Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 12th, 2012

A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.


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


North-South would probably not want to get to six hearts, but several tables at the Cavendish teams in 2011 were unable to resist the temptation.

On the auction shown, South was fairly confident that he was going to buy a singleton club opposite, and right he was. Michael Seamon led a top club and continued the suit to tap the dummy. Declarer, faced with the choice of what he deemed to be an unlikely squeeze or a trump break, played off the top diamonds, then ruffed a diamond, went to the heart jack, and ruffed another diamond. The 3-1 heart split doomed him to down one.

The same fate beckoned John Kranyak and Gavin Wolpert; they also reached slam, and the defenders also led and continued clubs, but this line of defense persuaded Kranyak that hearts would not split.

Accordingly, he decided to follow a different approach. He ruffed the club, crossed to a heart, ruffed another club, came to the spade ace, and ran the hearts. His luck was in — the spade-diamond squeeze materialized when West had sole control of those two suits, and 12 tricks were duly recorded.

Nicely defended by an unlucky expert? Yes and no! In fact, after the top club lead, the defense must shift to a red-suit (either will do). Declarer can only bring in the diamonds by drawing three rounds of trump without taking a club ruff. Four diamonds, six hearts and the spade ace make only 11 tricks.

At any vulnerability, open this hand one diamond, not two. You are playable in both majors, so you don't want to lose a fit there, and your partner will never expect you to hold such a good hand if you pre-empt. When deciding what level to open, add two points for a six-carder and one for any additional four-carder to your hand's HCP. If the number exceeds 13, open unless you have no aces.


♠ Q 9 8
 J 10 2
 A K 10 7 5 2
♣ J
South West North East

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


David WarheitMay 26th, 2012 at 12:58 pm

“The defense must shift to a red-suit” (at trick 2). No, they can also shift to a spade. Oh, I forgot to mention, east overtook the opening lead, which to me seems like the best non-double dummy defense.

bobbywolffMay 26th, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Hi David,

East overtaking the opening club lead with West only holding KQ doubleton instead of KQx will not work very well with probably a number of overall holdings. However, as with many hands, particularly on defense, the problems involved lend themselves to technique and probabilities usually determined by the bidding with a dash of what partner has decided for his opening lead.

However, it is best to let the winner do the explaining and your analysis is often right on target, particularly your double dummy analysis. It seemed with the bidding given that the declarer was likely to have both the ace and king of spades lessening the need for a club overtake and a spade shift, but different partnerships feature unpredictable styles, only making our game more difficult to always, or even almost always defend in the toughest way.

Iain ClimieMay 26th, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Hi Gents,

Can I raise a brief point on the bidding. Change North’s SQ and CJ to either the SK or DQ and the slam is a much better shot, but measures like the Losing Trick Count and point count can be rather coarse. In bidding these “30 point pack” slams (where there are few or even no wasted values in one suit), it needs to be good points as well in the other 3 suits – I think South is asking quite a lot from North – he wants 3Hs (likely), the singleton club (OK, a given after 4C), good diamonds and the SK or very good diamonds – although is it fair to assume that 3H is stronger than 4H or not here, as per the principle of fast arrival?

As little as the DJ with South could make all the difference, especially if it is Jx rather than singleton J or even Q. Perhaps the old warning about being cautious on misfits still applies here.


Iain Climie

bobbywolffMay 26th, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Hi Iain,

As always you lend a fair and steady hand to the analysis.

At least theoretically when Goren (in reality Milton Work) provided his commercial point count to the public proclaiming among other things that it took about 26 points to make 3NT or 4 of a major, 29 to make 5 of a minor, 33 to produce a small slam and 37, a grand, he also said, probably in the small print, that usually for game hands there are about an average of 4 or 5 wasted points and for slam a few more than that.

Those last words seem to be accurate, at least to some extent and is a just goal to wannabe great partnerships to try and feret out good fits from notso in selecting the final contract.

For anyone who wants specific accurate answers before the dummy comes down, much less to fold like an accordian, while during the bidding, should rather try and get hand records before the contest, instead of harboring such impossible, or at the least, improbable expectations while playing in an honest way.

All, even the best players can do, is increase their probabilities of guessing what to expect and that is the very reason why bridge players who tend to be similar in bidding philosophy mesh much more often than do, perhaps better technical players (and bidders) do, when they start off and usually end the same way when they make a mess, or is it mesh, of their bidding compatibility.

Life and bridge continue to thrive however, but if one is looking for perfection, better to introduce yourself to Bo Derek, many years ago who, at least at that time was a 10 (on a scale of 10).