Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 13th, 2013

You cannot get a quart into a pint pot.

English proverb

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


North-South used the fact that this was rubber bridge to justify their exuberant bidding to six spades. A favorable lead seemed to give declarer good chances, but the bad heart break required South to play extremely well to justify his optimism.

After winning the trump lead in hand, declarer cashed the heart ace, crossed to dummy with a trump, and ruffed a low heart. Then he went to dummy with another trump and ruffed one more heart.

When West showed out, this appeared to put the final nail in the coffin for South’s contract. But declarer was quick to spot that he was still in business because East, who guarded the hearts, might well have at least two of the missing club honors. Declarer drew the last trump and followed with three rounds of diamonds, ending in dummy. This left him with three clubs in hand, and dummy with the king-jack of hearts and the club queen. Meanwhile East had to make a discard from the Q-10 of hearts and the club A-J.

Since a heart or the club jack would be immediately fatal, East made a good try by discarding his ace. But there was no joy — declarer followed with the club queen, pinning East’s jack. If West won, he could only lead a club into South’s 10-8 tenace. If West ducked, then the heart king would be South’s 12th trick. This is a fine example of the squeeze known as a “winkle.”

The important thing to do here is to suggest diamond support and values, with short spades. You might also want to emphasize this feature of your hand before the auction gets out of control. (You expect to hear a lot of spades to your left on the next round.) The choice is between a splinter jump to three spades or a void-showing call of four spades. I marginally prefer the former.


♠ —
 Q 10 9 6 3
 9 7 6 4
♣ A J 6 4
South West North East
1♠ 2 Dbl.

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


Shantanu RastogiApril 27th, 2013 at 10:49 am

Hello Mr Wolff

If West keeps K 9 of clubs and a Diamond as last 3 cards can the contract be made after Ace of Clubs discard by East ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Iain ClimieApril 27th, 2013 at 11:30 am

Hi Bobby,

Should East double 5C? If he did so South might well duck out of bidding the slam, leaving East to wonder if he’d saved a slam bonus or thrown away a plus score. At the table, I suspect he’d think the latter given the obscure nature of the play declarer found.



jim2April 27th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Shantanu Rastogi –

I missed that! Well done! (I think)

That’s two days in a row we want to hear from Our Host.

bobbywolffApril 27th, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Yes, you now join HBJ from yesterday with superior analysis. Imagine, not throwing away a small diamond when declarer ruffs his second little heart from dummy and by not doing, winds up defeating the hand. Robert Darvas should use this hand as the tale of the 2 of diamonds where he (she) was the setting trick as West followed suit to the three top diamonds with the 853 allowing the deuce to be the setting trick.

Mighty considerate of West and off-the-charts analysis by you. Next time I’ll give one more diamond to East and one more small club to West. Shantanu, please quit showing me up.

bobbywolffApril 27th, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, East should double 5 clubs since he preferred the club lead, and by not doubling and, of course, Shantanu not defending, resulted in allowing the slam to make.

Also South violated a cardinal rule about not having two losers in a suit when deciding to ask about aces and should instead have cue bid 4 diamonds and over a return to 4 spades by partner have then continued by cue bidding 5 hearts only to have partner repeat the sign-off at 5 spades which should end the auction.

Another way of insisting to a learning partnership this rule, is to define any ace asking convention as already deciding on bidding a slam if the partnership is not off more than one ace (or one key card). Inferentially that then would preclude a player from asking for aces when two losers in one suit is a possibility.

Another way of stating the above is:

Ace asking is NEVER used to get to a slam, but only used to keep out of one if there are two aces (or key cards, including the king of trumps as an ace) not held.

bruce karlsonApril 27th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I think I would instinctively hang on to my last diamond in the West seat as an “out” card since South is known to have none. This seems too basic and none of the wizards has mentioned it, so I am probably missing something. What is it??

The cheap seats stick an oar in the water again!!!


bobbywolffApril 27th, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Hi Bruce,

Maybe you need to upgrade yourself to higher price sections.

I’ll remind you however, that at the time for the key discard, no diamonds have been played and possibly the club discard from K97 may look more valuable than one’s emaciated diamonds. However, your play comes up big and at least for that moment in time, you become the resident hero.

Finally wizards sometimes like Frank Morgan, behind the drapes while residing in the Emerald City, is only an imposter and thus nothing special. That is what the scarecrow would say, that is, “if he only had a brain”.

Patrick CheuApril 27th, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Hi Bobby,your preference for three spades in BWTA,sounds cautionary,in view of South’s long hearts,goodish clubs and spade void,is understandable as West may struggle in 4S,if North has good spades,cos East has doubled 2D which implies hearts n clubs,and no good bad 2NT(if they play it) from East to show good spade raise or mixed raise or 3D either. Three spades should help pard to gauge the final level if the auction reaches dizzy heights,leaving EW to have the last ‘guess’.Regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffApril 27th, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Hi Patrick,

Thanks for the accurate analysis. However, if the truth be known, I, in actual play, do not reveal sometimes very helpful information to partner, simply because the enemy also is listening.

As I have probably publicly surmised before, when the opponents always play up to their capabilities against a specific pair that pair is usually deemed to failure and one way to lionize them is to give away information during the bidding which will both help their bidding and, later their play, whether it is as declarer or on defense.

For teaching purposes however, it is always OK to endorse science, since there are never winners and losers declared while talking about this or that hand.

I do not think I need to say much more in order for you to get my point.

Shantanu RastogiApril 28th, 2013 at 4:30 am

Hello Mr Wolff

I’m very small player. The reson I kept a diamond with me that on lead of spdes I expect East to signal his ace of clubs. It would be Ace as I know South is missing an ace and hasnt attempted grand hence missing an ace. So Ace of clubs known I can easily spare a club on third round of hearts. Now east should also know from play of hearts by declarer that he doesnt hold King of clubs as if he holds that card 12 tricks are there. So along with refusing being end played he has surity that partner holds club king so can discard ace of clubs.

Another point regarding bidding is I dont think North’s hand can be opened in first seat. According to me he should have at least three kings or an ace and a king to open with if twelve point or less. In tournament bridge as you’ve mentioned everyone would make cue bid and sign off in 5 spades but in social bridge cue bidding may not be as prevalent and South’s may just use judgement hoping at least one and a half tricks for opening in first seat and bid the slam.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Patrick CheuApril 28th, 2013 at 8:37 am

Hi Bobby,thanks for sharing your thoughts,it is certainly important to mix your game against astute opponents in order to have a chance of success.Bidding scientifically and failing cos they found the right lead is not the recipe for success in certain situations.Regards-Patrick.

Patrick CheuApril 28th, 2013 at 9:31 am

Hi Shantanu and Bobby,as regards the North’s hand,I think, the modern tendency is to open and pass(!)after,if the opps overcall and no fit with pard.Getting the first move in allows pard to be better placed in a competitive auction,in theory.Ideally the heart suit could be more robust KJ10xx or KQ10xx.Pard knows opener is minimum 11-13,if he passes the opponent’s bid and did not reopen with double…unless support double.Regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffApril 28th, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Hi Patrick and Shantanu,

Bridge never has been nor is it now an exact science. The great fallacy in evaluating initial holdings is that by either opening or not opening it is a giant guess and not a pure science.

The modern style would always open the North hand as it is, since it is more an opening bid than it isn’t. Any relatively inexperienced player would soon get into trouble if he didn’t realize that the initial effort of opening, rather than meekly passing is only intended to suggest that he is at least close to an opening and this particular North hand, holding a decent 5 card major, the 10 of diamonds along to go with the KQ (sometimes an extra trick) and 12 HCP’s fits the bill.

The problem with not opening is that in the modern style if it is not opened and LHO opens with a preempt (2 or 3 spades or other obstructive action, even sometimes 1NT) it becomes that much more difficult to even get into the bidding sometimes when next it is the dealer’s turn to bid.

Does it always work? Certainly not, but it has been proven that it is the percentage action to open and the science of the game demands that it is obviously wise to make bids (or at times not) whenever one is asked to use good judgement.

If one is always looking for aces and cinches play either poker or chess, because bridge does not lend itself to that philosophy.