Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dealer: North

Vul: E/W

J 8 7 4 2
7 6 2
A K Q 9
West East
6 5 K Q 10 9
8 K J 9 5
10 8 7 4 3 Q 6 5
8 7 6 5 2 4 3
A 3
A Q 10 4 3
A J 9 2
J 10


South West North East
    1 Pass

Pass 3


Pass 5


Pass 6

All Pass

Opening Lead:


“Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men.”

— John Donne

The early rounds of the first session of the Cavendish Pairs offer players a chance to test the waters to see if their luck is in. In today’s deal Bart Bramley and John Kranyak duly bid a marginal heart slam, daring their opponents to beat them.


On the diamond lead, Bramley was under no pressure. He won perforce in dummy, led a heart to his 10, ruffed a diamond, and played a heart to his queen. Now he could give up a trump and claim 12 tricks.


How would you play the slam if West starts with a spade lead? Best is to unblock the diamond king at trick two, then lead winning clubs, overruff the third club, and ruff a diamond. Now you lead the fourth club. When East ruffs in, you pitch your spade loser and can later ruff a diamond to dummy to take the heart finesse. This line works whenever diamonds split normally and the heart king is onside.


That looks safe enough, but Billy Pollack told me what happened to him here. He played slam on the lead of the spade six after East had doubled a spade call. He cashed the diamond king and then three rounds of clubs, Bob Hamman (East) ruffing in. Had he ruffed low, Pollack would have pursued the recommended and winning line. But Hamman ruffed the first club with the heart king! Can you blame Pollack for discarding now, planning to ruff two diamonds in dummy and then to drop the jack of hearts? I can’t.

ANSWER: Partner’s sequence suggests six spades and a weakish hand — but he could still easily have as much as a 10-count. That said, you cannot drive the hand to game, but it would be cowardly to let him play two spades without showing some signs of interest. Raise to three spades and let him take charge from there (or make the last mistake!).


South Holds:

A 3
A Q 10 4 3
A J 9 2
J 10


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact