Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Unskilled the fowler who his snare reveals:
If at the bait I snatch — my doom is sealed:

Pierre Corneille

South North
Both ♠ 4 3
 J 8 6 2
 A 10 5 3
♣ A K 6
West East
♠ A K 9 8 5 2
 Q 10
 6 4
♣ Q 4 2
♠ 10
 9 7 5 3
 K J 9 8
♣ J 8 7 5
♠ Q J 7 6
 A K 4
 Q 7 2
♣ 10 9 3
South West North East
1♣ 2♠ Dbl. Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


Today's hand was nicely handled by declarer in a recent European Women's Championship.

After a normal if slightly aggressive action to reach the 24-point three no-trump, West gave declarer an assist when she led a low spade to the queen. Even after that start, at first sight there does not seem too much straw with which to make bricks. Declarer played off the ace and king of hearts without much hope, but when the queen fell from West, the distribution of that suit was apparent. Now came a club to the king and a low diamond to the queen, which held.

Things were really looking up now. South could count eight tricks, so she continued with a low diamond, ducked to East’s nine. When East returned the diamond jack, on which West shed a spade, the hand was an open book to declarer. East was known to have started with four hearts and four diamonds, and both from the bidding and East’s failure to return a spade, her shape was revealed as 1-4-4-4.

Declarer won the diamond return with the ace, cashed the club ace, then exited with a third club, knowing that whichever opponent won the trick would be endplayed.

If it was East, then after cashing a club and a diamond, she would have to lead a heart into dummy’s tenace. And if it was West, as happened at the table, she could cash the spade ace and king, but would then have to lead to declarer’s jack.

Once your partner turns up with 5-6 in the black suits, your hand is spectacular in support of spades. You would like to cue-bid in support of clubs, but a four-diamond call would agree the last-bid suit, spades. So raise to four clubs, since the auction is clearly game-forcing, and hope that partner can show a heart control next.


♠ 4 3
 J 8 6 2
 A 10 5 3
♣ A K 6
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1 Pass 1♠ Pass
2 NT Pass 3♠ 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


jim2February 1st, 2012 at 1:26 pm

In the bidding quiz – just as was the case in “yesterday’s quiz – I wonder what South should bid over a likely response by North.

If North does make the 4H bid the answer hopes for, what would South bid? 5D? 6C? 4N?

(In yesterday’s posts, I wondered what South would bid over a likely 4C response to the recommended 3S splinter bid.)

JaneFebruary 1st, 2012 at 3:36 pm

In the bidding quiz, anything wrong with south bidding two diamonds (fourth suit forcing)?

In the hand of the day, it is tempting to pass two spades doubled. South could be happy to defend this time. The one or two trick set could be the desired result with the vulnerability. West was at the top of his weak two bid, but North has to have decent values to force partner to the three level vul. What would you lead as east in a three NT contract? A low spade does not seem right to me.


JaneFebruary 1st, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Sorry, I meant west on lead, not east.

Bobby WolffFebruary 1st, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

Definitely 5 diamonds, which since clubs have been decided upon, the focus should drift to between a small and a grand slam. 6 Clubs is a final decision and merely ace asking doesn’t get the job done. Since partner chose 4 hearts, there is, at least in my judgment, a very good chance that partner is 5-6 making grand slam chances excellent since with a best queen high club suit, for his bid, he is a big favorite to have the AK of spades. Of course, in addition partner may need either the jack of clubs or the queen of spades or, of course, perhaps both.

Bobby WolffFebruary 1st, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Hi again Jim2,

4 Hearts, which should be an alternate spot to 5 clubs as a final contract. From a sophisiticaded standpoint since your hand is limited it should not be a continued cue bid after a non-committal probable denial of diamond control.

Bobby WolffFebruary 1st, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Hi Jane,

When a limit bid and FG bid are both in the ball park, I prefer to choose the limit bid (2NT) since it is descriptive and lets partner be able to judge his hand right now rather than later.

Again, like above, to pass partner’s intended TO double is too much of a shock to one’s stability. Of course, it could be the right action, but since partner can have a wide variety of negative doubles it is better to strictly follow the yellow brick road and, in addition, follow Edgar Kaplans well known advice of taking out partner’s intended TO double.

While I agree with you about not feeling great about leading a low spade against 3NT, other leads do not look attractive so lets hope the old bromide of 4th best serves us well on this hand also.

Thanks always for your support

jim2February 1st, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Thank you for your quiz follow-up answers.

Having made a limit 2N call, I guess it does still seem reasonable to cue bid above game once partner has cue bid first.

On yesterday’s quiz, 4H does seem a good call. Like the quiz answer implied, I also upgraded the South hand with its fit and solid hearts, but I was still unsure if it was worth a game-forcing splinter towards an 11-trick game. Partner’s pointed suit values look to be devalued, and partner may be expecting some soft card help in diamonds to fill out the HCP I would normally have for the 11-trick splinter. I had hoped to get some contrast between the game-forcing splinter and the semi-game-forcing cue bid.

Bobby WolffFebruary 1st, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

You are right on target with my views, since the 3 spade splinter lacked a little substance and surely (at least in this case) doesn’t guarantee a makeable game, especially with the possibility of losing the first 3 diamond tricks. However, since bridge will and should not ever be thought of as a perfect science (or anywhere near), lets explore the possibility of scoring up 10 tricks in hearts.

To be more specific and give a direct opinion I like the splinter more than merely a NGF cue bid, mainly because it is enabling to partner’s judgment. BTW, I think, that after the splinter, I now have the right to exercise captaincy and pass 4 clubs but do not, hoping partner has either 3rd round diamond control or the necessary spade Ace (and not disappoint me with no club ace).

Jim, the secret of a top-class partnership is, in addition to talent and at least some numeracy, knowledge of partner’s tendencies and both players consistency in judgment.

Yes, with some of my many life time bridge partners, I would have passed 4 clubs because of their normal aggressiveness so that when they started to wave a white flag, I respected it.

jim2February 1st, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Thank you so much for your additional help!

Part of my problem is that I have never discussed splinter bids for minor suits with my partners in detail. I see competing bidding concepts here, and I do not know (and would not know at the table) which is operative.

If the splinter established a game force, then fast arrival means 4C is actually a stronger call then 5C, and I cannot pass 4C.

If the splinter is NOT forcing to the 11-trick game, then 4C may be a hard braking attempt by partner holding pointed suit soft points to salvage a plus score.

Would you have bid 2C with KQx x xx AQxxxxx?

Bobby WolffFebruary 2nd, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Of course I would, as would everyone along with his great grandmother.

And even 4 hearts, the only possible game, is in jeopardy if someone is void in clubs (sometimes, even when they are 2-0 the right defense is needed), diamonds are 6-2 or hearts 5-2.

Tidbit of the day: Clubs are likely to be 1-1 and diamonds not to be 6-2 by the bridge sleuthing of neither opponent (and they both had a chance to bid, or rebid, at a very low level) chirping. My estimate of that likelihood is 80+%.

However, your nightmare hand (for the declaring side) is the major reason why bridge, not either you nor I, is in control
and will continue to humble us all when trying to get better. However, from the 2 club bidders perspective your 3 spade bid has just doused him with ice cold water, although he still has hopes of you having diamond control and would be unlikely to only bid 4 clubs (and I, for at least one, could not blame him). What if your hand was, x, AKxxx, Axx(x), Kxx(x). instead of what he had?