Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The Poets … overtake
The Ideal with the brush, or, soaring, wake
Far in the rolling clouds their glorious strings.

Lloyd Mifflin

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


In today's deal you have bid to what looks like an excellent no-trump slam. North's jump to six may seem precipitous, but he has so many high cards that it would be pessimistic not to drive to slam.

Since you have nine tricks outside hearts, three tricks from that source will give you your contract. However, while it might appear that all you need to do is find one heart honor onside, you will need to exercise considerable care in managing your entries. Can you see why?

The point is that you may need to take three finesses in hearts, so you should arrange your play of the spade suit with this in mind. After winning the club lead, you play the spade king and overtake with the ace. The first heart finesse loses to West’s queen and you win the club return. You then lead the spade 10, overtaking with dummy’s queen when West follows low.

If spades break 3-2, you can afford this double overtake; the spade jack will draw West’s last spade. If instead East began with a singleton spade, you will have cleared the way for a finesse of dummy’s spade eight! Let’s say that East does indeed show out on the second spade. You take a second heart finesse, which wins, and return to dummy with a marked finesse of the spade eight. After cashing the spade jack and spade three, you finesse for the third time in hearts and mark up your slam.

How many points are there in this deck? Since it is very common nowadays to use a jump to two spades as semi-pre-emptive (the same hand but with, say, ace-fifth of spades), it is not easy to show a limit bid in spades. Best is to pass — which initially indicates nothing to say — then to jump in spades to show a real spade invitation.


♠ A Q J 8 3
 8 5 2
 8 7 5
♣ Q J
South West North East
1 Dbl. Rdbl.

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


jim2October 31st, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I do not disagree with the suggested line of play, but clearly space limitations prevented Our Host from addressing other spade suit layouts. If West shows out on the first or second spade, declarer can no longer over-take on that lead and must now hope for favorable heart distributions.

For example, West void in spades forces declarer to abandon any overtake strategy and hope instead that hearts will come in with only one loser (East holds KQ(x) in hearts).

Similarly, West showing out on the second spade forces declarer NOT to overtake a second time, to play out the spade suit, and hope that East began with Hx(x) in hearts.

bobby wolffOctober 31st, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Hi Jim2,

Terence Reese once said in a prelude to one of his earlier great bridge books, “There is a demand nowadays for a man who could make wrong appear to be right”.

Perhaps he was referring to himself, perhaps not, but in either case, if that demand focused on what Paul Harvey often described as “The rest of the story” you would be a “clean up expert” which, with extra space available (as you alluded to) you described the proper way to play the hand, when upon at trick 2 the declarer led the king of spades with the intention of overtaking as long as West followed, etc.

Needless for me to echo, that you are very good (super) in following up with the necessary details which often are very much a factor in achieving technical perfection in the event of glitches (or poisoned flowers) near the yellow brick road on the way to the Emerald City.

Thanks for your continual efforts to tidy up what sometimes becomes crucial to success.

The Scarecrow

jim2October 31st, 2012 at 11:04 pm

I have waited to comment on the BWTA quiz until I discussed it with my partner.

Our view is that passing with that hand is dangerous, though I think the danger is less than it would be if the suit were hearts. That we have three cards in the other major also helps, in case partner is coming in that suit.

Pard would bid one spade, a free bid that understates our values but has the merit of getting the suit into play, as well as suggesting five of them. I want to make a value bid in spades, but I am not sure what that would be.

I tried to fashion layouts that avoided outright psychic bids. The only ones I could come up with had East playing coy with very long diamonds, perhaps:


4-4-3-2 —- 1-1-7-4


I do not have high confidence, though.

Pard’s 1S might draw a heart bid we could then raise. Passing now might see the bidding go:

1D – D – Rd – P
P — 1H – 4D -?

Do we raise to 4H when partner might have only four? Bif 5S when partner might have five hearts and a doubleton spade?

jim2October 31st, 2012 at 11:08 pm

By “Pard’s 1S” — I meant the 1S bid advocated by my partner.

bobby wolffNovember 1st, 2012 at 1:59 am

Hi Jim2 and partner,

Since an immediate jump to 2 spades (certainly the value bid) is now compromised because of the lack of frequency (after RHO’s redouble) of the partner of the doubler having enough to bid it, the expert community has dug itself a hole and left it possible to fall into.

In reality, if the redoubler, instead, would have merely leaped to 4 diamonds, every expert in the universe would bid 4 spades and sneer at any criticism received for doing so (especially while holding 3 diamonds).

We decided on discussing what bids mean after a redouble by the opponents, a subject all aspiring partnerships should raise, just to make sure the partner’s are at least close, to being on the same page.

My guess is that if East has some values but very long diamonds, their opponents, us, are 75% to be able to take 10 tricks in spades.

The only 2 references I will make for that comment is my experience plus, of course, the law of total tricks.

One fact to keep in mind is that when Mr. Goren stated long ago that it took about 26 points to make a major suit game, he expected about 6 or 7 of those points, both high cards and distributional, to be wasted. If partner is void in diamonds which very well could have prompted a TO double with, Kxxx, KQxx, void Axxxx we are probably the favorite to make a slam and I didn’t even include the jack of hearts.