Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: North-South


8 7

A K Q 8 6

Q 3

7 6 4 2


10 6 5 2


K J 9 4

Q 10 9 3


Q J 9 4 3

J 9 2

A 10 8 5




10 7 5 4

7 6 2

A K J 5


South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 NT Pass
4 Pass 4 All Pass

Opening Lead: Two

“Whoever in discussion adduces authority uses not intellect but rather memory.”

— Leonardo da Vinci

I remember sitting in on a tutorial given by John Mohan to a class of juniors. He made an excellent point, one that I had never considered previously. He said that there is NO suit combination where you can get more tricks from leading it yourself than having the opponents tackle it for you. Given that clue, how would you tackle four hearts on a spade lead? 

I’m guessing that most people would win and draw trumps before going after clubs. Recognizing that they could afford to lose a trick, some would cash the club ace before taking the finesse; others would take both top clubs from hand, but whichever route they went, they would be doomed to one down because of the bad break. 

Let’s revisit the deal, remembering John Mohan’s axiom. Win the spade lead, draw trumps, cash the spade king and club ace, then cut loose with a diamond. If East wins to lead a second club through you, either the suit is splitting or East has the length — so you will have no problem making at least 10 tricks. As the cards lie, the defenders must play three rounds of diamonds to prevent you from getting an easy 10th trick. You ruff the third and lead a club from the board. When East shows out, you duck the trick to West and wait for a ruff-sluff, or a club lead into your tenace.


South Holds:

8 7
A K Q 8 6
Q 3
7 6 4 2


South West North East
2 NT Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: Your quick tricks make this hand much better than the typical 11-count. Instead of inviting slam with a quantitative call of four no-trump (no, this sequence is not Blackwood), offer your partner a choice of slams with a jump to five no-trump. If he stops off to offer clubs, you will pass; otherwise, play six hearts or six no-trump.


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


jim2March 9th, 2011 at 9:11 pm

In the bidding quiz, how should South proceed with:

S- H-QJxxxxx D – Axx C- Axx

bobbywolffMarch 9th, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Hi Jim2,

“Study long, study wrong” applies so I’ll bid 5NT which I hope partner interprets as Josephine in Europe and the grand slam force in most English speaking countries (asking partner to bid 7 if he has 2 of the 3 top honors in the trump suit which obviously is hearts). However there are two possible problems:

1. Partner could interpret my bid as “pick a slam” so that if he, the 2NT opener had either a good 4 card minor or a 5 card decent minor he would so choose rather than hearts if his heart holding is mediocre. The hand I would have if I had confidence that my partner would choose this meaning would be something like:

s. void

h. Kxxxxx

d. AQJ

c. KJxx

The safety I would feel by dusting off 5NT would be that partner will not respond beyond 6 hearts without 2 of the 3 top heart honors.

2. Even with the AK of hearts with partner on your example hand, we may have a conspicuous loser in the minors and thus reach a no play grand slam.

My guess is that if I was only granted 1 bid it would be only 6 hearts and my estimate of the average number of tricks I would take, knowing no more than I know after his 3 heart response is around 12.2 tricks. Delving deeper it is possible, but probably not likely that partner may have Ax in hearts and a minor suit of KQxxx or better making the grand slam in the minor MUCH better than would be hearts.

The reason my action is quick comes from years of experience of KNOWING, not just hoping, that certain actions in bridge must be guessed since there is no where near enough language available to find out what needs to be found out.

Summing up, just do something and let the devil take the hindmost, instead of being tortured by trying to do more than is humanly possible by a bridge player.

As always, your posed question is valuable, if only to discuss when educated guesses, rather than aces and cinches, are the order of the day.

jim2March 9th, 2011 at 11:58 pm

I asked because bidding 5NT as the recommended answer in the column quiz hand caught me by surprise.

Just as it would be nice to be able to say “Takeout” or “Penalty” after bidding “Double,” so too would it be nice go be able to say “Josephine” or “Choose” after 5NT!

On the chance of an unavoidable minor suit loser in my 0-7-3-3 example, I had a tough time finding many 20-21 point hands that had the heart AK that posed such a risk. That is, even the following is only 19 points: