Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Watchman, doth its beauteous ray
Aught of hope or joy foretell?
Traveller, yes! It brings the day,
Promised day of Israel.

Sir John Bowring

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



With such excellent fits in hearts and clubs, East-West had little difficulty in reaching their heart slam when South relayed for shape and found first extra shape, then a spade control. The auction was accurate and efficient, the play less so.

When West led the spade 10, declarer won in dummy and crossed to a trump to ruff a spade, crossed to a top club to ruff a second spade, then took a second top trump and found the bad news.

With no tricks available to him, he could do little but exit with two more rounds of trumps, hoping West had started with only three spades. But that player could win and cash out the spades to set the slam.

When in with the spade ace, declarer can count 13 tricks without a finesse if trumps split 3-2, but he should take precautions against a 4-1 break — after all, that happens frequently enough to make it worthwhile to give up on the chances of an overtrick.

By leading a trump from dummy and ducking East’s nine, South then has sufficient entries and trumps to win 12 tricks without the risk of playing on diamonds. After a diamond return, South wins and ruffs a spade in dummy, comes to the club king to ruff a second spade, then draws trump, pitching diamonds from the board. He can now run the clubs and score his three top trumps, two aces, five clubs and two spade ruffs for his 12 tricks.

A two-club rebid is acceptable given the quality of the clubs. That call suggests six clubs rather than five, but in an emergency the bid can be made with five. However, when you hold a singleton honor in partner's suit, an argument can be made for rebidding one no-trump. Even if partner opts to play spades with a chunky five-card suit, the bare ace is as good support as a small doubleton.


♠ A
 10 6 4 3
 Q 10 6
♣ A Q J 5 3
South West North East
1♣ 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 13th, 2013 at 1:10 pm

If I got the diamond return (instead of a second trump) and used the hand entries in the stated order (KC then a high trump), the Theory would strike me down! West would have started with 4-3-1-5 and East 5-2-6-0.

For the rest of the match, all I would hear would be things like, “He was determined to get a club ruffed. Absolutely determined! The defenders didn’t find it on the opening lead, and refused to do it when he gave them a second chance by making a safety play for a 4-1 that wasn’t there, so he went and did it himself!”

(That is, if declarer is going to use a high trump for hand re-entry anyway, it is probably better to use it before a side suit as it draws a round of trump in the process.)

PARNovember 13th, 2013 at 3:28 pm

It was North-South that reached the heart slam, not East-West.

Bobby WolffNovember 13th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, I can see your point. However the distribution you refer to is probably less likely than a relatively common 4-1 heart break (as you know about 1/3 of the time. especially since East might Lightner double your final contract in order to get the club lead, if, of course, he is void)

Since you are so subject to your evil migration of cards, that fact alone causes serious negative anticipation, resulting many times in less than percentage declarer’s play.

Obviously with your downright awful luck you will be better off becoming the dean of the highest-level university teaching bridge, which, in the future, will develop somewhere in the USA, once bridge has begun to be taught in our primary schools.

While there, you can become the highest authority on catering to non-percentage breaks which you, more than any other expert, have experienced.

Good luck, happy trails and be sure and leave your contact phone number and email address should you decide to retire from the game you love.

Bobby WolffNovember 13th, 2013 at 3:47 pm


Yes and an apology is in order. NS, rather than EW, definitely bid the heart slam and in spite of numerous proof readings (at least 3 and in some cases more), it somehow
slipped through the slits.

Also, we do realize how errors of that nature, make it much more difficult for some of our readers to be as comfortable in reading the column as they should.

jim2November 13th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I do not disagree with your relative probability estimate, but do note that the switch in entry sequence still works against the 4-1 layout. That is, the sequence change adds an additional [albeit admittedly small] success probability against some rare 3-2 breaks.

As for my retiring to teaching, it’s probably apt. In fact, since you begin your columns here with a quotation, maybe this one is called for towards me.

Those who can — do. Those who can’t — teach.

— H L Mencken

TedNovember 13th, 2013 at 5:40 pm

In a Sectional earlier this month my partner and I played 4 Hearts on 4 consecutive hands (2 each). The same opponent held 4 hearts on each hand.

So cards don’t always migrate — sometimes they apparently stick around all season.

Bobby WolffNovember 13th, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Hi Jim2

May I change Mr. H L Mencken’s famous quote to:

Those who can—do. Those who are cursed—teach

Bobby WolffNovember 13th, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Hi Ted,

At least in matchpoints, sometimes bad breaks while playing normal contracts, allow better players to glean more matchpoints than usual and certainly while playing rubber bridge or IMPs that opportunity may be even more present.

One needs to count his blessings, or even better yet, improve his game.

ClarksburgNovember 13th, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Or, how about:
“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; those who can’t teach, teach teachers”.