Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 12th, 2014

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.

Logan Pearsall Smith

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

*Balanced spade raise.


By reading, and by learning from other people's mistakes, the expert can sometimes get the play right in a position he has not actually encountered before. Today's deal provides such an example, which comes from the final of the 1986 Australian Interstate Championships. Against four spades West led the heart queen, and declarer took it with dummy's ace to try to camouflage the position as best he could, while East discouraged. Now declarer came to hand, drawing just one round of trumps, then led a diamond. Put yourself in West's shoes: Would you win the diamond ace, or would you duck?

When you’ve made your decision, compare what happened at the table. West knew that his side had no tricks coming in the majors, and that he needed his partner to have the diamond jack — on the bidding there was no chance that he could hold the club king. So on the first round of diamonds West contributed the queen and dummy the king. On the diamond continuation, East rose with the jack and put the club 10 on the table. Curtains for declarer!

As you can see, if West ducks the first diamond, he can subsequently be endplayed in diamonds to lead clubs. And if he goes up with the ace, he can later be thrown in with a heart (declarer pitching a club from dummy on the third heart) to lead clubs, again after the trumps and diamonds have been stripped off.

Your partner's jump to four hearts is a splinter bid, agreeing spades and showing short hearts. You would like to bid Blackwood — but how do you know partner has a club control? Best now is to jump to five spades, which focuses on control in the danger suit, clubs. Partner will bid slam with second-round control or better, and pass without a control.


♠ K J 10 8 4
 A 3
 K 10 4
♣ 9 6 3
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass
1♠ 2♣ 4 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


Patrick CheuApril 26th, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Hi Bobby,re BWTA,if South bids 5H over North’s 4H,what kind of hand would that show? Regards~Patrick.

Jane AApril 26th, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Maybe I am playing splinter bids by opener incorrectly, but if my partner and I do that, we are showing a big hand, shortness, and good trump support. Since there were still enough points for west to make a two level over call, could you describe what north should hold in this example? The most points he can have in his suit and the spade suit is 13. Also, is it OK to splinter with a stiff ace? Seems like there are many varying opinions on this. Guess he could be six five in diamonds and spades.That would be a sweet hand!


bobby wolffApril 26th, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Hi Patrick,

Thanks for the high-level question which concerns the choice of slam tries.

In my opinion (not necessarily shared by all others) a 5 heart cue bid would be a close 2nd choice to 5 spades, but again IMO would not demand a 6 club cue bid, assuming North is afraid that his 4 heart splinter was a bit of an overbid (perhaps AQxx, x, AQxxx, Axx) and now, since he is not obligated to go beyond 5 spades he might refer to Wendy’s old promotional ad, “Where’s the beef”.

OTOH, a jump to 5 spades is a demand (or almost) for partner to go on with a control in clubs (either 1st or 2nd round) and therefore North’s response should be 6 clubs, of course, showing 1st round control while 6 spades usually would show a singleton (not likely while also holding shortness in hearts) and 5NT would show the king. Whether South should then venture 7 spades over 6 clubs or only 6 would depend on his partner having at least 5 diamonds (almost a certainty considering the bidding) and, of course, the spade queen, but that is also likely. Of course, it would be nice for North to possess the jack of diamonds, particularly since an opponent has come into the bidding without many high cards, always portending the danger of bad side suit breaks.

However, if the 2 club bidder showed 2 or more spades early in the play I would seriously think about, while playing a grand slam, and after leading the ace of diamonds, then deciding to finesse the jack by playing to the diamond 10. Even if the diamonds turn out to be 3-2 the odds are still in favor of the non-bidder having the jack.

Of course, after 6 clubs, South may reject final responsibility for perhaps bidding 7 by bidding 6 1/2 spades with a 6 heart call and let partner suffer the indignity of possibly deciding the losing final contract, whether it would be small or great.

A good lesson in ignoring responsibility in order to enhance reputation. Did Confucius ever comment on that talent?

bobby wolffApril 26th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Hi Jane A,

You have, in effect, answered your own questions by analysing the hand well.

Yes, one can splinter with a singleton ace, although one can also decide not to splinter with one if the rest of his hand is way below (in high cards) what his partner might expect, e.g. AQxx, A, QJxxx, Kxx (3 spades is enough) but AQxx, A AJxxxx Kx would be my idea of a 4 heart splinter. Holding s. AQxxx, x, AQJxxx, x I agree with your definition of sweetness and would splinter 4 clubs and then if partner either cue bid diamonds or hearts I would then bid BW, although of course I would prefer holding AKJxxx in diamonds.

However if partner immediately signed off in 4 spades over my 4 club splinter I would pass simply because my partner could not hold as many as 3 of the 4 key cards needed for slam, the round suit aces and the pointed suit kings.

Patrick CheuApril 26th, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Hi Bobby,just to say Thanks!Your comment certainly helps one to think outside the box..not just in bridge:)

Patrick CheuApril 27th, 2014 at 9:03 am

Hi Bobby,Declarer by playing the cards in the right order,not eliminating hearts(third heart needed for endplaying West(as the cards lie),only drawing one round of trumps and playing diamonds first giving West a chance to go wrong is worth noting-a fluid position and every chance of success unless East one point happens to be the Jack of Diamonds and not the Jack of Clubs!That’s why we keep playing this game…perhaps?