Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 6th, 2012

Success encourages these people; they can because they think they can.


South North
Neither ♠ Q 9 6
 7 5 4 2
 A K 5
♣ A K 8
West East
♠ 4
 K Q J 9
 Q 6 4 3
♣ 10 7 6 4
♠ 7 5 3
 10 8 6 3
 10 9 7 2
♣ J 9
♠ A K J 10 8 2
 J 8
♣ Q 5 3 2
South West North East
1♠ Pass 2♣ Pass
2♠ Pass 3♠ Pass
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5♣* Pass 5 NT Pass
7♣ Pass 7♠ All pass

*3 or 0 aces, counting the trump king as an ace


In today's deal North's initial two-club response persuaded South to try the club grand slam, expecting there to be a 4-4 fit and the chance of a discard if necessary. However, the three-card club suit in dummy was a big disappointment. How would you set about playing the grand slam?

I have the greatest confidence in my readership, but I suspect few players would find the winning line here. While 12 tricks are easy enough, near misses do not count for much except in the case of horseshoes and hand grenades.

The simplest line is to play for clubs to be 3-3. Draw trumps and run the winners with some very small extra chances if the clubs do not break. But you can do much better.

Win the the heart king with the ace, play the spade ace, and lead a spade to the nine. Then ruff a heart, play a club to the ace, and ruff another heart. Next play a diamond to the ace, ruff another heart, play a diamond to the king, and ruff a diamond. Then go back to dummy with the club king to draw the last trump and take trick 13 with the club queen.

In total you scored four ruffs in hand, three trump tricks in dummy, and six winners in the plain suits. This is a perfect and extended dummy reversal whereby you used dummy’s three-card suit to draw trump, and your long trump in hand for ruffing purposes.

Although your hand is sterile in distribution, if your partner has the extra shape he has promised, you might make a slam. Start by cue-bidding two spades to find out if your partner has a spade control.


♠ Q 9 6
 7 5 4 2
 A K 5
♣ A K 8
South West North East
1 Pass
1 1♠ 2 Pass

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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2January 20th, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I agree that the column line is best. I found it without reading the column, but probably would not have at the table. The cues are a high trump and multiple entries in dummy, and short suit(s) in hand. The trump length disparity is good camouflage, however,

I might note that One can improve markedly on the 3-3 club line. Draw two rounds of trump. If spades are 2-2, simply ruff the fourth club. (In fact, declarer no longer even needs the dummy reversal.) If not, one can take the three rounds of clubs and – besides hoping they were 3-3 – hope that the four club holder also has the last trump and cannot ruff the third club.

Bobby WolffJanuary 20th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, your analysis is clearly, at least 2nd best, and is worth the telling.

Through the years I have come to realize that reading bridge columns are different things to different players.

For some, they are creative idea givers for developing tricks as declarer, sound defense for defenders and new bidding tools for both offensive and defensive hands. For others, just entertainment for bridge lovers, who do not have the inclination nor time to spend trying to improve playing a game they do not have chances to play often, (or at all).

Always, the column writer (unlike bloggers) is space restricted to tell the whole story, but, by having this web site, it is enabling to show and tell others special wonders about our great game.

Thanks, Jim2, for often contributing valued variations to fit in with the main contribution.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonJanuary 20th, 2012 at 4:34 pm

HBJ : it is curious hand in that the 4th club isn’t as much ruffed in dummy but merely discarded under dummy’s third trump.
The dummy reversal doesn’t look obvious at the start but is there nevertheless for those bright enough to think beyond trick 1. Yet again I would have set off with hopes a 2-2 trump split only to bemoan my fate when it doesn’t materialise. Niow of course I’m an entry short to dummy !!

Bobby WolffJanuary 20th, 2012 at 5:30 pm


Once again you echo thoughts of the so called “common man”, a realistic appraisal of why every bridge player is not what he wants to be, among the bridge elite.

Obviously to attain that rank one needs to understand the game of bridge thoroughly, be strictly disciplined, and well grounded and talented in numeracy, aka the lionizing of numbers in one’s thinking.

To many, practice doing it, and before long the skills necessary will become natural and thus much easier. To others, don’t bother and just enjoy the entertainment value of the game.

Either way is satisfactory to warrant wanting to continue to play, if only for the socialization which goes along with participation.

Paul BetheJanuary 20th, 2012 at 8:45 pm

And finally note that had west ignored his KQJ9 sequence to lead either minor, the contract would have failed as there are now not enough entries to rough 4 cards and draw the last trump.

jim2January 21st, 2012 at 12:17 am

If West can find the diamond three (perhaps a Charley the Chimp drop on the table), then surely it’s only right that declarer (perhaps a magnanimous Rueful Rabbit) be allowed to cover it with dummy’s five spot.

Similarly, if West should find a small club, it would only be right and fitting that – instead of the 4 – he would have been dealt the 7 as his singleton spade.

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Hi Paul,

First, it’s good to hear from you again as it has been some time since.

What you are bemoaning, the natural heart lead, is what is known in bridge writing as editorial license (EL) in order for the play (including here, the opening lead) in order to make the hand seem logical from both sides. Without making use of EL, it will distract curious excellent bridge players, like yourself, into not intended directions.

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since the late Victor Mollo was a fairly close friend of mine, having visited Dallas for several weeks and staying with me, contemplating writing an important book about the Aces team, you, indeed, would have qualifed for an important assistant to him reminding him, if need be, of the various roles and personalities of his animal characterizing.

He was, just as you can imagine, a real interesting character, who seemed to enjoy staying up most of the night, sipping brandy, while sleeping all of the morning, no doubt dreaming about his next zoo escapade.

BTW his beloved wife’s name (possibly contrived) was Squirrel.