Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.

Sydney Harris

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

*Slam try with…

**Five clubs and four diamonds


In this deal from the 2013 U.S. trials, six clubs has to be played by South, or else a diamond lead through the ace-queen would be fatal. How would you play the slam on a heart lead?

You must avoid leading a spade to the king and ace, or else a diamond return will put you on the spot. Are you going to play for the diamond finesse or for spades to behave? Best is to win the lead in dummy and lead a low spade from the board toward your queen. If West wins the trick, you get to test spades before playing on diamonds. But if it is East with the spade ace, he is caught in a Morton’s Fork Coup.

East cannot fly up with his ace, or declarer can establish three discards for dummy’s diamonds on the top heart and two spades. So East ducks the spade, whereupon declarer wins the queen. Now he discards the spade loser on the hearts, and is almost home. As the cards lie, he can simply draw trump and give up a diamond.

But it is best after pitching the spade loser to play the diamond queen from hand. If the defenders take this, you can unblock diamonds and draw trump. If the diamond queen is ducked, you take two top trumps from hand, and claim if clubs split. If they don’t, you cash the diamond ace, draw trump, then give up a diamond for your 12th trick.

It might be possible to find a more sophisticated approach, but in my opinion there is a lot to be said for simply jumping to six diamonds. If you want to use an ace-asking bid en route, that is fine. But unless you are playing with a very wild pre-empter, you rate to have 12 top tricks, and even if you are off two spade winners, the defenders may have to cash them.


♠ Q 10 7 4 3
 A K 9
 A Q
♣ A K 3
South West North East
2 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 23rd, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

A nice Morton’s fork but a quick update on my judgement at the table. Most club players in the UK play a weak NT and our defence is X for penz,2C majors, 2D a major and 2H / 2S that major plus a minor, with last night’s pard anyway. I held x Axx 10xxx CKQxxx and pard bid 2D over 1N at nv vs V. It looks like spades, and RHO passes, but I didn’t want to bid 2H and hear P, P, 2S so bid 2S intended as go play there opposite spades but 3 or even 4H if hearts. The multi 2D I played years ago used this approach.

Out came 4S from pard not getting the message and holding QJxxx Qxx AJx Ax. I played it as well as I could, the defence helped and I scrambled 7 tricks undoubled from the mess and 20% as others were going 3 off in 2 or 3. Partner apologised for missing the inference and I did too for trying to be too clever.



Iain ClimieJanuary 23rd, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Make that lack of judgement! A major weakness in my game is trying to make flashy, offbeat or par beating bids and plays. The pleasure when they work can still outweigh the odd disaster but discipline is probably still better.

bobby wolffJanuary 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Hi Iain,

Your problems are not only interesting, but your self analysis tends to be worth what now costs $175 per hour (actually only 55 minutes) in the USA. And it smacks of the truth with no holds barred nor self feelings spared, which is what everyone of us should try and emulate.

The one major thing (in your case 2 diamonds) is definitely an advantage, since it separates the two suited hand (including one major) from the one suited hands which in many cases (again in the USA) is represented by double, which, in turn eliminates a purely penalty oriented bid.

A theory representing the American approach is that Weak NTers can weasel their ways out of a penalty attempt at them by finding a fitting suit somewhere or just being lucky that their opponents get in their own way and find themselves unable to penalize what is available.

Enough of pure theory, of which I do not have an educated opinion (among other bridge subjects), but back to you. Needless to say, you are being too hard on yourself, since in an attempt to correct it, you will be very unhappy when you reel it in and do not affirmatively act, something you have never refused to do.

The bridge gods, while seeing both sides, tend to penalize too much action and too little, alike, being unbiased to their victims but on the whole treating those two imposters just the same.

The above staements, if true, need to be dealt with in a somewhat sensitive manner, which only means you may (and I suspect do) handle your various partners quite differently, depending on their tendencies.

Bridge is definitely a great game and for a wide spectrum of classes, abilities, and views, which only tend to benefit long term partnerships (and probably committed marriages) on a favorable basis.

We all like to bid, play and defend hands spectacularly but never go in search of such things, but rather just let them come to you, although sometimes the wait between them seems like forever.

For winning, discipline is definitely far better and must be practiced in no trump, if striving for top class. The end result is certainly worth the effort.