Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 11th, 2013

A man, a plan, a canal — Panama.

Leigh Mercer

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

*Balanced slam-try with four hearts


I’m reluctant to impose sophisticated conventional calls on my readers, but in today’s deal the North-South pair were using an artificial series of calls after Stayman to distinguish between those balanced hands with slam interest that had four–card support for partner, and those that did not. Their agreement was to use a jump to four no-trump after Stayman as quantitative, not Blackwood, and to use four diamonds as agreeing partner’s major with a balanced hand.

South heard his partner make a slam-try and decided his extra shape and nice controls were enough to drive to slam after Blackwood. Indeed, six hearts was a decent contract, but required careful play.

When West led his singleton club, declarer could see he had six tricks in the side suits. To come to 12 tricks, he would need to score two ruffs in one hand or the other and draw trumps after that. Thus he needed to play for ruffs before drawing trump.

He took the opening club lead with the ace and returned the suit. West showed out, correctly discarding a spade rather than ruffing in. Declarer won his club king and now took the top spades, ruffed a spade low, then gave up a club. East won and played a fourth club, and declarer ruffed high and drew trumps, relying on the 3-2 break.

Notice that if declarer plays to take diamond ruffs in dummy with a low trump, then a high trump, East can overruff early and defeat the slam.

Your partner's double is for takeout, not penalties. All low-level doubles of suit bids facing a passing partner are not for penalties, so your partner rates to have a shape broadly similar to 1-3-3-6. If he happens to have four hearts and six diamonds, he will correct your call of three clubs to three diamonds — which you will pass. But for the time being, simply bid your clubs and take it from there.


♠ Q J 7
 9 8 5
 J 8
♣ Q J 10 7 4
South West North East
1♠ 2 Pass
Pass 2♠ Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieApril 25th, 2013 at 10:37 am

Hi Bobby,

It may not seem like much, but the play of 3 rds of spades early can be essential. If West had only 4 spades, for example, playing a third club immediately risks a trump promotion while, even as the cards lie, East can play yet a 4th club if declarer gives up a club before ruffing a spade.

I think there is a slight slip in the text (CAK swapped?) but this doesn’t detract from the instructive nature of the hand. On hands where there are many options, clear thinking and careful timing are crucial



Shantanu RastogiApril 25th, 2013 at 10:42 am

Hello Mr Wolff

Nothing important – but declarer wins first club trick with King not with Ace as mentioned in the write up.

In Bid with the aces should we assume that partner’s diamond suit is not good enough to compete at 3 level in diamonds hence the double with 6331. Law of total tricks works only when we have 6 clubs or 3 diamonds.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Bobby WolffApril 25th, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Hi Iain and Shantanu,

Not only were the club honors expressed incorrectly, the 1-3-3-6 distribution in the BWTA hand should have been explained as 1-3-6-3.
I’ll chalk it up to gremlins present, but in reality it is very careless proof reading and apologies are necessary.

Iain, while you make an interesting possible declarer play point in ruffing a spade early instead of immediately returning a club, somehow it seems more fluid to return a club before committing to taking two ruffs in hand instead of trying to ruff 2 diamonds in dummy one with a low trump, which does not work.

Sometimes by so doing, the declarer will, by West following with a club, possibly elect to go a different route and even resulting in a 3-3 club break which when then might only need a 4-1 trump break instead of 3-2 which could make a successful difference, especially if East had followed with the 10 of clubs at trick one.

After all, with West having only 1 club and therefore able to discard a spade, certainly was odds on to have started with more than 3 spades. However, percentage wise you might be correct. Mine is just a feel.