Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 7th, 2012

Logic is logic. That's all I say.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

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

*Four-level pre-empt in a minor


In today's deal Jerry Goldfein (who was part of the U.S. National team in Rhodes 15 years ago) produced a neat play in which he followed his instincts and the clues from the auction. Accordingly, he rejected what was apparently his best line, and spotted the winning alternative.

Six diamonds looks like a fine spot, but the 4-0 trumps and the 8-1 club split are potentially very awkward to overcome. On the lead of the club king, Goldfein won and cashed the diamond king. If trumps had not broken 4-0, he intended to ruff a club with the diamond queen and would have come to 12 tricks in comfort. When East won the trump ace and returned a diamond, Goldfein resisted the temptation to try to ruff a club low in dummy, since the auction had strongly suggested the bad club break.

The difficulty is to see an alternative, but the double of the final contract gave a clue to the location of the missing high cards. Goldfein instead drew all the trump and decided to play West for the tripleton heart nine. He crossed to the spade queen to advance the heart jack. East covered, and declarer ruffed. Then he went back to the table with the spade king and played the heart ace followed by the heart 10, covered and ruffed. When the heart nine fell, Goldfein could use the spade eight as an entry to pitch his club loser on dummy’s heart eight, for his 12th trick.

You would like to balance with a double for the majors, but that seems too risky, since you would have no way of coping with a response in clubs. Since game your way might be easy if partner has a balanced opening bid, unsuitable for a double, just bid two hearts and hope to find your way back to spades if partner has decent values.


♠ K Q 8 5
 A J 10 8 3
 Q 7 4
♣ 2
South West North East
2 Pass 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


David WarheitDecember 21st, 2012 at 11:11 am

6S (at least if played by S) is a piece of cake. Both 6S & 6D require spades to be 3-2. 6D requires either diamonds not to be 4-0 or a miracle in hearts; 6S requires W not to have a singleton small diamond. I think this still favors 6D, but a) WDYT (what do y’all think), & b) how can NS get to 6S?

Iain ClimieDecember 21st, 2012 at 11:41 am

Hi David and Mr. Wolff,

I think the assessment is pretty accurate although if spades are 4-1 and diamonds 3-1 there are still chances as well e.g. Singleton 10 or J with West and only one trump. Even with the pre-empt, 6D looks best with just the NS hands visible.

In terms of reaching 6S, south’s bidding suggests to me either that he has diamonds and spades (but probably not 5+ S) or that he was going to bid at least 6D regardless but didn’t wan to discount 7; he could just have bashed out 6D after all. As North can’t tell (unless something exact has been agreed by NS) then I think N has to pass; he could perhaps plough on with the DA and not the D4. If N does read south’s hand and bid 6S, tricks 1 and 2 are likely to be a major disappointment.

Should East double 5H though? Without this, south might play for west to have HQx or Kx by cashing HA and ruffing a small one. Careless talk costs contracts?


Iain Climie

jim2December 21st, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I have complete sympathy for East’s doubles once the opponents entered in 5-land. Consider that West could well have held the ace amidst his/her pile of clubs.

What I do not understand is the 4C bid. It had no preemptive value; it merely gave the opponents more bid choices to help their auction.

Iain ClimieDecember 21st, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

I think 4C may be forced as pass might indicate a desire to play 3NT i- not impossible if East had a bit morer strength and CAx. When South bids 5C though, I think the alarm bells should sound – West could double that if he had any defence at all so his silence suggests caution.



jim2December 21st, 2012 at 3:20 pm

I confess that I do not know the convention that well, and I wait eagerly Our Host’s replies!

bobbywolffDecember 21st, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Hi David, Iain, and Jim2,

Although the American holiday of Thanksgiving was almost a full month ago, today I will make up for lost time and give thanks for both the sophisticated questions and cogent answers from all three of you.

Although I probably do not need to make further comment, I will volunteer the following for consideration:

1. I believe with the actual layout, 6 diamonds turns out to be a far superior contract to 6 spades, although the bidding (West’s long club suit) does complicate that judgment and makes it closer than it might otherwise seem.

2. Whether East should volunteer 4 clubs is between him and his partner, but it seems to be a safer move since a pass by him might be construed by some partners as a desire to risk playing 3NT (already noted by Iain). After all, one reason for playing such a convention is not to bypass 3NT (at least opposite a non-passed hand) as a possible final contract.

3. While 5 clubs by South was not without risk (what should he do if partner responds 6 hearts?) I agree that a grand slam should not be taken off the table by just jumping to 6 diamonds, especially, since perhaps North was trying to direct a major suit contract and then, if so, could convert partner’s 6 heart continuation into 6 spades.

4. I will suggest a Ripstra interpretation to defending against long suit 3NT openings which often do not wind up the final resting spot. J.G. Ripstra (named after a former decent bridge player, long deceased but once my teammate, who lived in America’s heartland and was once a President of the ACBL) invented am early defense to an opponent’s strong NT where both 2 clubs and 2 diamonds were major suit takeouts and to that, the bidder bid his best minor which sometimes made a difference. It has turned out to also be helpful to do it over artificial 3NT openings and I recommend it.

5. It is still a concern of mine and although somewhat amusing, continually surprising to me that our group of bridge lovers and I must say, very good players, to not seem to appreciate the sometimes (often) randomness of various bids which require shots in the dark, but while doing so, the shooter does his best to minimize the risk, but in no way is it possible to insure safety or much less, exact science, when worthy opponents open a high preempt, and we are then left with using our judgment, built only on experience, as our only weapon.

The above is way too much writing, but what else is new? Thanks for your indulgence.