Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: Both


K 6 5 3

A K J 7 2


A 6 4


J 10 8

9 7 2

K Q 10 8 7 5 3



Q 10 9 3

Q 10 8 6 4 3

J 2


A Q 9 4 2

8 6 5 4

A J 5



South West North East
1 3 3 Pass
4 Pass 6 All Pass

Opening Lead: King

“Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one’s mind.”

— Somerset Maugham

Today’s deal was a missed opportunity for both declarers from the Vanderbilt Trophy in Reno last spring. In one room the bidding ended in a hopeless seven heart contract. In the other room the bidding was much better, reaching a playable six spades.


Against this slam West led a low diamond to dummy’s king. Declarer made the mistake of playing a heart toward the ace early on, and West ruffed in, leaving declarer with a heart loser at the end.


Instead, declarer should simply draw all the trumps as East pitches two diamonds. In case hearts are 4-0, declarer must ruff a diamond, cash the club ace, ruff a club, then play a heart to dummy’s ace, noting West’s discard. It is time for him to change plans and search for an endplay.


Declarer has reduced to a five-card ending in which dummy has four hearts and a losing club left, while declarer has a trump, the diamond ace and three hearts.


On the lead of the club six from dummy, East is caught in a nonmaterial squeeze. Which four cards can he keep?


If he pitches a heart, holding two diamonds and two hearts, declarer easily sets up the heart suit by ducking a trick. If East instead pitches a diamond and comes down to one diamond and three hearts, declarer ruffs the club, cashes the diamond ace, and ducks a heart to East for the endplay. East can win this trick but must lead into dummy’s heart K-J at trick 12.


South Holds:

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


South West North East
2 Pass
2 Pass 2 NT Pass
ANSWER: You should play the same methods after this two-no-trump rebid as you would do over a two-no-trump opening bid — in other words, Stayman and transfers. Here, you want to check for a heart fit with a bid of three clubs, and head for three no-trump if you don’t get lucky.


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


John Howard GibsonApril 2nd, 2011 at 11:51 am

HBJ : Does this count as another alternative line of play. Ace of clubs. Club ruff. King of diamonds. Club ruff. 3 rounds of spades ending in hand. Dummy down to 1S + 5 hearts. Declarer 4 hearts + AJ of diamonds.

Declarer now tries the finesse on hearts only to get relative back news……essential now to play low from dummy…… but what ever East leads back it is either 4 heart tricks + the spade, or 2D tricks on the finesse ( pitching 2 hearts from dummy ) + the 3 top winners in dummy.

Bill CubleyApril 2nd, 2011 at 3:21 pm

On the question hand. With pard showing a big NT hand and 1=4=6=2 shape, I would wonder after Stayman about a diamond slam when pard denies a major or even if he bids spades. 3Nt is for sissies as there will often be 12 tricks to take.

Based on a 30 yr slam bidding reputation. Please don’t ask about part score battles. 😉

bobbywolffApril 2nd, 2011 at 7:13 pm


Yes, your line of play is a possibility, which essentially is dependent on East having the queen of diamonds. Of course, the suggested column line is also dependent on the same location of the queen of diamonds and the question becomes which is the safer line leading up to the key moment of finding out about the treacherous heart break.

Since the only threat to the final contract is the 4-0 heart break offside, it will take a careful declarer to be aware of it and provide a solution. Either your way or the column way looks about the same, but I have not yet taken the time to probe deeper. Thanks for your effort.

bobbywolffApril 2nd, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Hi Bill,

It is always nice to hear from a relatively new voice and especially one who has an excellent record of bidding and making slams.

For my tastes the weak hand is just not worthy of exploring a diamond slam once the strong hand has denied having 4 hearts. It is possible however for 5 diamonds, not 3NT to be the best contract, and for that reason, more complicated bidding, other than just a final closure at 3NT, might be explored.

A problem almost always pertinent to such a venture would certainly involve itself with the particular methods after a strong 2NT opener of the pair in the spotlight. Since those conventional responses, due to our column space limitations, never allow themselves to be discussed in the column, I will leave it up to the imagination of others to hold and sally forth.

Thanks for your interest and also congratulations for your slam bidding reputation.