Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 18th, 2012

The good effect of fortune may be short-lived. To build on it is to build on sand.

Marquis de Racan

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


When his partner opened with a weak two-spade bid, North could visualize a grand slam if South held the ace and king of trump. His leap to five no-trump passed exactly this message: "Please bid the grand slam if you hold two of the three top honors." Note that it would not have solved North's problem had he used Roman Key-card Blackwood instead, since the heart ace would have been worthless.

Since South held only one of the three top trump honors, the bidding stopped in a small slam. How would you play this when West leads ace and another trump?

There are 11 tricks on top, including one heart ruff. Which minor suit should you play first?

Declarer decided to play two top clubs, intending to ruff the suit good if a 4-2 break came to light. When West showed out on the second round of clubs, declarer took a diamond ruff, hoping for a 3-3 break in that suit. No luck came his way and he had to go one down.

Curiously, it is better to play on diamonds first. If that suit breaks 5-1, you still have the one (ruffing) entry that you need to take advantage of a 4-2 break in clubs. Diamonds break 4-2, in fact, so you can easily establish a long card in that suit.

The general principle is to play first on the suit that may need more entries to establish and reach the long cards.

There is no need to panic and pass; your partner has shown a very good hand with 5-6 pattern, and longer diamonds than spades. You have very little to offer him, but you know diamonds rate to play better than spades because of the extra trump. So just bid three diamonds now, and let your partner decide where to go from there.


♠ 8 6
 10 8 7 2
 Q 8
♣ J 10 9 6 4
South West North East
1 Dbl.
Pass 1 1♠ Pass
2 Pass 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


bobbywolffJune 1st, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Hi everyone,

In yesterday’s column, it was I, who mistakenly wrote under Judy’s name, since presently I am in Schaumburg, Illinois waiting to start today the Senior Trials for Senior representation to the World Championship in Lille, France in late August.

When I did write I forgot that I was using Judy’s computer with her name on the comment page and I do apologize for adding confusion, particularly when I was the one who thought Mike was the same Mike who had written just previously.

However, on today’s hand, although there was no mention in the column about it, what happens if West against 6 spades makes the brilliant lead of the queen of hearts since North’s 5NT bid, the grand slam force, asking partner to bid 7 spades with 2 of the 3 top honors cries out to be void in hearts (otherwise he would never make such an invitation)?

My guess, because of the unlucky division of the minor suits for declarer, that he would go down in 6 spades after trumping the heart lead in dummy. Obviously there was not enough room for that theme plus the message used of going after establishing the diamonds before clubs after the lesser lead of the ace and one spade.

What that proves, at least according to me, is just how very interesting important potential swing hands can really be, and the room for a sheer brilliancy on almost every street corner. At least this hand may get everyone’s mind away from what happened yesterday.

jim2June 1st, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Good luck!


Michael BeyroutiJune 1st, 2012 at 12:38 pm

thanks for all the clarifications, Mr Wolff.
(I was wondering why Judy Kay-Wolff’s style had become so much like Bobby Wolff’s..)
Good luck in Schaumburg!

Iain ClimieJune 1st, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Hi Mr Wolff,

Best of luck for the trials and a stray thought on today’s column. Some discipline is essential with weak 2 bids. If south is the sort to have open with SK9xxxx and a few bits, or even SJ9xxxxx north is trickily placed and might have to give up on a possible grand slam, settling for 5S as a general try.

Could there be a case for using 5H here as a try, with south owning up to a rubbish suit with 5S, then codified bids above that showing trump quality? Widely varying weak 2 bids can be very effective but, in 1st or 2nd hand, too much license can fix partner.



Howard Bigot-JohnsonJune 1st, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Hi there, Fascinating hand in that declarer needs two heart discards. Although bad breaks may be likely , he knows he has already got one guaranteed discard in clubs ( possibly 2 or 3 depending on 3-3 or 4-2 break ). But how easy will it to obtain a discard in diamonds . Answer : straightforward providing the suit breaks no worse than 4-2.
So to my way of thinking it makes good sense to try diamonds first, using one club and a heart ruff for entries. Because now you only need only one of the minor suits to break 4-2 to bring the slam contract home.
A real good lesson hand in logical thinking.

Jeff HJune 1st, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Good luck. Enjoy the area while you are there. I used to work a shirt distance from where the trials are being held.

I have had the good furtune to have played with or against two participants in the Senior trials. Kenny Eichenbaum on the Simson team and your teammate Arnie Fisher. I have also played against one of the women in the Women’s trials. What a great game where somebody who just plays for the joy of doing so can compete (not always successfully) against high level competition from time to time.

Wen TaoJune 1st, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I enjoy reading your column almost every day.

In today’s deal (June 1, 2012 or May 18, 2012), I agree with your analysis and comments. However, I feel that there is one more recourse available to the declarer even he started on the wrong foot. After found out 1-5 club break, the declarer could infer that it is quite possible that West holds long diamonds. So he can squeeze the West in red suits. As the cards lie, he will be home.

Wen Tao

jim2June 1st, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Wen Tao –

I missed that!

Declarer would pitch one small heart on the third club honor, (maybe cash one high diamond), ruff a club, ruff the other small heart, ruff the last club, and then run trump waiting to see if West pitched the AH. If not, then cross to the diamonds.

So, declarer essentially played West for 2-7-3-1, but West might have hazarded 4H with that, instead of 3H, as was bid with 2-6-4-1.

I like it!

Ted BartunekJune 1st, 2012 at 7:45 pm

If the QH is the opening lead, can’t the hand simply be crossruffed? What am I overlooking?

jim2June 1st, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Ted –

I could make the crossruff work, but only double dummy.

What carding play sequence would you use?

David WarheitJune 2nd, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Wen Tao: Brilliant comment!
Ted: You are overlooking nothing.
Jim2: Ted’s line is not double dummy but it does require certain distributions of the opponents’ cards to succeed. After ruffing the opening lead of the heart queen, declarer should then cash the ace-king of diamonds (failing if someone has 0 or 1 diamonds unless he also has the singleton ace of spades). If no one ruffs then ruff a diamond. If diamonds are 3-3, he should ruff a second heart, cash exactly one club, and then ruff a good diamond. If west overruffs (or east ruffs in with the ace), the hand is over. Otherwise ruff the last heart, ruff another diamond and play trumps, succeeding unless trumps are 4-0 or the person with the ace of trumps has all 6 clubs and no more than 2 trumps. If diamonds are 4-2 with east having 4, ruff a second heart and hope clubs are 3-3. If diamonds are 4-2 with west having 4, ruff a second heart, CASH EXACTLY ONE CLUB, and continue with the crossruff, succeeding unless trumps are 4-0 or clubs 6-0 or west has 5 clubs and no more than 2 trumps.

David WarheitJune 2nd, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I made a slight misstatement. I should have said: if diamonds are 3-3 do not cash any clubs.

Michael BeyroutiJune 2nd, 2012 at 3:22 pm

to Ted (and Jim2)
while our host is busy with the trials, i might venture answering you behind his back.
When the lead is the H Q, you can’t quite crossruff the whole hand. Ruff the lead, cash top diamonds, ruff a diamond back to hand, ruff second heart in dummy, another diamond ruff back to hand, ruff third heart in dummy and finally one last diamond ruff back to hand. At this point the lead is in the South hand and declarer still has his two small clubs. If he now plays a trump, West will take his ace and stick the lead in dummy by exiting with his singleton club. Which is also what happens when West overruffs the fifth diamond. No recovery. At least, that’s the way I tried to play the crossruff and didn’t succeed.

I especially liked Wen Tao’s contribution. Neat! However, the original lesson from the article still prevails.

Michael BeyroutiJune 2nd, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Thanks David.
“Cash exactly one club”: that’s the solution for the crossruff to work. I didn’t think about that.

jim2June 2nd, 2012 at 10:50 pm

The cash exactly one club was the “double dummy” part to which I referred.

Note that if clubs were 3-3 or 2-4, West would be able give East a club ruff.

Also, since the crossruff line requires diamonds to be no worse than 4-2, then the column line always works when the crossruff would and the column line still has the club suit in reserve for when diamonds are 5-1 or 6-0.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 3rd, 2012 at 4:10 am

Hi everyone,

Judy and I just returned to our room in Shaumburg and, although thoroughly worn out (we lead our worthy opponents by only 7 IMPs with 30 of the scheduled 90 board match history). I’m very happy to report that almost everyone has contributed accurate comments on the exciting 6 spade hand, so I can just read them and agree.

It’s always pleasant to set most hands with problems straight, but it is even nicer to have all the help you guys provide be right-on, not to mention valuable, to all who read them.

Thanks for the well-wishes which our team will undoubtedly need, before this marathon begins to end.

From me, not Judy, but she instructed me to also send her love.