Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

The wise man bridges the gap by laying out the path by means of which he can get from where he is to where he wants to go.

J. P. Morgan


N North
None ♠ 10 5
 A J 5 3
 K 7 4 3
♣ Q J 9
West East
♠ A 4 2
 K Q
 A J 10 9 8 2
♣ 10 2
♠ K 7
 10 9 8 7
 Q 6 5
♣ 7 6 5 3
South
♠ Q J 9 8 6 3
 6 4 2
 —
♣ A K 8 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
4 ♠ All pass    

K

Our last board this week from the 1996 world championships at Rhodes shows two different approaches and results in the delicate game contract of four spades.

It was one of the more difficult defensive challenges of the event, and because duplicated deals were in use, the commentators had the opportunity to see how well everybody could do. The problem was rarely solved correctly — that is, if declarer chose the line of maximum pressure. We shall look at four spades, played first by North, then by South.

When Miguel Reygadas and Georg Rosenkranz of Mexico defended game from the North seat (after a transfer auction) Rosenkranz as East found the heart lead. Reygadas contributed the king and it was now relatively easy for Rosenkranz to duck when declarer led a low trump from hand. Reygadas won his trump ace, unblocked hearts by cashing his queen, then played a second spade, allowing Rosenkranz to give him the ruff for one down.

At another table Dennis Koch of Denmark had also overreached to get to game, from the South seat. On the lead of the heart king he won immediately, then led the spade 10 from dummy, to tempt the cover. When East obliged, the communication for the heart ruff had gone.

(You can imagine that if East had two hearts and the doubleton spade king the winning play would be to lead the low spade from dummy at trick two, to discourage that player from putting up his honor.)


A simple option would be to drive to four hearts, but that seems a real overbid to me, since you may be short on both trumps and high cards. I’m not sure I like a call of two no-trump either, with this spade weakness. So what does that leave? Maybe a game-try of three diamonds. I’ll accept partner’s sign off, or if he chooses to bid three no-trump or four hearts.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 10 5
 A J 5 3
 K 7 4 3
♣ Q J 9
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 22nd, 2017

‘I’m word famous,’ Dr. Parks said ‘all over Canada.’

Mordecai Richler


N North
None ♠ Q 8 7
 9 7 5
 A J 9 3
♣ A Q 2
West East
♠ 10 4
 J 4 3 2
 Q 7 5
♣ 10 8 7 6
♠ A 9 5 3
 K Q 10 8 6
 6
♣ K J 3
South
♠ K J 6 2
 A
 K 10 8 4 2
♣ 9 5 4
South West North East
    1 NT 2 ♣ *
3 ** Pass 4 Pass
5 All pass    

*Majors

**short hearts both minors

3

All our deals this week come from 20 years ago, when the World championships were played in Rhodes. Today’s deal comes from a qualifying match featuring Fred Gitelman of Canada, better known these days as the face of BBO, the most popular site for playing bridge on the Internet.

Gitelman reached five diamonds from the South seat after East had suggested a decent hand with both majors over North’s weak no-trump. As an aside, it makes sense to keep your normal system in place after an intervention of two clubs, with double being Stayman and keeping the red suits as transfers. But when the call of two clubs shows the majors, double to show a good hand and use two diamonds as natural. Meanwhile, jumps in the majors should show shortage with both minors and game-forcing values.

In five diamonds declarer took the opening heart lead in hand, and led a spade to the queen and the ace (it might have been more interesting had East ducked this smoothly).

Back came a heart, so Gitelman ruffed, took the diamond king then guessed correctly to finesse in diamonds, on the theory that East apparently had at least nine cards in the majors, while West had at most six. Next, the spade king dropped the 10, and Fred guessed right again by going to dummy to draw the last trump, then taking the spade finesse against the nine.

Now he could ruff the last heart, cash his spade winner to throw a club away, and try the club finesse for an overtrick.


This is a penalty double not a responsive double. Clearly West is playing a little joke with heart support, and the issue is whether to pass and bid spades later or raise spades at once. With so little defense to hearts and a good if minimum hand for spades, I think a raise to two spades ensures we get our message across in good time.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K J 6 2
 A
 K 10 8 4 2
♣ 9 5 4
South West North East
      1
Dbl. 1 ♠ 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Rarely, rarely, comest thou, Spirit of Delight!

Percy Bysshe Shelley


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

*Both minors, 11-15

♣K

At the world championships held in Rhodes in 1996, this deal came up in the qualifying match between Iceland and Yugoslavia. Matthias Thorvaldsson had a road map printed for him by the defense, warning him of the bad breaks — and the safe route home.

When West opened an artificial two spades to show both minors and 11-15 points, Adelstein Jorgensen could overcall three diamonds. That specifically showed both majors with better spades (a call of three clubs would have shown both majors and better hearts). Thorvaldsson guessed to bid three hearts, and East — knowing his partner had opening values — quite reasonably doubled for penalties. He was a little unlucky to find his partner with a minimum and both opponents with something to spare for their bidding.

After the defense of two top clubs and the diamond ace, West had to decide what to do next. A club, ruffed with the seven and over-ruffed might look best, but declarer’s trump spots are good enough for a cross-ruff now. If East wins and plays a trump back, he allows declarer to ruff out the spades and draw trump.

So at trick four West played a second diamond, and Thorvaldsson ruffed, took the top spades, then cross-ruffed two more spades in hand and two diamonds in dummy. Finally he cashed the heart ace and in the three-card ending he exited with the club jack, throwing dummy’s last spade. East had to ruff his partner’s winner and lead away from his trump tenace at trick twelve, into dummy’s king-jack.


I would once said have bidding two clubs was obvious. I’m not so sure, any more, given how often players double on offshape hands with both majors and short clubs. Since pass here is neutral, not an attempt to play, I will pass and let partner pick a suit. If he selects hearts that is fine by me, if spades I can remove to two clubs, implying no great confidence that this is our best spot.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 9 8
 A 9 8
 7 5 4
♣ J 8 7 5 4
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Rdbl.
?      

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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Courage consists not in blindly overlooking danger, but in seeing it, and conquering it.

Jean Paul


E North
None ♠ A J 9 7
 A
 K J 9 6 2
♣ A 9 2
West East
♠ 6 3
 K Q J 8 5 4 2
 —
♣ Q 10 6 3
♠ 4 2
 3
 A Q 10 7 5 3
♣ K J 7 5
South
♠ K Q 10 8 5
 10 9 7 6
 8 4
♣ 8 4
South West North East
      1
1 ♠ 4 4 ♠ Dbl.
All pass      

K

When the USA women won the world Olympiad in 1996 they had to come back from a huge deficit against Austria; this was one of their big gains.

Both tables played four spades doubled here. At one table Jill Blanchard as West found the good shot of a trump lead. The Chinese declarer took this in hand and played the diamond eight. Blanchard ruffed and played a club, and now her partner Irina Levitina could get in to play a second trump. Declarer could no longer establish a diamond trick, and declarer had just seven trump tricks, a club and a heart.

In the other room Juanita Chambers got a top heart lead and advanced the diamond jack from dummy. East pounced on that with the queen, but from here on in the defense could no longer set the contract. Although East could shift to a trump, declarer could build a diamond trick, using her diamond eight one way or another. But had East been able to bring herself to duck the first diamond, her partner could have ruffed and returned a trump, and now Chambers would have been one trick short as well.

Declarers should have crossed to hand with a trump at trick two to lead her LOW diamond. Now if West ruffs, the remaining diamond spots are good enough to establish a trick; if West discards, the play transposes into Chambers’ successful line. Should East win the first diamond and play back a low diamond for her partner to ruff, declarer can switch to a cross-ruff.


Sometimes it is best to bid what is in front of you. Your partner has suggested five good clubs (or maybe even a poor six-card suit) in a balanced 12-14 hand. If you were only allowed to make one bid wouldn’t you jump to six clubs? You might make a grand slam, or find the small slam was on a finesse, but here you should just settle for simplicity and bid the small slam.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A J 9 7
 A
 K J 9 6 2
♣ A 9 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
2 ♠ Pass 3 ♣ 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive?

Fedor Dostoevsky


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

*guaranteeing values

♠K

Sometimes the cards allow for a slight inaccuracy, sometimes they are in unforgiving mood. Here they showed mercy to declarer.

In the qualifying rounds of the 1996 World Olympiad South Africa appeared to be heading for a big win until this deal came along.

In the closed room West opened two spades and the South African North bid three diamonds. South converted to three no-trump and West led two rounds of spades then accurately shifted to hearts; when declarer lost the diamond finesse, that meant two down.

On vugraph Krzysztof Martens as North doubled two spades, and that led to a contract of five clubs. Again, an initial heart lead is best — but few of us could resist leading a spade with the West hand. Marek Szymanowski won this and had to find the best way forward – on the reasonable assumption that trumps might split badly but that diamonds would not, since West had not led a singleton.

At the table, Szymanowski finessed in diamonds at trick two. Now if trumps had been 4-1 a trump return would have left him without the communications to get 11 tricks. Unlikely as it might seem, you are much better placed to take a spade ruff at trick two and then lead a low diamond from dummy. If East wins and forces you again, then ruff and play two rounds of trump overtaking in hand. Even if trumps are 4-1, you can still come home by playing four rounds of trumps to East, pitching dummy’s hearts.


A negative double promises four spades here (and unlike when you double one spade you rarely cheat here with three). So what are the options? A stopperless one no-trump response does not appeal, which leaves a club raise. With a choice between two hearts as a limit raise or better, or a two club call, I go high – albeit with misgivings.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A 4 2
 7 3 2
 8 5 3
♣ A K 6 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 18th, 2017

We are all strong enough to bear the misfortunes of others.

Duc de Rochefoucauld


S North
None ♠ 6 3
 A 10 8 5
 K 8 6 4
♣ A Q 5
West East
♠ J 10 8 4
 J 9 6 2
 9 3
♣ J 6 2
♠ 9 5 2
 7
 J 10 5 2
♣ 9 8 7 4 3
South
♠ A K Q 7
 K Q 4 3
 A Q 7
♣ K 10
South West North East
2 NT Pass 3 ♣ Pass
3 Pass 3 ♠ * Pass
4 NT Pass 5 Pass
5 NT Pass 6 Pass
7 All pass    

*agreeing hearts

♠J

How much respect should you give your opponents? Sometimes a false-card is sufficiently clearcut that your suspicions should be set to high alert. At other times you have to decide if it is a play you would have considered yourself. If it isn’t, maybe you should pay off to a brilliancy. If they have found a play you wouldn’t have, maybe they deserve to defeat you!

This deal came up in the women’s qualifying event at the Rhodes Olympiad from the Great Britain and Sweden match. The Swedes bid the hand nicely. After a 22-23 2 no-trump and Stayman by North, the latter could agree hearts. Now Blackwood by South found all the key cards and the diamond king, and she could count 13 tricks if trumps behaved.

Against seven hearts Nicola Smith led the spade jack and declarer won in hand and laid down the heart king, on which Smith smoothly played the nine.

As you can see, this is the only card to give declarer a losing option, since without that play declarer would have had no choice but to follow up with the heart queen, since she could not pick up a four-card heart suit in East.

West was aware of the possibility that Smith had made the technical play. But she eventually played a trump to the ace, and down went the slam. The final score in this match was a big win for Britain. But since they had missed the grand slam in the other room, they would have lost the match had the grand slam come home.


Spades seems to be our partnership’s long suit so I would lead that. But please, please, do not lead the eight or 10 here. With dummy quite likely to have a doubleton and declarer four, do not throw away your side’s assets to clear up hypothetical ambiguity for partner. Lead low from three unless you know it to be wrong – and you cannot be sure of that here.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ 10 8 5
 J 8
 K 8 4 3
♣ Q 9 5 2
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♣
Pass 1 Dbl. 1 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Has there been any change in the structure of the major tournaments around the world? Are all the world championships still taking place – and have any been added recently?

Top of the World, Bellevue, Wash.

The major titles run on a four-year cycle, with odd years having the Bermuda Bowl, plus Venice Cup and D’Orsi Trophy for women and seniors respectively. Junior events now include separate fields for under-21 and young women. A school children’s event has very recently been added. The even years alternate between the Olympiad (with the same three categories), and an event open to everyone where there are both teams and pairs events.

My partner opened one spade, to which I respond one no-trump with 10 points and the Q-9 of spades, and six diamonds to the ace, since we were playing two over one almost game forcing. She rebid her spades and I raised to three, thinking I had more than enough to invite game. My partner claimed she was simply showing me a minimum hand, and that I was compelled to pass now. Could you comment please?

Brake Pads, Seneca, S.C.

Over the forcing no-trump, with a minimum or moderate hand, opener bids a second, cheap, suit if she has one (occasionally a three-card minor if no four-card suit is available) or rebids a six-card suit. Opener’s rebid of his suit limits the hand by his failure to jump but is entirely consistent with up to 15 points. So your second-round choice actually appears to have been between a raise to three or four spades.

Earlier this month you used a term I’m not familiar with in your answer to a letter. Who or what is an advancer?

Moving on up, Great Falls, Mont.

In times gone by, bridge terminology was both more ornate and less precise, with the use of the word ‘responder’ to describe the partner of the opening bidder and an overcaller. These days I have picked up on a usage from the Bridge World of calling overcaller’s, not opener’s, partner ‘advancer’ and restricting ‘responder’ to opener’s partner. It is unambiguous if not yet in completely common parlance.

What would you open with ♠ A,  A-9-4,  A-J-10-9-8-4, ♣ A-K-2? I toyed with opening two no-trump but settled for one diamond. I heard one spade to my left, pass from partner, two spades to the right. What now? At the table facing the red kings and a doubleton club, five diamonds was easy and six diamonds about as good as three no-trump!

Scot Free, Durham, N.C.

I’d double two spades, whereupon a number of good things can happen – if partner passes, raises diamonds or bids hearts. If he bids three clubs I correct to three diamonds and hope to continue the dialogue. A direct two no-trump call feels completely wrong to me, and three diamonds doesn’t begin to tell the story here.

Quite recently you advocated playing an almost forcing no-trump response to a major. How does that gybe with the responding hand having three trump and a limit raise? Might you not end up in an inferior partscore or even miss game?

Devil in the Details, Memphis, Tenn.

My preferred solution forces opener not to pass one no-trump if he has extra shape or values, so game is unlikely to be bid (or made) if opener has the hand to pass one no-trump — since he would reject a limit raise. If you want to put responder’s unbalanced three-card limit raises through the direct jump to three, then you should never play a ridiculous one no-trump contract. If one no-trump goes down facing a balanced hand, three of the major might also not have made.


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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 16th, 2017

I could be might foolish but think myself mighty witty: Reason still keeps its throne but it nods a little, that’s all.

George Farquhar


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

♠9

Today’s deal saw you show a strong balanced hand, after which North impulsively leaps to slam, deciding he would be facing a very strong hand relatively short in hearts.

After the lead of the spade nine, where are your 12 winners? If trumps are 2-1, you have 11 top tricks, in the form of eight trump tricks (draw two rounds and take the remaining six trumps separately) and three red suit winners. Normally in these positions you can generate an extra trick by discarding on the opening lead and building a trick for the spade king; not this time, as you will see. Whatever you pitch from dummy, there is no sure route to 12 tricks.

Curiously, though, as long as trumps behave, you do not even need East to have the seven spades he promised to be able to guarantee your contract. Ruff the spade, come to hand with a trump and ruff a second spade, then come back to hand in trumps again, and ruff a third spade.

Now you lead a heart from dummy, intending to finesse the eight if East plays low, or to cover the nine or 10 with the jack. West will be able to win cheaply but can only lead into one of the red tenaces. That extra trick allows you to make the remainder in the form of top tricks, plus taking your trumps separately.

If the opponents had not bid, your first heart play would be low to the jack. You would ruff the spade return, cash hearts from the top and fall back on the diamond finesse, if necessary.


Despite the fact that you have longer diamonds than hearts, I would respond in hearts initially. My plan would be to compete in diamonds if the opponents bid on in a black suit. If you respond in diamonds you may find yourself obligated to bid hearts at your next turn. Incidentally, by bidding a major before a minor you suggest this sort of canape shape.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 9 7
 Q 9 7 6
 K 10 9 8 5
♣ 9 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 15th, 2017

They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin


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

♠4

In tales of the Three Little Pigs we normally see two failures for every success, but every pig (or is it dog?) has its day. So in today’s deal we shall see one of the less rational lines rewarded.

Each of the three little pigs declared three no-trump on a low spade lead. The first little pig gave up a diamond at trick two, won the next spade and then tried to run the diamonds. This would have worked if diamonds broke three-two; when they did not, he needed a miracle in hearts, which did not happen.

The second little pig went to dummy with a high diamond and tried a heart finesse. When it worked, South could cross again to dummy with a high diamond to repeat the finesse. That generated two extra tricks for South. But even if the finesse had lost, South would still have come home had hearts been 3-3

By my calculations, the first little pig’s play is slightly better. However, when the cautious and calculating member of the trio emerged, it transpired that he had found an even better line. He won the first spade to give up a diamond, ducked the next spade, and won the third. When he cashed off the top diamonds, East was squeezed on the last winner. Whether he came down to three hearts or three clubs, declarer could discard from the other suit, then take a heart finesse, and set up an extra winner for himself in the appropriate suit.

A satisfying way to bring home the bacon.


A raise to two spades cannot be criticized. Still, if the simple raise to two might be this hand or the same hand with a small heart instead of the king, it can be very hard to compete constructively or reach game. One way to distinguish between raises here is to use the direct raise as weaker, and subvert a call of two clubs to show a constructive raise to two spades – say 7-9 points. With more, redouble.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 10 6
 K 9 8 5
 9
♣ Q 10 8 7 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.
?      

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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 14th, 2017

What is a better way to prove that your methods work than by winning? I have proved that my methods work.

Bela Karolyi


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

9

North-South certainly had the values for slam in today’s deal, but the two flat hands and duplication of values in diamonds made the contract touch and go. When declarer played on his suits in the wrong order, he could not recover.

The bidding was over quickly. South opened with one no-trump and North used Stayman to investigate for a heart fit (though one could make the case for not looking for a fit, because of the balanced nature of his hand) then jumped to six no-trumps when he did not find one.

Let’s revert to the play of the slam. West led the diamond nine, and South won in hand, and tried a heart to the jack. When this lost, he now needed both major suits to break 3-3. Hearts did not behave, so down went the slam.

Declarer’s mistake was to play on hearts rather than spades. If you test spades and they don’t break 3-3, then hearts will need to supply four tricks, with the queen onside. There is the slight extra chance of a club-heart squeeze, so declarer ducks a spade and takes a heart finesse, then runs his winners and hopes for the best.

But if spades behave, then you only need three heart tricks, and you can afford a safety play in the suit. Instead of finessing, take the king and ace of hearts to pick up the doubleton queen offside. If no queen appears, a heart towards the jack brings the slam home if West started with the guarded queen, or the suit breaks 3-3.


In unfamiliar partnerships there is often a question of what is forcing here. A simple rule (if not playing the Wolff signoff) is to play that the only way to stay out of game is to pass two no-trump. So the three spade call is forcing; if you play new minor, or the like, it would show six. With a balanced minimum, despite your great trumps, I would simply raise to four spades, rather than cuebid four diamonds.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K Q 3
 K J 7 6
 A Q 4
♣ K 7 5
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 NT Pass 3 ♠ 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.