Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 17th, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: N-S


K Q 10


10 5 4 2

K 9 8 5 4



Q 9 8 4

A 9 7 3

Q 10 3 2


9 8 7 4 3 2

J 7 6

J 8 6



A J 6

A K 10 5 2


A J 7


South West North East
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 4 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: four

“Oh yet we trust that somehow good

Will be the final goal of ill.”

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Imagine you are in four no-trump today on a heart lead — as happened at quite a few tables at last year’s Bermuda Congress, from which all this week’s deals come.


The safety play in the club suit to ensure the four tricks you need is to lead out the club ace, then cross to dummy with a spade and lead up to the club jack. This way you pick up either defender’s remaining three-card suit for one loser, guaranteed.


The best play for five tricks, while not seriously jeopardizing four tricks, is to cross to a top spade at trick two and lead a club to the jack. This loses only to a singleton club queen in West. And remember that if West has led his long suit at trick one and that appears to be only four cards in length, then HE is more likely to have four clubs than East! You will see (as did rather too many of the declarers in the tournament) that playing a club to the king and a club back to the A-J is an exceedingly bad idea. A diamond shift or continuation would hold you to nine tricks now.


A technical point: Note that on an initial low diamond lead, East should play the eight to the first trick, not the jack. (This is the right play when declarer has a doubleton such as A-K, A-Q, K-Q, K-9, or Q-9, and wrong only when declarer has the diamond A-9.)


South Holds:

9 4
10 6 4
Q 8 2
J 9 5 4 3


South West North East
1 NT
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 NT
All Pass      
ANSWER: Opinions differ on whether it is better to try to hit partner’s suit by leading a spade, or to go with your own length with a club lead. I might compromise by leading a heart. After all, if partner has a five-card major, wouldn’t you rather it was hearts than spades?


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2January 31st, 2011 at 4:56 pm

In columns with strong South hands, I often look at how the bidding might have gone with the North hand being switched for the other hands.

Here, I guess “NorthEast” would initiate a transfer sequence ending with South at four spades.

The “NorthWest” scenario appears more interesting. How would you think the bidding would go? 2C – 2D (waiting) — 2N – 3C (Stayman) — 3H – ??

A simple six hearts appeals but, if I did that, surely the club king would end up onside.

bobbywolffJanuary 31st, 2011 at 10:45 pm

How about for South-West:

South West

2 clubs 2 diamonds

2NT 3 clubs

3 hearts 3 spades*

4 clubs 4 diamonds

4 spades 5 spades

6 diamonds 6 hearts


*4 1/2+ heart raise, BTW in order to make a 4 1/2 spade raise over the strong hands response of 3 spades, bid 4 hearts. Both a 3 spade bid over a heart response and a 4 heart bid over a spade response do not conflict with normal bidding since the failure to transfer, but instead use Stayman precludes the use of that follow-up bid as showing that specific suit.

The strong hand makes several attempts to lure partner into a possible grand slam but stops short when 2nd round club control is obviously missing. Still if the responder would hold the AJ10x of diamonds instead of A98x the grand slam would almost be laydown. Bridge is NOT, nor will it ever be an exact science, so both partners are expected to use sophisticated judgment instead. lol

jim2February 1st, 2011 at 4:58 am

Over the 3 hearts bid, could you contrast with your suggested 3 spades reply what 4 diamonds and 4 spades would mean?

bobbywolffFebruary 1st, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Hi Jim2,

A 4 diamond bid would show a diamond suit, (and deny a heart fit), however by the failure of the responder to originally not have responded 3 diamonds to the opening 2 clubs would restrict the diamond suit to perhaps 6 cards e.g. s. xx, h. Q, d. J10xxxx, c. KQxx. From that rebid the opener can vitally appreciate the value of his doubleton KQ and head toward a final contract of 6 diamonds. Sure, I admit to contriving a responding hand to fit the end result, but if this hand or others which also fit the need for this decision there probably would be no way to bid this hand intelligently.

4 spades over a 3 heart response would definitely be a heart fit, spade shortness (void or more likely a singleton) and perhaps the following: s. x, h. QJxx, d. Axxxx. c. Kxx or even s. x, h. Qxxx, d. AJ109x, c. xxx a carefully contrived almost laydown heart grand slam but probably unbidable without the splinter jump.

Whenever a limited hand jumps after learning about the knowledge of a new suit from partner, it is safe to say that it is always a splinter with the obvious new suit as trump.

If one needs to have some sort of safety net below, while learning high-level bridge, consider yourself on a desert island with your partner merely discussing the limited language of bidding and how best it would be to play various bids this way or that in order to get the most useful information necessary for sooner or later placing the final contract.

World class bridge (especially with the bidding) has come a long way during the last large number of years so for one with aspirations of bearding the lion, take note and act accordingly.l

John Howard GibsonFebruary 1st, 2011 at 6:37 pm

HBG here:

Hi Bobby, what I don’t get here is the leap to 4NT on an eight count ( opposite at best 22 points ) when the most likely making slam is in clubs. If the clubs were breaking 3-2 with the queen on-side, the small slam is rigid. But even resting in 4NT is far far inferior to 5C. Look what happens on the diamond lead ducked by East?

If 4NT is quantative ( ? ) and South has a maximum, then why the pass ? But surely North should be looking for a minor suit slam right from the word go if he/she is that red blooded ?

bobbywolffFebruary 1st, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Hi my friend,

In the colonies an opening 2NT is now generally played by the bridge blue bloods (restricted usually to having committed only one felony) as a good 19 to 21 while with a 2 clubs start now becomes 22-24.

Add to the above that partnership understanding among roving players is below what it should be with partnership understandings sadly lacking. Four NT quantitative, becomes the slam try of choice and if accepted by the opener would usually be by a forcing raise to 5NT which would ask partner to select the slam of his choosing, e.g. 6 clubs.

However South in this example felt he had a minimum for his previous bidding and so declined to bid over 4NT.

In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king and so it is in bridge with would be partnerships only hoping to achieve what finer partnerships have grown to expect.