Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

But we're clasping hands at the crossroads now
In the Fiend’s own night for weather.

Richard Hovey

South North
East-West ♠ K 5 2
 K 9 8 6 3
 8 6
♣ 10 7 3
West East
♠ J
 J 2
 K J 10 5 4
♣ A K Q 8 2
♠ Q 10 4
 10 7 5 4
 9 3 2
♣ J 6 5
♠ A 9 8 7 6 3
 A Q
 A Q 7
♣ 9 4
South West North East
1♠ 2 Pass Pass
Dbl. 3♣ 3 Pass
3♠ Pass 4♠ All pass


When the bidding suggests that suits will be breaking unkindly, that the key finesse will fail, and an endplay is not an option, it may be the intermediate cards that will come to the rescue.

Against four spades West kicked off with three rounds of clubs, South ruffing the third. Prospects looked poor since the diamond king was almost certainly wrong, and with West having announced at least 10 cards in the minors, the 2-2 trump break that declarer needed for his contract to succeed looked unlikely.

South continued with the spade ace, collecting the jack from West and the four from East and was now at the crossroads. If spades were indeed 2-2, then he could afford to lose a diamond, and either dummy’s last trump or the heart king would take care of his third diamond.

But instinct told him that the spade jack was bare, which meant that West was likely to hold a doubleton heart. If that doubleton included the jack or 10 — or both — dummy’s heart pips would provide two diamond discards.

So declarer played the heart ace, then the queen. When West produced the jack, declarer overtook the queen with the king and ran the nine. East covered, South ruffed, then returned to dummy with the spade king, West showing out. One diamond went away on the heart eight and another on the fifth heart, and declarer had 10 tricks.

A simple call of three clubs shows your basic hand shape. However, if you consider, as I do, that you have too much slam potential for this call, then jump to four clubs to emphasize the good suits and extra shape. Once partner bids the fourth suit, it is highly unlikely here that three no-trump will be the right final contract.


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


Yasser HaiderFebruary 13th, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Hi Bobby
The way I played it is to duck a spade at trick 4, win the presumed heart return from West with A then overtake QH and play along the line suggested. I think that works too. Looking at all 4 hands, it is also possible to play AH then QH at tricks 4 and 5 and then duck a spade to W who is end played. Hope I’m not too far wrong.

jim2February 13th, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Yasser Haider –

I am not Our Host, but I think your first line fails when West is 2-1-5-5. The line suggested by the column wins when West is 2-1-5-5 OR 1-2-5-5 (with an heart honor doubleton).

Still, with four spades out versus six hearts, the 1-2-5-5 shape is a bit more likely than the 2-1-5-5.

(Note that declarer cannot succeed when West is 0-3-5-5 or 3-0-5-5 — other possible shapes)

By the way, if you ruff the third club, cash the heart AQ, and then lead a small spade from hand, East can always overtake West and lead a diamond.

Iain ClimieFebruary 13th, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Hi Gents,

After west has cashed 2 clubs (and knows the third will be ruffed) can’t we assume he is not 2-1-5-5 or he’d probably be leading a heart?

I’d have got ns to 4S quicker though – I’
d have bid 2S over 2D as north.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffFebruary 13th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Hi Yasser, Jim2, and Iain,

Yes and no, some of those variations work as well as the suggested line. The 2-1-5-5 with West will work, because if West ruffs the second heart, and leads either a diamond (into the AQ) or a club and declarer throws a diamond from dummy the contract is home. However, the attempting to duck a spade into West can be thwarted by East putting up the Queen of spades at trick one (not an impossible play), but even so the diamond back from East will not defeat the hand since declarer can rise and still (if finding a doubleton honor in hearts with West can still accomplish the original plan, even if East not West starts the diamonds). Again, however if the original West was 2-1-5-5 and his singleton heart was not the jack or the ten, all lines suggested fail if declarer does not draw the second trump making the “crossroads” quote appropriate before declarer decides to play West for only a singleton trump.

Yes, Iain I, like you, would have raised spades immediately, but years ago when 4 card majors were the rage, often responder remained conservative in deciding to raise a possible 4 card major opening with only 3. And after all, in your neck of the woods, Acol is still the preferred system, even though, in spite of that possibility, both you and I would get our bid off our chests and let the devil take the hindmost, or something like that.

Jane AFebruary 13th, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Hi Bobby,

How much bigger would the BWTA south hand have to be to bid three clubs after north responds one heart? As you said earlier, NT does not look intriguing and since you recommended a jump to four clubs after the fourth suit forcing call, would it be OK to make the jump earlier? Just curious. I know the jump is forcing, but north has options; rebid hearts, preference back to diamonds, NT, support clubs, etc. Do you play a jump like this as game force, or one round force? We play fourth suit forcing to game, but what about the jump, especially in minor suits, or does that matter?

Thanks, as always.

TedFebruary 13th, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Hi Bobby,

As you and Iain stated above, I also would have bid 2S with the North hand. This would have likely lead to an auction that went

1S – 2D – 2S – P

Given that auction, would you still play the hand the same way, or play for one of the two majors to split evenly?

jim2February 13th, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Mr. Wolff –

Would you please explain how the new line would work for the 2-1-5-5 example?

That is, the suggestion was “to duck a spade at trick 4, win the presumed heart return from West with A then overtake QH and play along the line suggested.”

Wouldn’t West’s ruff of the QH be the setting trick?

On the other suggested line (“it is also possible to play AH then QH at tricks 4 and 5 and then duck a spade to W who is end played”), East is the LAST to play to the spade duck, and can easily work out overtaking the JS with the QS to avoid West being endplayed.

JoeFebruary 13th, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Jane, I think a jump shift in that sequence [1d-1h-3c] is game forcing, even in the minors. For me it shows 18 or so HCP, or a slightly stronger hand than that; if my partner is a minimum without a good fit, say, KJxxx-Qxx-xxx-xx, I certainly wouldn’t want to play a game with that hand. Give me a 6-5 distribution or add the Qd and I’d be willing to do it, or perhaps a better heart honor, but not 1-2-5-5 with only 13 useful HCP.

However, once my partner shows game forcing values to my minimum-showing bidding, the hand gets a lot better – now that KJTxx might be slightly better as P might easily have Qd or Ad, and the Js are potentially useful points as well.

Patrick CheuFebruary 13th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Hi Jim,if declarer ducks a spade to west on trick 4 and wins heart return with ace, then he must play ace of spades before overtaking heart queen with king.If east overtakes Js with Qs, and returns diamond, ace of diamond and ace of spades again neutralises 2155.Sure our host will correct me if I have miss the whole point here 🙂

bobby wolffFebruary 13th, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Hi Jane,

Significantly better. Perhaps the ace of diamonds instead of the jack. Since, like the 4th suit bid by responder, the opener’s jump shift is also forcing to game

A good rule of thumb is that a GF by opener’s rebid should either be made, with excellent suits as my above opinion suggests, or by an up to now great fit with partner’s response such as a three or even four card fit which the opener intends to bid at his next turn, but he wants to: 1. Picture his distribution by first mentioning his secondary length, 2. Confirm the great fit on his 2nd rebid by jumping again, if necessary.

The bridge corollary to remember is that bridge hands should never be thought of as good, medium or poor in itself, but rather only in relation to the previous bidding. Hence the suggestion of once 2 clubs is rebid, then over the good hand opposite (4th suit bidder) a now jump to 4 clubs confirms a sound hand with at least 5-5 relying on partner to now have a fit in one of the two suits bid by partner, but if not, rather than to have excellent suits of his own, which next round, if practical (partner rebidding spades for example) to prefer partner’s hearts to his spades.

No doubt that an immediate jump rebid of 3 clubs by opener would be a total game force, no less.

bobby wolffFebruary 13th, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Hi Ted,

Good question, and in the absence of being at the table would have to guess the likely distribution of the opponents. That evidence comes in many flavors, the dog which barked, (2 diamonds) and the same dog which didn’t, no 5 clubs (but perhaps a hesitation over 4 spades) and LHO not bidding 2NT (minor suit hand) immediately, plus of course other table action with East’s signalling helping declarer to determine the original distribution.

It’s all a guess of course, but somehow the very best players guess much more accurately than not so great players, based on poker and numeracy talent. A simple request, made by other interested players, especially partners and teammates, is “Just win, baby”, a famous remark once made popular by a football owner which reeks for assessing what is happening at the table, without seeing all the hands.

Good luck!

jim2February 13th, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Patrick Cheu –

I do not disagree with you, but that was not the stated line.

bobby wolffFebruary 13th, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Hi Jim & Patrick,

Yes, whatever I said, I, of course, did mean to say that the ace of spades is then played before the hearts are attacked and then, of course, with the hearts being able to be established via a singleton or doubleton honor with West, whichever West started with, 1-2-5-5 or 2-1-5-5.

I feel confused, so my writing may be proving that I am, but I am not concentrating as I should, having moved on to other unrelated thoughts and, at least at this time, having time restraints.

In other words, HELP!

Patrick CheuFebruary 14th, 2013 at 7:45 am

Hi Bobby,perhaps a bit of Ts Eliot would help: ‘Because I know that time is always time,And place is always and only place,And what is actual is actual only for one time,And only for one place,I rejoice that things are as they are and,I renounce the blessed face,And renounce the voice,Because I cannot hope to turn again, Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something,Upon which to rejoice.’Ash-Wednesday,1930.Best regards-Patrick.

bobby wolffFebruary 14th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Hi Patrick,

Thanks for the advice and, although I was not into TS Eliot, (only because he was never suggested to me, and time and place, for some reason, never led me to him), but he surely seems to get it.

Furthermore I am impressed by your quote of his and particularly since he was even older than I, marking him with more experience and likely even more qualified about the meaning of life than others.

His quote of 83 years ago yesterday is impressive and thanks to you we can share it.

Thank You!