Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

If ever two were one, then surely we.

Anne Bradstreet

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


In today's deal the perfect contract at either pairs or teams will protect the diamond tenace and play six no-trump from the North seat. Since this was a little difficult for North to work out at the table, he concluded the auction with a somewhat exuberant jump to six spades, assuming that his partner had a suitable hand to cuebid at his third turn, whereas South simply felt that he held a maximum for what he had shown so far.

East might have considered a Lightner double of six spades (calling for dummy’s first bid suit), but when he did not, West had no reason to find the killing lead. He kicked off with a heart, and East won the heart ace and continued with another heart. How should you play as declarer now?

With 10 tricks on top, there are two chances for an extra two: clubs or diamonds. As usual in this type of position, it is best for declarer to combine his chances, so he should try to test one suit, then fall back on the other. Take the ace and king of spades, then the king and ace of clubs before cashing the third trump to leave yourself an extra entry to hand. If the queen falls, draw the last trump and discard your diamond on the hearts. If it doesn’t, take the diamond finesse and come to hand while drawing the last trump to repeat the diamond finesse.

Your partner's double of a bid-and-agreed suit is takeout, suggesting perhaps the balance of power on the deal but with no clear direction. While clubs might easily be your best fit, I'd be a little unhappy about introducing the suit at the three-level, which only leaves rebidding the spades. So I'd rebid two spades.


♠ A Q 10 6 3
 K 3
 7 3
♣ A 10 8 5
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1
1♠ 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


jim2May 22nd, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Another interesting variation in the column theme is to swap the black 8s in the West and South hands.

Now on a heart lead declarer would need but one extra trick and have a true two-way finesse in clubs.

The best line might be play a spade or two, cash hearts to pitch a diamond, diamond ace, diamond ruff (high if a trump is out), back to board with a trump to ruff another diamond. Here the king would fall but, if not, then declarer would have KJ4 of clubs on the board facing A105 in the closed hand and a pretty fair count on the hand.

Iain ClimieMay 22nd, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’m not overly impressed by North’s bidding given that NS could be off HAK or even 2 Aces. Can you give any pointers on your preferred approach to cue-bidding e.g. If you cue-bid only when fairly suitable, if you show a control on the way to game in most cases, whether you always show the lowest control first or the first round control, how cue-bids are best combined with Blackwood (esp RKCB) etc.

Many thanks,


Bobby WolffMay 22nd, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, with your bridge imagination always working overtime, a player (or writer) like you, might be able to create a week’s worth of bridge problems with close to the same 52 cards distributed similarly, but all with small variations.

Since many readers (probably most) only skim the hands for the special message, with a hoped for learning experience on what to look for and how to overcome difficulty, the true bridge aficionado becomes enraptured by your detail.

Bridge lends itself to either type, whether actually playing the game or only just reading about it. I, for one, appreciate the time you spend educating all of us bridge lovers how tactics need to be varied, usually depending on how specific the particular cards and distributions happen to be.

Thank you for spending your time.

Bobby WolffMay 22nd, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Hi Iain,

While your question concerns both style and method, slam bidding is always where the science comes in, since the bidding, rather than usually the play, is the key to success, especially among our best and brightest since the room for error is smaller, the rewards are greater, and therefore the keys to success are usually found in the bidding rather than the play.

First, an important disclaimer. While slam bidding does lend itself to science, there are still some inviolate general, rather than specific, rules to follow:

1. 2NT should never be rebid over partner’s 2 over 1 immediate response without the 2 unbid suits at the least, singly stopped. therefore eliminating the possibility from North’s view of being off the AK of hearts.

2. Before cue bidding, showing a major control, usually a first round one and, of course, after rebidding NT, not a void, a bidder should NEVER do so, if another part of his hand appears to be severely flawed, such as a queen high original suit, particularly one which has just been supported (3S). To express that point differently, while making a cue bid, that bidder needs to feel like his hand will measure up in quality to what his partner might expect, otherwise he should refrain from making that cue bid and instead rebid in a more conservative manner.

3. It is true that South had what some would called a minimum hand, but his cards are prime, an AQ10 combination (which conceivably may be opposite only the Jxx), the king of hearts and only a doubleton (advantage) plus key pushers (the black tens together with supporting honors), all of which lends itself to cooperating with partner with optimism in feeling confident in his original rebid of 2NT rather than 2 spades (a bid which might be chosen by those who play 4 card major suit openings).

Your other questions are all pertinent, but my general answer is that experience especially in evaluation comes directly into bidding judgment, allowing excellent players to not be restricted to lesser players discipline such as required cue bids below game, and too much rigidity, which is judgment baiting, allowing NS in the subject hand to reach a reasonable, though far from laydown, slam.

The above is the nature of the game itself and the yellow brick bridge road to high-level play. Anyone who thinks any part of bridge, including slam bidding, offers “aces and cinches” should rethink what he (or) she is doing and relegate himself to at least some frustration in obtaining successful results, but, instead, rejoice at the unbelievable joy learned bridge talent will bring in the long run.

Iain ClimieMay 22nd, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the useful info and could I ask you to comment on a twist I came up with on Saturday. I wound up playing with a good partner in a weak team of 8 in a fairly serious all-play all 8 team IMPs to VPs event.
We play 4 cd majors and 12-14 NT so, with oppo silent, partner passed and I bid 1H on K8x A10xxx DAx CAKx. 1S from part, 2N (17-18) 3H and I was about to bid 4H but stopped. Partner won’t have (say) AQxxx HKJxx Dxx Cxx or he’d bid 2S but he might just have 5S, 3H and ideal cards eg SA, HK snd a major suit Q when slam might be on provided we get aa safe lead – it would need good breaks in the majors but I felt it was just worth a try. If I cue bid and he bids 4S (I hope he would with a perfect hand as described) then I’m trying 6H but only as I bid 4D not 4C. Partner bid 4H, I left it, and dummy had Q10xx KJx Kx J9xx so not a good 6.

LHO led a small club from Qxx but his card showed he would lead 2nd from 10xx(x). He was stunned when the CJ held although the board was flat – spades are 3-3, the SJ is onside and the HQ is single so 12 tricks are there anyway. He calmed down when he realised (it would only have been 1IMP anyway) but some people can’t take a joke.
Mind games are part of bridge’s appeal.


Bobby WolffMay 22nd, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Hi Iain,

I’m jealous to hear that you seem to be able to play much more organized, at least reasonably high-level bridge, much more often than I.

Since you have covered the bases (and all of them) more thoroughly than I could or would, I have little to say except the slam that you made (6H) is a ridiculously low percentage, perhaps in the low twenties, especially against a diamond lead which would force you to get both the hearts and spades right as well as a place to sluff your losing club, unless the queen dropped doubleton and what about before you finessed for the spade jack and after the ace was won by your LHO, you cashed the AK of clubs and saw the Q drop from your RHO. I assume you after cashing the queen of spades, looking for the jack to drop which it does not, then take the club finesse to lose to the rabbit on your right who thought originally it was the 10 of spades, in spite of looking at it in the dummy.

Just thought I would mention these possibilities in spite of others who always believe what they see.

Here is a toast to a hand which you may read about years from now in the AOB column. Remember you read about it first, here.

Iain ClimieMay 22nd, 2013 at 10:40 pm

You are far too kind, but this was the first serious event I’d played in (I don’t count club pairs championships) since I started playing again and there were some good players there e.g. Sally Brock and some former internationals, plus many UK tournament names. Nobody bid the 6H (although 12 tricks was the usual result) but add me to Snow White’s retinue as “Guilty”.

The team that I tried my luck against were 3rd out of 8 by 1 VP. Only the top 2 qualified for the national final and I have a terrible feeling that my pseudo-Grosvener coup may have affected one of their team more than intended – it made no difference to the result in 4H but he didn’t appreciate looking silly at T1. He might have lost concentration as a result of my semi-spoof cue-bid and erred later. Oops!