Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: South


A Q 5 2

K Q 6

K 8 6 4 2



J 10 9 8 6 3

A 2

Q J 3




5 3

10 9 7 5

Q 10 8 7 6 2


K 4

J 10 9 8 7 4


A 9 4 3


South West North East
1 1 4 * Pass
4 NT Pass 5 Pass
6 All pass

*Splinter: a strong hand with short clubs and heart support

Opening Lead: Spade jack

“Once they were not, and now they are not, and this is the sum we know.

Orderly range the seasons due, and orderly roll the stars.”

— Cosmo Monkhouse

English International Gunnar Hallberg is a fertile source of interesting and unusual material. Having had a successful career as a Swedish International, he moved to England more than a decade ago and has enjoyed great success there. In fact, in the last three years he has won two senior world-team titles.

Unlike most modern-day experts, Hallberg has had his nerves hardened in the crucible of high-stake rubber bridge games. At TGR’s bridge club in London, where this hand arose, the auction was more sophisticated than you might expect, and the contract excellent.

West led the spade jack against the heart slam, and although there are various possible routes home, South had to focus on the real danger to his slam. With only a jack-high spade suit for his overcall, West rates to have a six-carder and, if allowed in with the heart ace, can give his partner a spade ruff.

At the table South won the lead with the spade king in hand, cashed the diamond ace to unblock the suit, then played the club ace and another club, ruffed in dummy.

Now came the key play of the diamond king, on which the spade four was discarded from hand. Declarer continued on crossruff lines, and the only trick that the defenders were able to take was the trump ace.

If declarer follows the knee-jerk reaction of winning the spade lead and drawing trumps at once, he runs into a spade ruff for down one.


South holds:

A Q 5 2
K Q 6
K 8 6 4 2


South West North East
Dbl. 1 1 Pass
ANSWER: It is almost impossible for your side to make game here, since your partner produced only a minimum action and did not jump. Nonetheless, you should raise to two spades to show a suitable hand for partner, helping him decide what to do if the opponents compete to the three-level.


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 GibsonMay 12th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

HBJ : What an instructive hand. A great lesson hammering home 3 important messages :

1. Look ahead and anticipate lurking dangers

2. Take out a little insurance early doors if it is there on offer

3. Adopt a line of play that is near fool-proof ( first cash top winners… 2D, 2 black aces….. before embarking a cross ruff in the black suits for 8 certain tricks in hearts )

However, I like so many others have an impetuous streak and a very jerky knee. Some people diagnose my problem as LAZY THINKING.

NickMay 12th, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Hi, Bobby,

I would like it if you sent an older history, suppose this: must be 01-01-2007 and newer. If you have done that, I would be impressed. PLEASE DO NOT send this message into Sunday column.

In your deal, South opened one heart with J-10-9-8-7-x of hearts, West overcalls one spade with J-10-9-8-6-x of spades, North responds Splinter, (singleton or void) Is the four no-trump bid BLACKWOOD? If so, tell me why North bid five diamonds. What are the requirements to bid 1 H – 1 S – 4 C – Pass – 4 NT – Pass – 5 D – Pass – 6 H?

bobbywolffMay 13th, 2011 at 2:09 pm


Thanks for your opinion, complete with summations. As always, you add an overall deft touch, which surely will be appreciated by casual readers.

Lazy thinking, hardly, almost the opposite, since you always take time and effort to express the pragmatic touch.

If only everyone would appreciate the game as you invariably seem to describe it.

bobbywolffMay 13th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Hi Nick,

Thanks for your questions, which I am interpreting having to do with key card Blackwood (KCB) and, of course, your probable assumption that a huge percentage of the world’s bridge population now play that convention.

North America has around 165,000 tournament bridge players, Europe about 500,000, and then adding up the rest of the world players, lets assume that the total comes to about 1,000,000 (one million) duplicate bridge players. The USA is now estimated to still have around 8,000,000 total social and tournament players, significantly down from a high of 30,000,000+ in the 1950’s.

Add that to the world’s total bridge population and I think it fair to estimate that probably significantly less than 1% (closer to .01%) of the world’s players actually play KCB.

Logically in the column hand, partner (North), normally holding 4 trumps (this time only 3) Mr. Hallberg, playing high stake rubber bridge in the most famous rubber bridge club in the UK, took the chance that he was not off both top honors and gambled out the slam. Obviously he and his partner were not playing KCB since his partner showed only 1 ace.

In case you are interested, there are more disadvantages than many realize with counting the king of trumps an ace, and although KCB is played by most bridge experts around the world, at least in my opinion, it is not a slam dunk (pun not intended) in determining that it is necessary or even better than not playing it. However, for those players who think it is, and certainly a clear majority of world experts currently think so, I wish them good luck.

Your request for a dating of whatever bridge game we write up in the Aces column is indeed an interesting one, with obvious merit, but unfortunately would only add words, during a time when writers of all types of newspaper columns are looking for ways to reduce the messages so that our client newspapers can sell more advertising space.

Thanks for writing and we will certainly honor your request of not using your letter in our Sunday column.