Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Against this coming end you should prepare.

William Shakespeare

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


It is not immediately clear what is the best slam for North-South to reach with today’s cards. The bidding has several points of interest since North has enough for a positive response to the two club opening but no convenient suit to bid. South might rebid three diamonds rather than two no-trump. Once he treats his hand as balanced, the highest-scoring small slam is reached.

The lead of the heart jack gets declarer off to a friendly start, but how should one play the hand — either at teams or matchpoints? Clearly if diamonds divide 3-2, South has 13 top tricks. He must, however, guard against a 4-1 diamond split, a break that occurs almost one time in four.

If South unblocks his clubs and leads to the diamond ace to cash the club ace, the 4-1 diamond split may defeat him. (The opponents may cash one club or more when they gain the lead with the fourth diamond.)

To overcome this difficulty, declarer must give up a diamond trick before he uses up his diamond-ace entry to dummy. He must, of course, cash his king and queen of clubs at tricks two and three before making the essential move of conceding a diamond trick.

This line of play guarantees the contract unless diamonds are 5-0. Declarer wins the return and uses the diamond ace as his entry to dummy to cash the club ace and discard his heart loser.

Your choice is to jump to three diamonds, suggesting about eight playing tricks in diamonds and inviting your partner to bid on if he has a trick. Or you can rebid at no-trump (a call of one no-trump shows 18-20, two no-trump shows 21-22). I prefer the diamond bid. With no quick tricks in your hand and with such a broken diamond suit, I’d be worried about the clubs running against me.


♠ A K
 A Q 2
 K Q 8 7 5 4
♣ K Q
South West North East
Dbl. Pass 1♠ 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


jim2November 6th, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I was exhausted when three intercepted me at the elevator on the way to bed.

“We need a fourth for the midnight speedball Swiss. Someone suggested you.”

Who hated me THAT much? I should have declined. Heck, I did at first. That’s the only excuse I can offer.

That’s also all the details I’ll admit to before the play of this hand. I won’t confess to the bidding or even reveal if I was North or South. You’ll understand why when I tell you that I was in 6H!

I think I got a spade lead. Through my something-or-other-AM mental haze, it took a long couple moments for me to begin play because every time I counted our combined heart holding, the counting seemed to end at seven. It was more comforting to count the diamonds in the South hand and add them to the hearts in the North hand, but even in my diminished state I soon concluded that wasn’t going to work.

Oh, well. I hadn’t wanted to play this event anyway. So, I won the lead, finessed the heart, and went AH, heart. The defenders made some incredulous early-morning noises, and led another spade.

I hopefully started on the diamonds, but had to ruff the third round to set them up. Went back with a club and I had 12 tricks even though I had to overtake the KC with the ace at the end.

When our other pair came over to compare scores and count IMPs, it went like this:

“Deal Six – minus 1370”

“Plus two.”

“Ah, hoped you’d bid it in notrump. Wasn’t the play hard? With diamonds 4 – 1?”

“No,” I said truthfully. “Deal Seven?”

Bobby WolffNovember 6th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Hi Jim2,

Well done and heart felt.

A long time ago, perhaps 70+ years, Johnny Crawford, a very charismatic character, who many felt at that time was the USA’s top player (played and won in the first Bermuda Bowl, held in 1950), and certainly the most daring, was asked why declarer’s play was, if you will excuse the expression, his best suit, simply replied, “Because I am such an awful bidder, I was faced with no choice, but to be able to make those contracts”.

Such was your experience in bidding and making a slam in hearts. You merely traded the diamond loser for a heart loser.

Again, well done and no one, whomever he may be, should ask for a review of the bidding.

ClarksburgNovember 6th, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Mr. Wolff,
This is completely unrelated to the column.
I note that you are to be one of the authors for the Vu-Bridge newsletter (of playable hands) being offered by Baron Barclay.
I would like to put in an early plug, to you and your author-colleagues, for a fair number of hands focusing on defence.
No doubt “the general market” would prefer bidding and declarer play. (Like the golfer who hits only about two greens-in-regulation in a round but spends most of his practice time hitting his driver, instead of working on his short game!!).

Bobby WolffNovember 6th, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

If I am one of the authors for the Vu-Bridge newsletter (of playable hands) being offered by Baron Barclay, it is news to me.

As of now, I am not familiar with that publication, much less know of its existence.

However, I do not object to Baron Barclay trying to further bridge interest in whatever way they consider the best way to do it.

All of the above will not stop me from passing on your preference for more defense at the cost of declarer play and bidding. No doubt defending in bridge with looking at only 13 of your side’s assets (and 13 of your opponents) is considerably more difficult than viewing all 26 of your side’s cards. Bridge, like golf, is a difficult game to play, impossible to not make mistakes, so that your analogy is well understood by me.

If necessary, I will advise you of what is discussed.

ClarksburgNovember 6th, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Here’s where you’ll find what I saw (info actually came in an E-mail to me, as a BB customer, today.
There’s are to be newsletters for Beginner and for Intermediate / Advanced. You are listed as one of the authors for the second.