Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 3rd, 2014

I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.

Jane Austen

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

*Heart raise


Do not get caught up in the idea that the object of signaling relates solely to your holding in the suit led. When you signal encouragement on the suit led, part of what your signal implies is that you do not want a switch to whatever is deemed the obvious suit, assuming partner shifts. Conversely, discouragement of the led suit is equally about not liking the suit led and wanting the obvious shift.

Today’s deal shows how experts deal with this sort of situation. It comes from a clash between two of the major powers in bridge, a Russo-Polish squad and a top Dutch team.

At one table, East won the diamond ace and shifted to a club at trick two. He was playing his partner for the trump ace or king — in which case he might get a club ruff, but where would the defenders’ third trick come from?

In the other room Alexander Dubinin led his singleton diamond against four hearts. Andrey Gromov won the trick and cashed two more diamonds, on which Dubinin did the right thing by playing discouraging cards in both spades and clubs. Gromov now knew not to expect his side to take any tricks in the black suits, so he played a fourth diamond, promoting the trump queen for down one.

Just for the record, if West has the spade ace and no heart or club queen, he should ruff the third diamond to cash the spade ace, thus avoiding the possibility of an accident.

When you are looking at what appears to be a soft trump trick, as here, you probably do not want to play for club ruffs — especially if in so doing you risk giving up a natural trick in the suit. Yes, a heart lead might conceivably give up your side's trick in the suit, but that is considerably against the odds. A heart lead combines aggression and safety as best you can.


♠ Q 10 5
 K 9 8 5 4
 J 5 4
♣ J 6
South West North East
1♣ 1♠
Dbl. 2♠ 3 3♠
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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 17th, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Hi Bobby,

Your advice to west to trump the 3rd diamond and cash the SA is sound at teams but imagine west held A10xxx in spades and only one small heart. There’ll be grumpy east’s out there especially at pairs who’ll want to know why you did that when they were going to play the SQ anyway at trick 4 for two off. How do you balance trusting partner vs taking control here?



TedFebruary 17th, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Hi Bobby,

You discussed a 5-6 black hand in an answer yesterday. We had a hand in an open pairs sectional game this weekend which partner in first seat opened 1S. (Vul vs. NV)

AQJ42 x x K75432

I would have opened 1C. What would you suggest?

My hand was KT3 QJ864 Ax AJx and the actual auction proceeded:


1S P 2H P
3C P 3S P
4S P P 5D
P P 6S all pass.

East held 986 T3 KQxx QT98, West held 75 AK9xx JT9854 —

After the D lead, the hand can always be made, yet in a 33 table field (2/3 of the players with over 2000 MP) no one bid and made slam. Is my 6S bid reasonable on our actual auction?



Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 17th, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Hi Iain,

Your point is well presented and I agree as well.

The factors include the talent and experience of one’s partner, the ability to make a clear positive spade signal, so that even a novice would comply, and the eventual goal of that particular partnership.

If any long lasting success is expected it becomes 100 to 0 in favor of trying to beat the hand 2 tricks. Only in a cut around rubber bridge game would I consider insulting partner with such a suggested defense and even then I would not, if I wanted to keep him or her as my friend.

Perhaps if this is destined to be my last hand of bridge ever, with a large lottery type prize for defeating the hand 1 trick I would then consider doing as suggested, but it may take those extreme circumstances for me to do it.

My message is delivered. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

Bobby here, not Judy

Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 17th, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Hi Ted,

Again Bobby here, not Judy.

Correct? doubtful, disciplined? no, reasonable? perhaps.

First your partner should open 1 club with the idea of rebidding spades in what would surely get across, likely more clubs than spades, allow more bidding room in order to reach the marginal slam which would then enable science rather than brash to help determine the result. As it is with accepting the incorrect 1 spade opening, then after you had preferred spades at the 3 level and partner then only bid 4, perhaps a cue bid of 5 diamonds would be appropriate to try for slam and then allow partner to either bid 5 or 6 spades as his choice.

It doesn’t surprise me that no declarer found the difficult technique required to score up the slam after drawing only 2 trumps then to offer the king of clubs, find out the unlucky clubs, but the very fortunate only 2 spades with West and then after a club finesse and cash, a trump to dummy and a 4th club ruff thereby setting up his own hand for 12 well earned tricks.

Your judgment is good as to recognizing a fit using your opponent’s 5 level bid as leverage for jumping to slam, but it is very unilateral, a word to be avoided, if a long term partnership (with a talented player) is desired.

No offense intended, just an honest answer based on what I think.

TedFebruary 18th, 2014 at 6:55 am

Hi Bobby,

Thanks so much for your comments.

I’m normally not unilateral, but in my “defense” we were having a great game, and I suspect I was feeling a bit bulletproof. (Cards seemed to always sit right when they really needed to — Jim2, I beginning to wonder if, on a given evening, an anti-TOCM can exist to provide balance in the universe.)



David WarheitFebruary 18th, 2014 at 7:49 am

Ted: Bobby stated that your slam was “marginal”. My reaction was that it was better than that, so I decided to do the math. The slam fails if the opponents can win a club trick. So it fails if W has CQ1098 (5%) or Qxx, (38%) or if he has Qx or just x and declarer misguesses (let’s say he does so half the time, so 13%). It also should fail almost always if S are 5-0, provided that the opponents play AK of H on the first 2 tricks. That adds up to about 60%. In addition, when E has CQ1098, W should double the final contract, which should call for a club lead. It will fail if E does have CQ1098 and doesn’t lead a C, provided W has at least 3S. Assuming that E does lead a club from Q1098, that’s an additional 5%, so final odds are around 35% Okay, I guess that’s “marginal”!

PS. Note that I said the contract “almost always” fails if S are 5-0 and the opponents play HAK on the first 2 tricks. But if E has the 5 S & C1098, you can still make 6S. The odds of that are: sorry, my calculator won’t print such a small number.

jim2February 18th, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Ted –

It has been said that luck evens out. Maybe that means is that for every Rueful Rabbit, there is a Karapet. Such is my destiny.

TedFebruary 18th, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Thanks, David. I based it assuming partner had 6S and 5C. Had that been the case it would have been a better looking slam, I think.

Partner had actually made the hand, but claimed, forgetting there was still a club needing to be ruffed.

Jim2 — I’ll admit to having a few Rabbit-like moments, of trying to figure out after the hand was over, how I’d actually made it.