Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Such are the changes and chances the centuries bring to the nations.
Surely, the ups and downs of this world are past calculation.

Charles Johnson

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


Plan the play in six hearts on the club king lead assuming a 2-1 heart break.

Before you play a card, count your tricks if you decide to draw trump, to avoid unpleasant accidents in the spade suit.

You draw trump in two rounds and have six trump left to take separately; that makes eight tricks. Three black suit winners makes 11, so what you will need to do is establish an extra trick in spades. That would be a good bet if the opponents had not bid (best is to cash the king and ace then lead up to the jack) but here the auction has made this no better than even chance – probably rather worse.

There are several possibilities but the bidding makes the best line stand out. Win the club ace and draw two rounds of trump ending in hand then play the diamond queen, discarding a spade if West does not cover. Win the return, and play the diamond jack. If West covers you ruff, ruff a club to hand and discard dummy’s last spade on the diamond 10; if West doesn’t cover the diamond jack, the spade loser goes away immediately.

Even without the opponents bidding, this line would be a 75 percent chance. The way to calculate the chance of success is to work out that the line works unless both diamond honors are offside – and the chance of that that is one quarter (one half of one half). So you succeed the other three quarters of the time.

It is typically correct to raise partner's overcall with three trump, but here you have a minimum (maybe sub-minimum) for that action and your values are primarily defensive. Worse: you do not want to encourage partner to lead clubs unless he has a natural lead of that suit. So pass, don't raise.


♠ Q 10 9 3
 10 4
 K 7 5 4
♣ 10 9 2
South West North East
1 2♣ Dbl.

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


Iain ClimieOctober 10th, 2012 at 9:53 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I know it worked well here but North’s bid looks a bit silly if West is able to cash two top clubs. Is 4D a better shot to show shortage, good heart support and potential ambitions beyond game? Whether South would accept, of course, is another question. He has no club losers but poor trumps and possible wastage in diamonds (although the D10 is crucial as it happens).

Still, one of my favourite recent partners likes bidding slams this way even if only to see the expression on my face. I know a calm and impassive demeanour is ideally needed, but it can slip when you get the trebuchet treatment almost once per session.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffOctober 10th, 2012 at 11:45 am

Hi my very dear Iain,

Yes, you are right in wanting to bid more scientifically to the right contract and especially when slams are to be considered.

No you are wrong in not bashing, according to Americans or not punting, according to Brits, whether or not slams are in the offing.

Usually, when everything is in its place, the scientific route, especially for slams, should probably be chosen. But, when the opponents have dastardly taken some of our much needed room (2NT in this case) away from us, my view changes to bashing.

Bridge bidding, as we know it, needs enough room to exchange specific necessary information, which, in turn, enables our coded language (bidding), to perform its magic. Without that caveat, IMO, it becomes moot to do so, and punting sometimes receives more favorable leads from the opponents since they will also have to contend with not hearing our science in action, which on percentage often helps our final result, by a sometimes errant opening lead.

By this discussion, we both gain (I hope) by you receiving my opinion and me, by learning a new word, “trebuchet”.

We can, at least hope, that you will score up an otherwise hopeless slam soon, and I will be able to give my partner the trebuchet treatment every now and then.

BTW, the 10 of diamonds is, in reality BIG CASINO in the game of casino. In bridge, and on this hand, it is also a mighty contributor to the depicted making slam and the band played, “Who’d of thunk it”.

Bridge, an exact science? Are you kidding me?

bobby wolffOctober 10th, 2012 at 11:59 am

Hi column readers,

I neglected to mention, in the play of 6 hearts, and before the declarer risks the second diamond play (not a major risk) he should play the king, ace of spades, searching for a doubleton queen before committing in diamonds.

An unlikely happening, but certainly a play which should be made.

Apologies to all who read the column and are entitled to a better explanation.

jim2October 10th, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I have been waiting two weeks to note that declarer should cash the two top spades before the second diamond play.

Our Host executes pre-empts even away from the table!

Iain ClimieOctober 10th, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Hi again,

I did eventually decide (with that partner and some others) that the more direct route has its uses. If you can’t beat them, join them.



Jeff HOctober 10th, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Regarding the direct route. in a recent tea, game my partner held the following in 4th seat:
S AKxxx
H QTxxxxx

and heard dealer open 1D, me overcall 1H, and RHO make a pre-emptive raise to 3D.

She bashed to 6H, not seeing a good way to bid this scientifically.

I held
H KJxxx
D xx
C xx
so we just lose the trump Ace. We gained IMPs when our teammates took the diamond sacrifice.

Iain ClimieOctober 10th, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Hi Jeff,

What about 5NT asking partner to bid 7H with two top H honours althoug AJxxx is enough?



bobby wolffOctober 10th, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Hi Iain,

While 5NT does address the possible AK of hearts, it does nothing for the trump holding you suggest, AJxxx, not to mention the possibility of holding 3 small spades, making the grand slam virtually impossible to make.

Again science vs. brashness. And another factor, not nearly discussed enough and often a major factor when competing against worthy opponents.

When a slam is jumped to, good opponents will often not take what will turn out to be a good sacrifice, knowing that their opponents may often not be in a good contract and sometimes be in a no play slam.

Alas, a poker element in bridge, but make no mistake, the difference between two top-level world partnerships are quite often measured by one of the two pairs having a penchant for goading or tricking their opponents into doing the wrong thing against them, while the other pair, even sometimes more astute with the games technicalities, do not win the major prize nearly as often.

BTW, since we are on the subject, IMO, Key card Blackwood is overrated simply because the king of trumps is not the same as an ace, yet it is counted the same in describing numbers of aces, and some times when and if the king of trumps is the only key card missing, seven can often be made, by the bidding indicating the finesse had to be onside. Also once the strong hand indicates that they have all the three major top trumps, their opponents are then free to lead from the jack of trumps or from nothing in trumps, knowing that his partner doesn’t have the queen and thus making it sometimes much easier for the opponents to make the slam.

Instead when a trump lead is the killing defense it may be led against opponents who use KCB, but not led if they do not.

Ted BartunekOctober 10th, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I think if you leave the spades in place and ruff two clubs before playing the diamond Q you’ll make 6 even if East has both diamond honors as long East holds no more than 3 clubs.

jim2October 10th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Ted –

Bravo Zulu!

(Wish I had seen that. Even if East has a fourth club, South still has a last trump to ruff with. The only downside is that South – after ruffing the unexpected club return – could no longer cash the spade tops before trying the JD, as the AS would be needed as the entry to the 10D.)