Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 1st, 2013

It doesn't matter if you're born in a duck yard, so long as you are hatched from a swan's egg!

Hans Christian Andersen

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

*Fit-jump: a raise to three spades with a heart suit


Facing anything but a third-in-hand opening, North would have enough to drive to game over South's opening bid. But as a passed hand, he can, if he wants, describe his values precisely with a fit-jump, showing spades and a source of tricks in hearts.

After West leads a top diamond against four spades, South must duck the opening lead, playing the diamond nine from his hand (so West will not later have the opportunity of underleading his diamond queen). He must then attempt to establish dummy’s heart suit for discards without allowing East to gain the lead for the fatal shift to a club.

When West leads a second diamond, South should win, draw two rounds of trump, and lead a heart toward dummy. Now if West plays the heart king, declarer must duck. If West plays a low heart, declarer may play either the queen or ace (the ace may be a slightly better play, guarding against East’s having a singleton king). However, assuming South finesses the queen successfully, he must next return to his hand with a trump and lead another heart toward dummy and duck when West plays the king. If West discards the heart king on the third trump, declarer must cash dummy’s remaining high heart and lead a club to the jack. West will have two clubs to cash, but then must concede a ruff-sluff.

Just for the record, if West leads the heart king at trick two, South must also duck this trick.

A simple jump to three spades would merely invite game — the same hand with a small diamond instead of the ace. Since you are too strong for that action, you should cue-bid three diamonds, planning to rebid three spades over three hearts. If you doubled two diamonds, it would be for takeout, but the cue-bid is clearer.


♠ A Q 10 9 6 5
 8 6 4
 A 9
♣ K J
South West North East
1♣ 1
1♠ 2 Pass 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 WarheitNovember 15th, 2013 at 10:29 am

If the 10 and J of clubs are switched, S can still make 4S but he must now either 1) play only one round of trump, then finesse the HQ, come back to a spade (thus drawing trump) and then lead a H & duck W’s K, or 2) immediately finesse the HQ after winning the DA, come back to a S and lead a H & duck the K, playing W for a singleton S and doubleton HK. This line of play also works on the given lie of the cards, but it is very interesting how important the CJ is.

EW have an excellent save at 5C or 5D–down only one. Do you think they should have done so, and if so how?

Bobby WolffNovember 15th, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Hi David,

Yes, the switching of the jack and ten of clubs could be important, but not so, if South now has the K10 of clubs, but after East jettisons his heart king, the declarer brilliantly leads a club to his ten or if East rises with the jack, of course covers that with his king but still holds the 10 preventing the defense from entangling their possible 4 defensive tricks.

Also EW would lose 4 tricks in 5 of a minor, still having a good save of -500 vs. -620, but unless East finds a way to support diamonds with only 3 trumps and 2 jacks (albeit a key singleton) and at the 4 level, I would never recommend doing that unless 1. I’ve prematurely seen the hand records, and 2. declarer is a very good player.

I do not have to tell you how complex a game bridge is, and especially at a high level with 4 good players involved. To say it is a challenging experience is an understatement, since the possible combinations of results are very varied and unpredictable.

All of the above, convinces me that the difference in world class players (to me, many fewer around the world, than to others) rests with the particular consistently right judgments evident with some rather than others and is the #1 distinguishing mark, not technical excellence nor system chosen, in who wins the most. The above is certainly arguable and great players around the world will differ in their opinions.

Thanks for your always interesting observations.

Klaas TademaNovember 15th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

As an oldster who has recently returned to an interest in Bridge, I’m unfamiliar with the variations on cue-bids for support in competitive auctions. In today’s question, how can North know that the 3d cuebid is not a forcing raise of his clubs? More generally, can you recommend some reading on this topic? Thank you.

Bobby WolffNovember 15th, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Hi Klaas,

Welcome back to the game you love.

You are, of course, talking about the Bridge with the Aces hand (BWTA) and are questioning the cue bid used, which in earlier times was most always in support of partner’s suit, and not a general strong hand of many variations.

Since bridge has a limited language the cue bid is now used in a ubiquitous manner in order to describe a good hand and just asking partner to now, if possible, better describe his hand. It does not thrust captaincy back to partner, like its previous meaning of having support for partner’s suit. Consequently in the BWTA example above, when the cue bidder now rebids spades, his partner knows he has a game forcing hand (GF) and is now asking for support with only a doubleton, but a bid of something else if only a singleton unless it is a major honor (A, K, or Q) and with either of the above there is still room for judgment if partner thinks some other bid may be more useful to either reach the right game contract or even invite a slam if your (the cue bidder) hand is so inclined.

It sounds complicated, but all it really represents is a way of making every bid mean something which your partner otherwise would have no way of guessing correctly.

The above is a very advanced learning process which not only requires proper thinking by his partner, but a combination of experience and practice, which will tend to make everyone’s task easier with the joy of reaching the right contract the goal.

Good luck and please, at least for a little while, stay with your refound love.

Bobby WolffNovember 15th, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Hi Klaas,

Since I did not answer your last question about books on that subject, although there may be some, I am not sure what they are, so ask your bridge friends if they know of any.

The subject is advanced enough so that there would not be a large market for those who only want to play bridge socially with no great effort involved.

Jeff SNovember 15th, 2013 at 5:54 pm

OK, dumb question time. The line given is thematic and beautiful, but is South really sunk if he automatically captures the KH without thinking it through?

If declarer does take the first two heart tricks, it looks to me like he can still get home by leading a club to the J (just as he did in the line where W discarded the KH). It looks like West can take his two club tricks, but ends up in the same fix as before and has to allow a ruff-sluff. But I’ll be the first to admit that I may be missing something.

Thank you as always for the column and for taking the time to respond to everyone who writes. We do appreciate how incredibly generous you are with your time.

Jane ANovember 15th, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Hi Klass,

You might check out Baron Barclay Bridge Supply on line. They have a nice web site and have a lot of bridge books available. Also, Amazon has quite a good library for bridge books as well. You could even google “cue bids for bridge bidding”, or some such title, and see what pops up. I think cue bids are wonderful, but were relatively new to me also when I returned to bridge after taking 20 years off. I have no financial or any other interest in either company, just trying to help out a returning player.

Good luck in your search.

jim2November 15th, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Jeff S –

You’re not missing anything other than how red my face is for not having seen that.

Bobby WolffNovember 16th, 2013 at 2:54 am

Hi Jeff,

Yes, as you deftly pointed out, your play would also work, but after winning the king of hearts and leading a club, but, of course, being a combination which, on this hand cannot be guessed correctly, what if West then produces the jack of hearts?

It is very unlikely to happen but 100%, is better than whatever is 2nd best. However when your mind gets involved with these types of fairly common playing situations the result is almost always positive for the future so do not ever give up trying.

Iain ClimieNovember 16th, 2013 at 11:03 am

Hi Jeff S,

If it is any consolation, someone once said “The only dumb questions are those that don’t get asked”.



Bobby WolffNovember 16th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

To everyone,

Our own Poet Laureate, Iain, has explained what is very true in advancing up the bridge ladder.

Seek and thou shall succeed. Ours is like a bridge round table with all of us role players, sometimes posing questions, but other times contributing answers. Blessed are those who ask the questions.

Iain ClimieNovember 16th, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Hi Bobby,

Very kind, and I’m flattered, but poets cannot always be trusted. Infamously, Phillip Larkin (a bespectacled bald librarian) was once the UK’s poet laureate and his most notorious poem is entitled “This Be The Verse”. Those who are easily shocked, or strong supporters of family life, should probably not look it up. Others may get a warped thrill from the opening line, which suggests that parental influence may not always be for the best!



Klaas TademaNovember 18th, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Thank you all.