Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 7th, 2013

My limbs are wasted with a flame,
My feet are sore with travelling,
For calling on my Lady’s name
My lips have now forgot to sing.

Oscar Wilde

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


With great intermediates and excellent honor combinations, South evaluated his hand to be worth at least 15 points and thus opened the bidding with one no-trump. However, even if South had chosen not to open no-trump, six no-trump would still probably have been reached on this sequence: one club — one heart — one no-trump –four no-trump — six no-trump. North's four-no-trump bid is not Blackwood, but invites South to bid six no-trump with a maximum for his previous bidding.

The key to the play in the slam is that South needs to bring in either the club or the heart suit without loss. In theory each suit involves a finesse, but there is more to it than that. The play of the honors is usually critical, but today South must be cautious about the possible waste of his valuable intermediate cards. There is no merit in leading the club queen or heart 10 on the first round of the suit in order to take either of the finesses. Instead, declarer must lead a low card toward his honors at every opportunity.

Note that South can make four club tricks if he leads low from dummy twice, but only wins three club tricks if he leads the queen for East to cover. In hearts, declarer should cash dummy’s ace or king before taking a finesse, but when he does attempt the heart finesse, he should lead low from his hand.

This way he emerges with 13 tricks, not 11.

Your spade guard strongly argues for bidding no-trump here. There are two clear downsides to that action: The opponents may be able to cash out hearts against you, and if partner has real extras, you may miss a slam. But you cannot cover every eventuality. When three no-trump looks like a sensible contract, just up and bid it.


♠ K J 6
 10 4 3
 A J 10
♣ A J 10 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 3 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


Patrick CheuNovember 21st, 2013 at 9:51 am

Hi Bobby,its easy to get complacent on a hand like this,cos there are plenty of entries in dummy and closed hand,and everything seemingly under control.Playing the cards in the right order is necessary to avoid promoting the nine of hearts or clubs when they break 4-2.Perhaps the contract should be 7NT, to place a greater emphasis on club finesse first(as the King of clubs has to be right,then cash the Ace of Hearts to cater for Q singleton(however unlikely)…In BWTA,South just has to bid what he thinks he can make against those troublesome weak twos and threes..’nobody’ likes defending when one can declare,unless we can double them?! Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffNovember 21st, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Hi Patrick,

As you must know by now, you have a very direct and accurate way to describe bridge.

“Waste not, want not” could be an important slogan in today’s hand. Although it would usually be applied to food, not declarer’s play in bridge.

Also the practical application in the BWTA is not wasted on you. Sure, on the one hand, the opponents could run the heart suit while 5 diamonds may be cold, or we may settle in 3NT cold for 6 when partner is underbidding, but sometimes the opponent’s preempts make it more difficult to explore since those ugly bids, no doubt, rob our partnership of sometimes valuable bidding space.

However, in spite of the admonitions a simple 3NT stands out and will be made a huge percentage of the time with a slam not likely, but possible.

The only thing left to consider is if it is advisable for South to come in immediately with either double (holding only a poor three cards in the unbid major) or a “pushy” 2NT.

Probably not, but I believe, when in doubt, bid rather than pass when faced with a close choice. However (sigh) this hand is just a little too light because, if doubled by West, I would try and play the hand under an assumed name since the results would not be pretty, (for us).

Again, thanks for your very level headed approach and comments which are always very instructive and therefore especially welcome.