Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 2, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: E/W



A J 5 4

K 9 2

A Q 10 4 2


K J 3 2

9 8 7 2

J 8 7 4 3


Q 7 6 5 4


10 6

J 9 8 7 5


A 10 9

K Q 10 6

A Q 5

K 6 3


South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 3 Pass
4 NT Pass 5 Pass
5 Pass 5 NT Pass
6 Pass 7 All Pass

Opening Lead: 2

“He is all fault who hath no fault at all.”

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson

In today’s deal South employed some finesse in the auction, but fell down in the play.

After North’s light but entirely sound jump-raise to three hearts, South’s fancy turned immediately to thoughts of a grand slam. He asked for aces, then bid five spades over the response to get his partner to bid five no-trump. At this point the six-club call asked North to bid the grand slam with a third-round club control. Had South bid six clubs over five hearts, that would have focused on the second-round club control.

As a general rule, after asking for aces, you should use five no-trump directly to ask for kings (either specific or the number of kings) and direct-suit bids to look for second-round control in the named suit. The indirect route followed in today’s auction asked for third-round control in the named suit.

Seven hearts looked like an excellent spot. Declarer won the opening heart lead, drew trumps, then went after clubs. The 5-0 split now proved too much for him, leaving an inescapable spade loser at the end.

Unlucky — but there was a simple, and painless, route to 13 tricks. Win the heart lead in dummy, immediately play the spade and ruff a spade. Cross back to South with a second trump, ruff a second spade, and come back to hand with a diamond to draw the last trump. You can safely claim the rest now, without needing the clubs to split.


South Holds:

A 10 9 3
Q 7 5
10 9 6 2
8 3


South West North East
    1 2
2 3 3 4
All Pass      
ANSWER: There is some temptation to lead the spade ace, but that would be necessary only if the defense needs to cash out at once (perhaps if dummy has a long suit). I suggest defending along passive lines, which argues for a trump lead. My second choice would be a small diamond rather than the 10. It is likely that someone holds a singleton or doubleton diamond honor.


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 karlsonAugust 16th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

It appears that declarer was “all in” for a 3/2 club split, or a stiff J, the odds of which I imagine hover just north of 70%. The odds on a 7/2 spade split with “7”, even vul., not making a weak jump seem to me to be greater.

Given that (if true), should not an expert declarer have found the more likely way??

Bobby WolffAugust 16th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Hi Bruce,

Remember that Declarer should win the first heart in dummy with the Jack, then play a spade to the Ace and ruff a spade low, then a heart to the 10 and ruff the second spade with the Ace. Then a diamond to hand for the claim. Therein only an 8 card spade suit (wiith West) or all 7 diamonds in one defensive hand would ruin the grand slam celebration.

The original declarer, was the culprit, falling below the Mendoza line in baseball (a major league baseball shortstop who hit below a 200 average) and just not acceptable. Oft times in bridge, poor play is not penalized and sadly, high-level play is also not revered. However, because of the ever present law of averages, sooner or later the best, like cream in an old time milk bottle, rise to the top. Always aspire to be the cream and you will udderly get there, sooner than you think.

Thanks for yur inquiry.

Ron IngramAugust 20th, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

In your August 2 column, you showed an auction in which south, after asking for aces, bid 5S in order to get his partner to bid 5NT and then bid 6C to ask about the Q of clubs. I’d like to get an expanded explanation of this system. Where can I find one ?

Bobby WolffAugust 21st, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Hi Ron,

From my perch, I am not sure where to find enlightened explanations concerning new ways to elicit key information to help determine slam contracts.

In the example given, South had used a tried and true method of getting his partner to sign off (usually) in 5NT because of missing two aces, but in so doing and then continuing with the next possible bid of 6 clubs this bridge scientist (inventor or at least a disciple of one) has found a way to find a very useful way to search out the information he needed.

Perhaps this process is only in the formulative stage, with a way to go, but nevertheless with a high upside for getting there. Perhaps you, Ron, can use your obvious inquiring mind to help the journey to be successful.

Sorry for not having the information, but perhaps you may find the best theorist in your community to ask.