when declarer took his two winning clubs, West was squeezed in the red suits.

Declarer had done the best he could, but was there a better defense against the grand? When Petter Tondel declared seven spades, Agnes Snellers as East pitched a small diamond on the third spade. Tondel now carefully played the diamond jack to the ace, felling East’s queen, ruffed a heart, then cashed the two remaining top clubs. East followed suit, but West had to throw a heart and a diamond. Correctly reading East as having the winning heart and club left, declarer triumphantly finessed the diamond eight at trick 12 to make his grand slam.

If declarer does not unblock his diamond jack early, he no longer has the option to finesse in diamonds.


You have no reason for the time being to assume that East is playing games. So ignore your spade suit now and bid two clubs. As the auction progresses, you can reassess the position and think about bidding spades if the opportunity arises.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 9 8 4 3
 5
 J 4
♣ A K Q 9 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.