Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W

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


South West North East
1 Dbl. Rdbl. 1
1 Pass 4 Pass
5 Pass 5 Pass
6 All Pass    

Opening Lead: Queen

“Brains, your Majesty! It had none, or it would never have fallen into your trap.”

— Aesop

The advantages of using Key-Card Blackwood are that it keeps you out of slam when you need to locate the trump queen. But if the auction has told you where that card should be, a 50 percent guess may become a near certainty.


However, in today’s spade slam it is not enough just to know that West is very likely to hold the trump queen; you also have to plan how to come to 12 tricks if diamonds do not yield five tricks. On the initial heart lead you will find you need to win in hand to tackle trumps to best advantage. The right way to go after the spades is to pass the jack immediately. This will hold the trick, so now you lead a club toward the king. West will take the ace and return a heart, letting you ruff a club with the trump 10.


Now it is plain sailing: you lead out the spade king, take the marked finesse in spades, and draw the remaining trump, pitching your heart and diamond losers on the last trump and the club king. The last four tricks consist of your diamond winners. Contract made.


There are several traps you can fall into after you have won the opening lead in the right hand. The most important play is to ruff the club with a high trump. If you ruff it low, you block the trump suit.

ANSWER: Two diamonds is the fourth suit, asking you to describe your hand further and setting up a game force. Since you have pretty much shown your black-suit shape already (with 4-3-3-3 shape you would have rebid one no-trump over one heart), you would do best here to bid two hearts. This suggests either two- or three-card support for partner and is the least lie.


South Holds:

A 9 8 6
A 8
7 2
K 9 7 3 2


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
1 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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


bruce karlsonJuly 31st, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Recently in your column, many difficult bids were brought home based on information provided declarer by “shape” overcalls, i.e. Michaels, today’s simple T/O, …

You have written that Reese took a dim view of Michaels for that reason. Do you have any rule(s) of thumb as to when to decline the opportunity to overcall with one of them??

bruce karlsonAugust 1st, 2010 at 11:24 am

I meant rules of thumb outside of the generally accepted hcp upper and lower limits.

Bobby WolffAugust 2nd, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Hi Bruce,

Your letter of inquiry delves into the strategy of whether a descriptive defensive bidding action creates more plus than minus for the bidders themselves.

The answer is subjective, not easily proven, making the response a product of the person’s own personality.

Many good players prefer to go out with guns blazing and would almost never consider not using Michaels (two suited weakish overcalls), Unusual NT (for the two lowest unbid suits), or light overcalls if the occasion presented itself. Collectively they believe that the best defense against the other partnership which holds the power is an aggressive defense which pushes the bidding up higher, steals creative room from the opponents while at the same time sometimes leads to worthwhile sacrifices or even miracle makes, not to mention more accurate opening leads.

The other school of remaining mostly quiet, even when possibly holding qualified intervention in order not to tip off to your worthy opponents both how to play the hand and better bidding evaluation by them based on what your bidding represented. This type of strategy was taught to me (I was just getting into the high-level game) by my mentor, Johnny Gerber from Houston. He particularly preferred that method when our team was behind with only a session or so to go, since to not create different looks at one table or the other, was almost a sure death warrant, when significantly behind and while playing a competent team.

If the above is an accurate analysis, and I think it is, then every partnership has the right to choose their own direction, with, of course, the necessary caveat of before one starts to play a bridge session, the different strategy partnership, must make clear to the opponents that partnership’s private understandings of what the opponents have the right to expect. Such is the different nature of the game we all love (I hope) and differentiates our partnership game’s ethics from other more publicized competitions, where mystery and stealth combine to usually play significant roles.

At least for me, I prefer to throw caution to the wind, bid boldly, play safe and pretend that our superior talents (oft times dreaming) will ultimately triumph. Keep in mind that some people prefer chocolate, others vanilla, and still others strawberry.

Have I sufficently confused you?

bruce karlsonAugust 3rd, 2010 at 11:06 am


I am not at all surpirsed that you describe it largely as either subjective or, occasionally, tactical. One might consider the level of play of the opps. If they are seasoned and very strong, lay off except when determined to press the case. Weaker opps will likely have a more difficult time overcoming the pre-emption and using the information in the play.