Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 18th, 2012

We are none of us infallible — not even the youngest of us.

William Thompson

West North
East-West ♠ 8 5
 A K 6 3
 A 10 6 3
♣ A K 4
West East
♠ —
 10 9 7
 K Q J 9 8 4 2
♣ J 6 3
♠ Q J 9 7
 Q 8 5 4
 7 5
♣ Q 9 5
♠ A K 10 6 4 3 2
 J 2
♣ 10 8 7 2
South West North East
3 3 NT Pass
5♠ Pass 6♠ All pass


How will you play six spades on a top diamond lead? You win it in dummy, ditching a club. You have five side-suit winners and will make the slam if you can add seven trump tricks. Since your main objective is to single in your small trump, you ruff a diamond at trick two and cash the spade ace, hoping for a 2-2 trump break. It looks disastrous when West discards a diamond, but you simply continue to score your low trumps. You take the heart ace, ruff a diamond, then cross to the heart king to ruff a heart. Now comes the club ace and a heart ruff. Next you cross to dummy with the club king and lead dummy's diamond 10.

You have taken the first 10 tricks (six tricks in aces and kings and four ruffs in hand) and are down to the K-10 of spades and one losing club. Meanwhile, East has the Q-J-9 of spades left, but he cannot prevent you from scoring your trump 10. If he ruffs with the spade queen or jack, you will discard the club 10 and finesse on East’s forced trump return; if he ruffs low, you can overruff with the 10.

The pitfall to be avoided was that if you take a third diamond ruff too early, East would discard the second of his three clubs. Then you would lose one of your club winners. However, by ruffing the two hearts before the final diamond, you prevented East from making a damaging discard.

It is very tempting to drive for slam here. Your controls are excellent, but you have at most 32 HCP and no great fit. Nonetheless, your great controls argue for taking an aggressive position. (Imagine partner with five decent clubs and an ace and two kings on the side.) Bidding four no-trump as quantitative, not Blackwood, is reasonable, and might get you to six clubs when it is right.


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


jim2September 1st, 2012 at 12:12 pm

What would North have bid on the second round with:

H Jx
C xxxxx

bobby wolffSeptember 1st, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Hi Jim2,

Good question, but to do justice to the answer, we need to go back to the opening bid.

Clearly, at least to me, North should have opened the bidding 1 diamond, not that he could have foreseen this sequence, but for rebid sake (I think he should choose 1NT after 1 heart, but 2 clubs over 1 spade).

In a possibly clearer way to determine choices (both opening bid and later) it is constructive to analyze follow-ups both from yourself and probably even more importantly from your partner (since usually in the heat of battle one is less likely to be concerned with partner’s thoughts as the bidding unravels).

Holding the big responders hand, is there any doubt that he is always going to be headed for a high-level final diamond contract (usually a small slam, but even possibly a grand)? Getting more suits (4 cards or longer) in the mix is great for constructive high-level judgment, although the bastardized part of the game (matchpoints) holding such a priority for high scoring game contracts (NT in particular), sometimes makes do, emphasizing obfuscation rather than bidding where one lives, both as to length and to the quality of the final trump suit.

Although I have already answered your theoretical question, after opening 1 club, it is not possible to now bid 2 diamonds for the obvious reason of being a ridiculous overbid.

You have entered an area, which, when bridge is taught in regular schools, my guess is much of the theory (which you already know, at the very least the key elements) will be pounded into the young player’s mind, allowing the eventual ultimate bidding system to be determined by the first inhabitants of a foreign planet, but nevertheless the key to the future of our great game, which will only get better.