Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.

Abigail Adams

North North
Neither ♠ 10 2
 K Q
 A J 7
♣ A 9 7 6 4 2
West East
♠ J 9 8 5 3
 K 10 6 3 2
♣ Q 3
♠ K Q 6 4
 J 9 7
 Q 9 4
♣ 10 8 5
♠ A 7
 A 10 8 6 5 4 3
 8 5
♣ K J
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1 Pass 2♣ Pass
4 Pass 5 Pass
6♣ Pass 6 All pass


Today's deal arose in the Mixed Pairs in Biarritz, France, a few years ago when George Awad was tested as declarer in a tricky heart slam.

South’s rebid of four hearts would normally have ended the auction, but North, Marie Awad, decided that her strong hearts and minor-suit aces justified a slam invitation. Her five-diamond call was a cue-bid implying heart support, and South’s bid of six clubs suggested a club slam. With weak clubs and strong hearts, North reverted to hearts.

The opening diamond lead attacked a vital entry to dummy, and made Awad’s task vastly more difficult. But he found an ingenious plan that would succeed against a normal 3-2 club split, with the trumps divided no worse than 3-1. After winning the diamond ace, he cashed the club king and ace, then ruffed a club with the heart ace, establishing the suit while avoiding the risk of an overruff. He next crossed to the heart queen, led a winning club, and discarded his diamond loser. East ruffed in with the jack, but South was now safe. Whatever that player returned, South could reach the dummy with the heart king to discard his spade loser on a club winner. He emerged with seven trump tricks, three club tricks and two aces.

Awad’s safety play did not entirely rule out the chance of an overtrick. If West’s singleton trump had been the jack, South would have been able to overruff with the 10 on the fourth round of clubs without running any risk.

It would be nice if two diamonds were natural and to play. However, most people, myself included, play New Minor Forcing, where this call is artificial with at least invitational values. So your choice must be to pass or rebid two spades. I’d guess to pass – my side-suit may be more useful in no-trump than in spades.


♠ J 9 8 5 3
 K 10 6 3 2
♣ Q 3
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1♠ Pass 1 NT 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


bruce karlsonMay 18th, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Since there is no chance that I would or could find a legitimate play, I would play a low diamond from dummy at trick one. If I were sufficiently casual, East could be forgiven for playing the Q, putting the 10 in my hand. Obviously if the 10 and K or Q are with East there is no guess but I am no worse off anyway. Methinks that gives me an almost certain parking place for my spade loser and the slam slithers home…


Jane AMay 18th, 2013 at 1:13 pm

If declarer ducks the first diamond, and east cleverly puts in the nine, when it wins, he can switch to the spade king. But should east do that? If the diamond nine wins the first trick, it looks so tempting to lead back the spade king, which would make declarer squirm. But looking at the hand, it seems more important to knock out a potential entry to the club suit. WWBD? (What would Bobby do) East would like to see if he can make this slam slither into the vast waste land. Should south take the first diamond to avoid the spade switch?

bruce karlsonMay 18th, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Jane… Think most club players would play the Q fearing letting an “impossible” slam to make. Further, a perceptive E might also wonder if a club player declarer is likely to try the swindle. Unfortunately I doubt that I would have the nerve to play the 9. Interested in BW’s thoughts…


Bobby WolffMay 18th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Hi Bruce & Jane,

George Awad has been a noteworthy player for at least 40 years to which I can attest, since in the early days of the Aces (circa 1968) we traveled to NY (of course, a hub of great players) and played against him and his wife Marie, and he always showed great knowledge and love of the game and together with Marie bid, at least up to the standards of that day.

Of course, by ducking the diamond at trick one, if East plays the queen instead of the winning play of the nine, or even after playing the nine does not return the queen of diamonds, eliminating declarer’s entry to the eventually good clubs, the declarer will become a duck of the dead variety.

However George circumvented that happening by concocting his brilliant scheme of sacrificing a trump trick in order to save both a diamond and a spade loser, but establishing an entry to the good clubs by leaving a major heart honor in dummy as the key entry.

Who among us cannot now realize the sheer beauty of our game and though at times (like the play he made which may seem almost impossible to fathom) the realization is that many of us have the power to execute such a play … if:

1. We see the hand globally including all the pitfalls, but seeking the solution.

2. We do not fall for the poisoned flowers along the way of narrow thinking (concentrating on losing only one trick instead of two) and instead open our minds to creating the vital entry available at the appropriate time.

3. Without the diamond lead, but rather supposedly a spade, it is easy to see that all we have to do is win the spade in hand begin to draw trump then return to hand with the club king, finish pulling trump and then establish clubs with the diamond ace as the entry for all 13 tricks. In other words, at matchpoints we would lose to all others who received a spade lead (no doubt quite a few) and all of them would make an overtrick, while we had to play brilliantly to just make our contract.

Justice in bridge only applies to long range results, not this hand or that, and while the Awads might only receive an average board, his play was world class, nothing less, while those blessed with a spade lead merely took advantage of it with no problem at all.

Upon receiving a diamond lead, yes there would be some 3rd seat players who would play the queen, but the nine is certainly possible, and, at least on this hand, is the only winning play, but we need to concentrate not on what the opponents may or may not do, but rather on what we can do to not have to depend on a mistake, but instead make the hand in spite of them doing the right thing.

Thanks to both of you for writing and for the inspiration and learning which Abigail Adam’s wonderful quote might create.

RyanMay 18th, 2013 at 6:29 pm

In BWTA, why not respond 1D on your first chance? This gives partner a chance to bid spades if he has four and if not you may wind up in 1NT anyway. With the spade king and diamond jack, I would probably go to 1S first.

Bobby WolffMay 18th, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Hi Ryan,

When one has a 5 card major and a weak hand, as responder to partner’s opening bid, the 5 card major should be bid first, both for the preemptive value of it, preventing a 1 heart intervention by your LHO, but more importantly, attempting to ASAP establish a spade fit so that, depending on the strength of your partner’s response (2 or 3 spades), then decide on the level, passing only 2 but raising 3 spades to 4.

The strength of the trump suit is not nearly as important as the combined length (adding your length to your partner’s which, in the event of a fit, will be either 8 or 9). Regardless of the K and Jack being in either spades or diamonds often makes no difference, but the combined number of trumps is usually critical in determining a good result from a bad one.