Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: South


A K J 7 6 3

J 9 6 5 2

Q 2


10 9 8 2

J 10 9 6

7 6 5 4 3


K 8 7 4 3

A K Q 5

J 10 9 8


Q 5 4

A Q 10

8 7 4 3 2



South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 4 * Dbl.
4 Pass 4 Pass
5 Pass 6 All pass

*Slam-try with short diamonds

Opening Lead: Diamond jack

“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”

— James Thurber

With the North cards facing a strong no-trump, one would normally transfer to spades, then bid and rebid hearts to show 6-5 or 5-5 and slam interest. Here, however, the quality of the spades compared to the hearts persuaded North to treat his hand as a single-suited slam-try with spades and short diamonds, essentially ignoring hearts altogether. This slightly unconventional approach worked perfectly, when a subsequent exchange of cuebids got South to what appeared to be a laydown slam, but one that was threatened by the hostile breaks in both majors.

West predictably kicked off with the diamond jack. Declarer ruffed, then drew trump in four rounds, as East came under severe pressure. If he had discarded a heart, it would have been easy to set up and cash out that suit, so he discarded all three of his diamonds, then a low club. Now South led a heart to the queen, prepared to claim 12 tricks. He had to reassess the position when the 5-0 break came to light, but found an elegant solution when he cashed the heart ace and 10.

East had to duck this trick or dummy would effectively be high. But declarer next played the club ace, a diamond ruff to dummy, and the heart jack, discarding the master club! East could win this trick, but now had to give the lead to dummy at trick 12.

Had East pitched his clubs on the trumps, cashing the ace and king of clubs would have created a very similar position.


South holds:

Q 5 4
A Q 10
8 7 4 3 2


South West North East
ANSWER: Just in case anyone is in any doubt, while a jump overcall over a one-level opening bid shows the two lowest unbid suits, a simple overcall of two no-trump over a weak-two bid is natural, showing strong no-trump values. Here the weak long suit is a negative, but the positional value of the heart honors is almost as good as the A-K-Q, so you are fully worth a two-no-trump bid.


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 GibsonJuly 30th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

HBJ : This is the type of hand that if I faced at the table I would surely go astray.

The idea of creating an entry with the club queen is indeed an example of great play and superb vision.

I have always loved hands where jettisoning honours has been the winning line, but this one is a classic.

Bobby WolffJuly 30th, 2011 at 4:37 pm


Thanks for your kind words and above all, your interest.

My late and great wife Debby, an avid reader, used to decry fiction, never partake, but instead, love true real life drama. Her reasons were driven by not wanting to be a slave to a writer’s imagination,

but rather learn from documentaries which chronicle actual events, with her favorite being serial killers.

Such is also true with bridge writing which lends itself to what fascinates you, the jettisoning of high honors, usually to set the stage to be in the right hand at the right moment in order to solve magical bridge puzzles and make contracts.

It follows then that you will always be my personal bridge slave lapping up what I have to offer, but only if my imagination is up to the task.

angelo romanoJuly 30th, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Beautiful, but I don’t get the “Had East pitched his clubs on the trumps, cashing the ace and king of clubs ..” part. If East keeps 2 diamonds, on the second club he can discard his remaining low heart, and has a diamond when gets in with the heart K. And if the declarer plays the club AK before the hearts, then or 1) he plays the hearts from South, and East can take the heart Q blocking the suit, then plays his last diamond, or 2) he ruffs a diamond, then plays hearts from hand: East ducks as before (unless North cover the 10 with the J) and West makes the last two tricks ! Beautiful again, isn’t it ?

Bobby WolffJuly 30th, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Hi Angelo,

Your defense certainly stands up to scrutiny and would slay the dragon.

I can only imagine at the table East tried to do too much and was trying to hang on to the clubs in case his partner was lacking the right spot cards to withstand some kind of club length with declarer. East certainly did guess well to keep all 5 of his hearts, but your defense of throwing the clubs, and keeping 2 diamonds would be the bell ringer.

Thanks for your accurate analysis which I should have mentioned, but didn’t, since I hadn’t considered it.

David WarheitJuly 31st, 2011 at 9:38 am

Sorry Angelo and Bobby. Dummy ruffs the opening lead and cashes one spade. He then cashes both clubs and finishes drawing trump. North now has one trump & five hearts. South has AQ10 of hearts and 3 diamonds. East must hang on to all his hearts & so has only one diamond, otherwise south can play his hearts from the top down and overtake the ten. Declarer now finesses the heart queen, this being the key play that you both overlooked, cashes the ace and leads the ten. Hearts are now unblocked. If east wins, dummy is high. If he ducks, south ruffs a diamond, eliminating diamonds from east who now only has hearts. Now lead a heart at trick twelve, east wins and gives dummy the last trick.

Bobby WolffJuly 31st, 2011 at 11:26 am

Hi David,

Don’t be sorry, be PROUD!

Are there some GREAT analysts out there with you certainly being one of them, or what? And is bridge the greatest game ever invented or, if not, what is?

Thanks David, and I will leave it up to Angelo (since I feel too lazy), to challenge you.

angelo romanoAugust 1st, 2011 at 6:41 pm

David you’re right,

and playing AK of clubs before trumps, so you can later finesse the heart Q, is the key play.

Would anyone find it at the table, before knowing the 5-0 heart split ? I doubt it


Jeff SAugust 2nd, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I’m afraid I still don’t get why the original line does not work even if East discards clubs on the trumps. As I understand it, in Angelo’s line, East discards a low heart on one of the clubs keeping the AKD and Kxx in hearts while dummy has four hearts and a spade.

Can’t South now follow the line of AH followed by overtaking the 10 with the J? If East wins, then dummy still has two hearts to cash along with the trump and if East ducks, South forces the KH, trumps the diamond return and cashes his last heart.

I am still pretty much a beginner though so I am mostly wondering what I am missing here. Thank you.