Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 15, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: ?

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


South West North East
1 NT Pass 3♣* Pass
3 Pass 4♠** Pass
5 Pass 6 All Pass
**Spade void

Opening Lead:9

“When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;

When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them.”

— Walt Whitman

All the deals this week come from The Yeh Brothers Cup, held last year in Australia.


In the featured match on Vugraph, both tables bid to slam. The deal reduces to an exercise in percentages — though not an especially simple one. The issue is how to play the trump suit for one loser in six diamonds: What three sensible options are available?


The first, selected by both Souths, is to run the diamond queen, planning a second finesse. This loses when East has both honors — and therefore works approximately three-quarters of the time. Can you do better?


I first thought that a better approach might be to start by cashing the ace. This loses either when West began with a void, or when he began with both the king and jack and one or two small cards. This is fractionally better, but it too would fail today.


Best — and also successful today — is to run the eight from the North hand. This loses when West has jack singleton or doubleton so long as East ducks stoically on the first round (don’t we all?) and you misguess. However, you can negotiate the 4-0 split in either hand. Accordingly, there is one losing combination fewer and it is the best play.


Note: If you have a 5-4 fit, as opposed to the 6-3 fit, playing the ace no longer loses to a void in West, but from a psychological perspective, running the eight still looks to be the best play.

ANSWER: When nothing seems very attractive, go with leading from your long suit. A low heart will probably not be costly, and may gain if partner has the heart ace, king, or 10. My second choice would be to go passive with the club seven, but a low diamond is certainly not absurd.


South Holds:

Q 7 3
Q J 5 3
Q 4 2
7 3 2


South West North East
      1 NT
Pass 2 Pass 2
Pass 3 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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitMarch 1st, 2010 at 12:31 pm

If we make the slightest change to South’s hand and give him the same distribution but the jack of clubs instead of the jack of spades, now 6 clubs makes virtually for certain unless clubs are 5-0, which works out to about 96% versus about 87% for 6 diamonds, yet it seems to me the bidding would be no different. Any way around this problem?

Ross TaylorMarch 1st, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Not an everyday suit combination problem – yet real world, so very useful thanks

Bobby WolffMarch 1st, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Hi David,

For at least 40+ years I have thought that 2 way Stayman is significantly more valuable, especially in the expert game, than standard Stayman and transfers. On this hand North would respond 2 diamonds and South would respond 3 clubs (no 4 card major, but a good 5 card minor in clubs). Therefore, from the beginning, clubs would be in focus and not the longer combined suit, diamonds, but also the one which, since broken, is better off being a side suit, since the options of setting up the suit are not as demanding as it would be if it was the trump suit.

No doubt, transfers are very popular, but, at least to me, another underestimated deficiency with transfers is that it gives the defenders another round of bidding to come into auctions wherein once one of their hands is limited after the opening side subsides, they can, and quite often do, belatedly and successfully contest the auction. Still another disadvantage is the ability of the defenders to play the role of both dogs who bark (mostly lead directing doubles) and others who also exchange sometimes valuable information by not barking.

Thanks for asking.

Bobby WolffMarch 1st, 2010 at 4:44 pm


It’s always very pleasant to hear your complimentary comments which, at least to me, makes the unusual blogging experience very rewarding. Thank you!

BTW, congratulations to you and all other Canadians for winning the World Ice Hockey World Championship. Well deserved and particularly emotional because of your wonderful and unbelievably enthusiastic partisan crowd. It also conjured up memories to me of the many bridge World Championships I have attended through the years and how important the final and closing ceremony is to both the players, their families and also the fans. I’ll be out of town for a week, but when I get back I will write a blog defining how I think intense competition and the glorification of the overall results will benefit our very troubled world.