Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

For some cry 'Quick' and some cry 'Slow'.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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

*Two aces or one ace and two kings


North-South were playing control responses to a two-club opening and that allowed South to identify his partner's two aces at once and drive to the grand slam in diamonds — a contract that was somewhat easier to bid than play.

After a heart lead, South was faced with a variety of chances involving his potential loser in spades or clubs. It looks simple to take the heart ace; but what do you discard from hand?

By ruffing the opening heart lead and delaying his decision whether to discard a club or a spade on the heart ace, South maintained all of his chances for the contract. After trumps failed to break 2-2 (preventing the straightforward approach of ruffing the club loser in dummy), declarer decided to set up a squeeze before resorting to the spade finesse.

Accordingly, South ran all his trump, as both opponents released hearts at every turn. Then declarer cashed the three top clubs, disclosing that East had started with four clubs.

Now in the four-card ending, South led a spade to dummy’s ace and cashed the heart ace. When East discarded a spade (holding his club guard), South discarded his club and knew to lead a spade to his king, dropping West’s queen – it could not be correct to take a spade finesse, as East’s last card was known to be a club.

This hand is more about methods than judgment. If you play simple transfers, you should transfer into hearts, then bid game. If you play Jacoby and Texas transfers (whereby you can reach four hearts in two ways), then the transfer and raise is a mild slam-try (this hand, but with the heart ace). Four diamonds is a transfer with no slam interest.


♠ Q 8
 Q J 8 7 5 4
 8 6 3
♣ 7 5
South West North East
2 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


David WarheitJune 3rd, 2013 at 10:35 am

Alternate line of play: south ruffs the opening lead and cashes 2 rounds of diamonds. When they don’t break 2-2, he finishes drawing trump, cashes 2 rounds of clubs and then cashes the rest of his trumps. Now he cashes the king-ace of spades. As it happens, the queen falls, so the small club is pitched on the ace of hearts, making 7. If the queen of spades had not fallen, south cashes the heart ace, pitching the jack of spades, and then tries to run clubs, making if clubs are 3-3 or if either opponent has length in both clubs and spades. I think my line is a little better than the one suggested since in it the squeeze worked only because east had the club length, but my line works if either opponent has length in clubs, provided he also has length in spades or the queen of spades is singleton or doubleton, but I find the math too difficult to prove or disprove my contention. What thinkest thou?

Bobby WolffJune 3rd, 2013 at 11:36 am

Hi David,

Thou thinkest that yea, varlet, you are on to something, but as you surmise, it will take a mathematician to cover the various bases.

One important frequent holding to be considered is that if East has either short clubs (two or fewer) and Q third or fourth in spades, down you will go. Add that fact to the mathematical certainty that when East is the one with short clubs, together with little or no conflicting evidence of East originally holding more hearts than West, then, his chances of holding the queen of spades rises. Also, since West, not East, held three of the four diamonds leads me, without doing all the math, which I probably am not qualified to do, to guess that East, not West, is more likely to hold length in clubs and if so, the show-up squeeze probably becomes the percentage declarer play.

In any event, your question should awaken arithmeticians, to stand up (or sit as they may prefer) and be heard. At the very least, you pose a puzzle which we both (now) would love to see answered.

Thanks for both your time and for your obvious love of the game.

jim2June 3rd, 2013 at 12:07 pm

DW –


I simply must learn to get up earlier on days like this.

I duplicated your line, and like it because it is easier to execute.

I agree with Our Host that the column line appears to have a slight math advantage, especially once West is known to be long in diamonds.

I would note that, while a world champion may have confidence what to do at Trick 12, ToCM ™ would surely punish me if I actually found the column line. That is, West would hold the doubleton QS and club length, letting me go down two when I went with the odds and finessed the spade.

Iain ClimieJune 3rd, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Hi Bobby,

Can I raise a minority view on BWTA. The normal approach with a weak hand is transfer and raise to hide the stronger one. I think there are two exceptions to the rule:

A) A hand like x KJ10xxx Jxxxx x where you bid 4H to conceal the shape and make it hard (espec at pairs) for oppo to cash the hand.

B) With either a weak partner or one whose confidence has gone completely for the session, just hog the hand with 4H if natural.

Hi Jim2, I enjoyed the contribution (as ever) but what did you do wrong in a past life (or even this one) such that the dreaded TOCM hangs over you like the sword of Damocles or a flock of vultures who’ve tired of waiting?

Regards (and possibly commiserations),


Bobby WolffJune 3rd, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Hi Iain,

Many years ago a convention named Texas was invented, which was simply a jump to 4 diamonds over a 1 or 2NT opening is a transfer to 4 hearts and a jump to 4 hearts is a transfer to 4 spades. Before that, perhaps 5+ years earlier, the convention was called South African which was slightly different, using 4 clubs to transfer to 4 hearts and 4 diamonds to transfer to 4 spades.

The advantage of South African transfers was that the shock of a bid of 4 of a minor would jostle the responder into not passing 4 hearts, because of not remembering it and, of course, as you apparently wish, allow a hand hog to just bid 4 of his major and become declarer. However, after Texas came along, it took a while before the NTer would remember that 4 hearts is indeed also a transfer and so, eventually and therefore thankfully, disastrous misunderstandings stopped taking place.

It may also be of note that South African transfers eliminate normal Gerber, which would have to be considered at least a minor disadvantage.

The curse of TOCM, Jim2’s special nemesis, exists today for others, but many have become inoculated against such a malady, by simply agreeing to play whatever conventions one’s current partner prefers.

Some, however, swear that the cure is worse than the disease.

jim2June 3rd, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Iain –

I think Themistocles Papadopoulos must have been an ancestor, or at least inherited the same gene I did from an earlier mutual ancestor.

At any rate, it is the best theory that I have come up with to date.

jim2June 3rd, 2013 at 2:15 pm

As for conventions, I long ago concluded that the longer the convention list, the more protracted the post-mortems.

Iain ClimieJune 3rd, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Thanks for the light relief, gents. I have a copy of M. Harrison-Gray’s book of country life articles at home. He described the early accidents with Texas – strange incidents in the 1950s and 60s where NS at 11 tables played in 4S but one NS played in 4H on a 3-2 fit with less success. The greater complexity of modern conventions does sometime also raise the impact of memory lapses.

jim2June 3rd, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I just realized that I named the wrong individual who must be related to me. The correct one is Karapet Djoulikyan.

— just another Monday —

Bobby WolffJune 3rd, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Hi Jim2 and everyone,

OMG, Not another member of the famous Djoulikyan gangsta group. I think the same place which was run by that hideous clan where Dr. Frankenstein got the brain he needed for his new creation.

The only person able to help would have been Victor Mollo and he has already checked out.

I guess it could be worse by having Count Dracula as a blood relative.