Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: None


A Q 5



A K J 9 8 2


7 4

Q 10 5

8 4 3 2

Q 10 5 4


K J 10 9 8 6

9 7

7 6 5

6 3


3 2

A K J 8 6 4 2

K 10 9



South West North East
1 Pass 2 2
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5 Pass 6 All Pass

Opening Lead: 7

“Since we must admit that philosophy is at odds with common sense, let us make the most of it. What, then, IS common sense?”

— Ralph Perry

It is important to know the odds for some basic suit combinations. It is also important to know when to throw the textbook out the window. For example, when West leads the spade seven against your heart slam, how do you plan to make 12 tricks?

The original declarer facing this problem played the hand according to the percentage tables and so managed to find a way to go down. He took the first trick with dummy’s spade ace, then played the club ace and king, discarding his spade loser from hand. Next, declarer finessed the trump jack (theoretically the correct play to avoid two heart losers, but not the right play today).

West won with the heart queen and returned a third round of clubs. East brightly ruffed this with the trump nine, forcing South to overruff with the king. As a result, West’s trump 10 became the setting trick.

Declarer claimed that he had been unlucky. While there was some merit to this claim, the heart finesse was ambitious. It would be needed only if East had begun with four trumps headed by the queen. This was not likely, as he had advertised spade length in the bidding.

The best plan to make this contact was the simplest. South should have played the ace and king of trumps at tricks two and three, and only then have taken the club ace and king. This avoids any trump promotions and prevents embarrassment when East is very short of clubs, with or without the heart queen.


South Holds:

7 4
Q 10 5
8 4 3 2
Q 10 5 4


South West North East
    1 1
Pass 1 Dbl. Pass
2 2 Pass Pass
ANSWER: When your partner doubled one spade, he suggested both a good hand and some shape since you had shown a bad hand by your first pass. In context, you have significant extras and trump support. You might even have bid three clubs at your second turn. You certainly have enough to bid three clubs now.


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


jim2December 1st, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Perhaps North should bid six notrump.

Considering only the bidding and the North hand, I am having trouble envisioning layouts where six hearts would make but six notrump would fail, but I can see many where the reverse is true.

bobbywolffDecember 1st, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Good morning Jim2,

Methinks there is much reason in what you say.

However, the one theoretical hand which comes to mind is when the opener might have 8 (or even 9) hearts to the AK, but missing the queen and, of course no side card (KS, KD, or QC or if so, not singleton in the event of that suit being led) in which to enter his hand after he gets the bad break of the opponents, almost surely West, being dealt the Qxx of hearts.

To carry this discussion further, perhaps North could then ask for number of kings by bidding 5NT which then, in turn, will violate the principle of 5NT announcing to the partnership that all 4 aces are held enabling partner to bid a grand slam, holding extras. It has been mentioned by many bridge authors that playing matchpoints should be an exception to the above principle because of the desire to play 6NT rather than 6 of a suit for the extra trick score.

Here, you are mentioning it for another well reasoned thought of playing a safer contract. So the beat goes on and on, symbolizing to me that bridge is a relatively young game and still in the learning development.

Come and join with me in the crusade to both love and enjoy bridge by playing it ethically and often, while, at the same time, trying to make it the best game it can be.

jim2December 1st, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I did presume that, on the bidding, South would have either a solid suit or a semi-solid one with a side card.

If South’s diamond king were swapped for the heart trey, would you really open that with one heart?

bobbywolffDecember 2nd, 2010 at 12:20 am

I personally vary my style based on my opponents, partner, and vulnerability wherein I well may open 1 heart when I suspect that if I opened 4 hearts, especially against very aggressive opponents, they would take my bid as a transfer to 4 spades by them.

At least to me, especially when high level players play against each other, the matches seem to be decided on who wins the poker battle rather than technique, since that tends to be relatively equal. Others disagree and tend to be very predictable.

Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry, it’s your choice.