Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 23rd, 2013

You would have understood me, had you waited;
I could have loved you, dear! as well as he:
Had we not been impatient, dear! And fated
Always to disagree.

Ernest Dowson

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


Today's auction saw North and South disagreeing on the meaning of a jump to game in a game-forcing auction. So before we go on to look at the specifics of the deal, let's outline the two positions.

One is that in forcing auctions, jumps to game show a good fit or good suits, denying controls in the unbid suit(s. The second position is that whenever you are in a game-forcing auction, a jump to game in an agreed suit is minimum or non-slammish. This can be abbreviated to PFA or the Principle of Fast Arrival.

The first style is harder to play but makes use of the jump in the auction to show something specific, not just a minimum hand — when partner might want to explore, but can no longer do so efficiently. Popular as the second style is, I would certainly not apply it to today’s auction, where South’s jump to game should have shown a semisolid suit. (With a solid suit facing a jump shift, South would surely not have stopped short of slam.)

In any event, against six hearts, West leads the spade nine. How would you plan the play? If trumps are 4-0, you have no chance. If trumps are 2-2, it is even money whether you play to the jack or the king, so focus on when trumps break 3-1. The only 3-1 break you can deal with is the singleton queen. So you should win the lead and play a trump to your king.

Your partner is marked with values and relatively short diamonds, but he never acted or balanced, so my guess would be that this is most likely because he has spade length. So I would lead the spade two. I might lead the 10 in a different situation, but here I think I might need that card later.


♠ 10 5 2
 K 8
 J 9 7 3 2
♣ 10 8 2
South West North East
Pass 1♠ Pass 1 NT
All 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


Iain ClimieJanuary 6th, 2014 at 10:14 am

Hi Bobby,

Not a great slam, making in half the 2-2 breaks and a quarter of the 3-1 cases, at least if you play the king. An old fashioned auction might have started 1D 3H when North could then bid 5H and South has a tricky decision although TOCM will find north with stiff HQ if he passes! What is the approach you would recommend nowadays for jumps to 5 of a major, please?



jim2January 6th, 2014 at 1:17 pm

TOCM ™!!


jim2January 6th, 2014 at 1:19 pm

BTW, it’s been a year since Our Host sent a BWTA hand to Jeff Rubens at the Bridge World for consideration in the Master Solvers’ column:

Any word back yet?

Iain ClimieJanuary 6th, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

Settle for TOCM (TM) due to mobile phone limitations? Happy New Year!


jim2January 6th, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Oh! Iain, I was not nit-picking — I was agreeing!

Iain ClimieJanuary 6th, 2014 at 2:16 pm

No worries, Jim2, my tongue was firmly in my cheek. I recall Bobby saying that exchanges on this site are friendly unlike on some bridge blogs. I must look around for when I want to have a row, but I enjoy bridge too much nowadays, unlike 30 years ago when I was overly stroppy and very noisy. Perhaps it was handy that blogs weren’t around then!


Bobby WolffJanuary 6th, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

In retrospect, (the perfect word for covering ones a**) South may be presumptuous to jump to 5 hearts over partner’s strong 2 spade jump shift for fear of perhaps being one too high at contracting for 11 tricks considering TOCM tm.

However I do think that a raise to 5 hearts, instead by North is certainly more circumspect than an all out jump to slam. South, rather than North, is in better position to judge his trump holding than North. However if North has xx instead of only x in hearts the odds are then much improved for a make since a singleton big boy may appear from East.

Yes, our damn bridge blog will not tolerate any ugliness from any of our commentators and they can all go to straight to Hell if they get out of line.

I vaguely remember sending the above bidding problem to Jeff Rubens at the Bridge World, but since his commentators are now working on (I think) 2016, at least middle 2015, it is possibly still some time (if ever) before it appears.

The good news about his process is that even after checking out, one’s bridge judgment will continue to be a legacy for months to come leaving me to hear feint conversation in my head of, by some disappointed relative or friend of, “he didn’t leave me a damn thing but what he would bid with ……..”.

jim2January 6th, 2014 at 6:22 pm

This board was another of the ones used in the Lower Slobbovian Slush Cup, and no I don’t know if Lena was playing (though there was one sit-out table that oddly enough had the bidding divider).

My partner insisted on playing the local strong club system and thus opened the North hand with one club. I made the conventional bid of two spades (showing a negative response but with a 7+ card suit in the OTHER major). Pard bid four clubs asking for aces, and then bid four spades over my four diamond response.

Did he have a spade suit? Had he forgotten the system? Right or wrong, I made a disciplined pass and there I was, declaring four spades in my doubleton!

West must have been equally confused as the opening lead was a diamond. North put down his hand proudly, saying that he had considered slam, but decided there were probably at least two losers.

Well, he was certainly right about that last part! East chortled but West looked even more confused.

I pitched a heart on the AD, and pard looked glum at obviously having missed slam. I ruffed a second diamond, crossed with a club and ruffed the third diamond.

I tried to get back to the Board with a second club, but East ruffed and led a spade to prevent me from scoring another ruff with the nine. He blanched when it was West who played the trump nine. North paled and then started choking.

I had a couple minutes to think as the opponents patted North’s back and urged him to drink water, but I saw no alternative other than to lead a heart and see what happened.

East desperately played low, but I won the king and played back the heart jack. East won but had no choice but to let me win another heart in the end.

So, one club, one diamond, two diamond ruffs, two hearts, and four top trump — four spades bid and made!

Later, when our teammates returned to compare scores:

“Board seven, plus 50. They stretched to slam and took a wrong view.”

“Plus 420 — plus 10 IMPs.”

“Oh, you stopped at game and they got a club ruff?”

“Uh-huh,” I replied. My partner only nodded.

Bobby WolffJanuary 6th, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Hi Jim2,

Perfect description, especially your reply to your teammate’s assumption as, of course, correct.

Also, a good education on the advantage of singleton leads, when defending against 4 spades, either singleton lead defeats it. And do not forget that in Lower Slobbovia, during their Slush Cup, honors count so that your side won 11 IMPs, not 10.