Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

He that lives upon hope will die fasting.

Benjamin Franklin

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


Some ruffing-finesse deals offer you an extra-chance play in the same suit. When today's deal arose, declarer looked no further than the ruffing finesse without trying to combine his chances, and duly tumbled to defeat.

Would you have done better? Cover the East and West cards, and plan how you would play the spade slam when West leads the heart king.

The original declarer saw that a successful ruffing finesse in clubs would allow him to dispose of his heart loser. He won the heart lead, crossed to the spade ace, and cashed the club ace. He then returned to dummy with a trump and ran the club queen, throwing the heart loser from his hand. West won with the club king, and rather than trying to cash a heart — which would have been fatal to the defense — returned a diamond to his partner’s ace, to put the slam one down.

Declarer had missed his extra chance namely that West might hold a doubleton club king (which was a greater possibility than normal, with six hearts in his hand). After winning the heart lead, you should play a club to the ace. You return to dummy with the spade eight and ruff a club high, just in case West began with a doubleton club king. If the king does not appear, you cross to the spade 10 and take the ruffing finesse in clubs. (This is a far better chance than playing West for club K-x-x.)

Your partner's cuebid asks you to describe your hand. You have delayed heart support and should simply bid two hearts now. There is no need to look for no-trump or to feel you need to do more with your 11-count. Your partner should know you have values and heart tolerance.


♠ K 10 8
 A 5
 J 7 4
♣ Q J 10 7 3
South West North East
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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 12th, 2013 at 9:37 am

I don’t understand the 4NT and 5S bids. Can you please explain?

M JhaFebruary 12th, 2013 at 9:48 am

In the bidding example, I was just wondering that instead of West if South is dealer and opens 1H and playing 2/1 I bid 1NT as south. West bids 2D and Partner cue bids 3d. What would be my bid???

Bob HerremanFebruary 12th, 2013 at 1:34 pm

… and declarer can even afford a 2nd C ruffer, against Kxx in west.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Hi David,

The answer to your appropriate bridge questions could be entitled “The anatomy of a contrived bridge hand”.

1. South’s hand should be valued as perhaps between a 3 1/2 and 3 3/4 spade bid, but rounded off to a full fledged 4 spade effort.

2. North’s hand might have passed, giving partner some slack, but, if not, ventured 5 hearts as a slam try, which would then allow partner to return to only 5 spades, therefore making up for pushing the envelope slightly to begin with, although some good players I know would be happy to see South’s hand as a full 4 spade bid and be delighted to accept the slam invitation, especially as the slam try North chose (5H) would immediately stop the possibility of losing the first two tricks.

3. Instead North took a more aggressive approach and by bidding Roman Key Card Blackwood (RKCB) was already committed to bidding the slam as long as he was not missing two of the five controls (a message always sent by the use of any form of ace asking, which is ONLY used to keep from bidding a slam if missing too many controls*)

*vitally important and 100% (as far as I know) played just that way throughout the high-level world bridge world but misused by lesser experienced players who do not fully understand the reason for ace asking).

Another way of expressing the above is: One never uses ace-asking to get to a slam, but rather to keep from getting to one when off two controls!

4. Slam, in spite of the slight aggression is a reasonable contract, which merely requires either the king of clubs to be in the hand which has fewer hearts (more vacant spaces, probably 3 more than partner) and also cold, if the declarer plays it to best advantage, by ruffing the 2nd club as an additional chance before the slam deciding discard needs to be made if the king of clubs did not fall.**

5. This hand did not come up, but rather a teaching hand discussing, as declarer, giving oneself extra chances before an ultimate decision, which percentage wise would be to play for the king of clubs to be with RHO since that hand (already mentioned figured to have more clubs than did LHO).

**Gaffe to be reported as an answer to an observant reader

4. South’s 5 spade response showed 2 controls (Aces of Spades and Clubs plus the Queen of Spades, with a 5 heart response also showing 2 controls, but without the spade Queen).

Jeff HFebruary 12th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

@David – I think 4NT is Roman Key Card, and 5S shows 2 keycards (Aces and King of trump count – in this case 2 Aces) and the Q of trump.

@Bob – I think that if East has C Kxxx(x), you are an entry short if you ruff twice. 2 trump entries are used to ruff clubs. You can now cross with your final trump and ruff out the K, but you have no more entries to cash the long club and discard a heart. If the West follows low on the first ruff, you have to choose between the 3-4 split with the K in west or East having the K and 3-4 or 2-5. As Bobby points, with 6 hearts the 2-5 split is more likely and even if West has 3, the odds favor the King being in the hand with 4 clubs.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Hi M Jha,

Interpreting your question, if partner opens 1 heart, RHO passes, and I, as South, respond 1NT. West then overcalls 2 diamonds and partner (North) responds 3 diamonds and then, of course, East passes, I now have a better hand than originally expected, since I have only the jack of diamonds probably wasted have a choice of now jumping to 4 hearts with Ax, or bidding a forcing 4 clubs with the idea of then supporting hearts (unless partner merely returns to 4 hearts, but even if he does, I think my hand warrants raising to 5 hearts, because of its overall value, since partner’s 3 diamond cue bid should not be taken lightly. In other words, now bidding 4 hearts over partner’s cue bid is the conservative choice, but first bidding 4 clubs then raising hearts or carrying on to 6 clubs if partner raises to 5 is well within proper judgment. Of course, it somewhat depends on the tendencies of this particular North and perhaps enthusiasm should be lessened if he is always aggressive in his actions.

I hope the above is the type of answer you are seeking and that I got what you are telling me accurately.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Hi Bob,

At first I thought you were correct and that we had made a significant gaffe, but in reality, in an attempt to ruff out Kxx in clubs with West we will be short an entry if East had the King of clubs since the third trump entry will have been used and sadly we do not have enough entries to both return to dummy to ruff out the king of clubs and then return again to cash it (discarding the losing heart).

Erase the gaffe words above, but believe it or not, I appreciate your involvement and taking the time to voice your objection. Also, your line would work, if indeed West had the Kxx of clubs originally, but that is not the percentage play.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for your corroboration, especially in dealing with Bob’s main theme.

Since we are dealing with simultaneous thinking from afar and not all of us being at King Arthur’s round table discussing it, sometimes we have to settle for the logistics of the internet, which possibly is not 100% perfect, but until something better comes along, it sure beats former communication, even conference calls, where interruption often follows interruption, causing confusion.

Again, I certainly appreciate your accurate efforts.

M JhaFebruary 13th, 2013 at 4:39 am

Dear Sir
Not only you have interpreted my query accurately, your clarification was so rich that I am really educated. So many thanks to you!!!