Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

To have begun is half the job: be bold and be sensible.


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


South opens the bidding with one diamond. Would you, as West, enter the auction with a shape-showing bid, vulnerable? How about at favorable vulnerability, as here? This rates to work out fine if partner can support at least one of your suits — you may well have paved the way to a worthwhile sacrifice. But there is certainly a downside if your partner's hand proves to be a broken reed. You may well go for a large penalty — which is not in and of itself disastrous if the opponents can make game. More serious, though, is that (as here) you may have provided declarer with a blueprint for tackling the hand.

Against six diamonds West led the spade queen, and declarer appreciated that any attempt to ruff spades in dummy would lead to the demise of the slam. South rose with dummy’s ace and immediately played a second spade. If East had ruffed, he would only have been ruffing a loser, and the spade king could later take care of the third-round club loser. East followed, the king held — and now declarer could tackle hearts.

The heart king, then a heart to the ace, stood up, and next came a third heart. East ruffed, South overruffed with the jack, and a low trump to dummy allowed the last heart to be played. East had no answer. If he discarded, South could ruff low, then draw trump. If he ruffed in, declarer would overruff, draw the remaining trump, and 12 tricks would be there.

You want to set hearts as trump, and the simple way to do that is to bid four hearts. But is that enough? With all four aces, you really have a slam-suitable hand if partner wants to cooperate. You don't have to go mad; simply bid four clubs — a cue-bid in support of the last suit, and let partner decide if he wants to go past four hearts.


♠ A 2
 A 9 6 5
 A Q 7 2
♣ A 4 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠ Pass
2 NT 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMay 13th, 2014 at 9:22 am

Hi Bobby,

In similar vein, I remember the following hand shortly after I came back to the game. I held J xx AJ10xx AJxxx and opened 1D, LHO bid 2D (Michaels), part dbled, rho 2S and I tried to go quietly. No, partner cue bid and drove to 6D putting down A9xx AKxx Qxxx K.

Spade led, so D to 10 holds (9 from lho), C to K, spade ruff, club ruff, spade ruff isolates the menace, club ruff with Q and now the diamond finesse, DA and CA squash the Michaels bidder in the majors for an overtrick and a top. Careless talk as JTR would say, although I’ve had many successes with Michaels myself. As you say, it all depends…



Iain ClimieMay 13th, 2014 at 10:13 am

Just for completeness, LHO is 5512 of course.

AviMay 13th, 2014 at 10:47 am

Bobby hi,
I have a question regarding BWTA.
I play a convention called the “Wolff Signoff” (you might be familiar with it :)).
Would you still bid 4H in such a sequence.
What about if the Qd was the Kd? in such a case all your values are pure controls.

jim2May 13th, 2014 at 11:32 am

Could you explain why declarer played the major suits in the order described in the column?

That is, why spades before hearts? The column narrative suggests the given sequence was a safety play against West having six spades. If that were really the case, East would discard a heart (from 1 – 2 in the majors) and now be able to ruff the second heart.

Can declarer do better by playing the hearts first? After all, there is never a recourse if East began with a singleton heart.

Bobby WolffMay 13th, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Hi Iain,

Beautifully done, emphasizing the telltale effect of what sometimes distributional interference allows to a 1st rate declarer.

My guess is that at the beginning of play when the diamond finesse worked, your visualization of 5-5-2-1 could have almost 100% predicted the eventual squeeze ending making the game as you know it, even more fun to play.

Patrick CheuMay 13th, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Hi Jim and Bobby,if East is 1-2 majors,thus 1246,d10986,assume declarer plays KH and AH,and sec spade..if East disc and declarer wins KS and ruffs third spade with QD and plays a third heart,East ruffs,declarer overuffs and plays fourth spade ruffing with AD and plays fourth heart,East ruffs and declarer overuffs-East still HAS d86 left over dummys 72..and were East to ruff sec spade,and sends a club back,declarer can ruff the losing spade with AD,and still cannot draw trumps as he has losing club left in hand…I stand to be corrected.Regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffMay 13th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Hi Avi,

Yes, I have heard of it, but because of its infrequency it is not critical to play, although when it finally does come up, it may get you a few more matchpoints to go down only one instead of two, once we have signed off at three instead of momentum taking us to four.

Concerning the BWTA, I do suggest that the strong hand cue bid 4 clubs (the lowest ace of an unbid suit) to show a slam oriented raise to 4 hearts instead of a ho-hum actual raise to 4 hearts. Of course, with AK instead of AQ of diamonds I would certainly cue bid 4 clubs, and still pass a return to 4 hearts by partner, but with the AK of diamonds and partner bidding anything but 4 hearts (over my 4 clubs) I would make sure we would then get to the heart slam. With only AQ of diamonds and partner now bidding 4 diamonds I would make another slam try of 4 spades (both partners should know that hearts are trump), but if partner then only bid 5 hearts I would pass. In other words the king rather than the queen would influence me to insist on slam once partner made the slightest move, but resist that temptation if I only had the queen.

Patrick CheuMay 13th, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Just to add the hand is awkward as East has 10986diamonds and declarer has 4spades and a losing club,therefore a ‘balanced’major22 in East may be only chance of making..?

Bobby WolffMay 13th, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Hi Jim2,

Without doing handstands (think degree of difficulty) it may create better timing to make the spade play first since if West had 6 spades you probably want East (surely the long diamonds) to ruff rather than to worry about him having 1-2 and discarding a heart (which, of course, he should do).

No doubt, you are probably correct in immediately playing the ace king of hearts, but to be sure of backing up that statement, I would have to consider many possible distributions East could have with his diamond club holding plus the subjectivity involved in whether to attempt to coax a defensive slip.

If you feel up to it and when you have the time, if you tell me that it is clearly better, I would not dream of not agreeing with you.

Thanks for taking the time to discuss perfection since that is a state we all prefer to achieve.

Bobby WolffMay 13th, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Hi Patrick,

We think alike, but Jim2 may have suggested a better mousetrap, however the time it takes to check out all non 2-2 distributions by East (not to mention his diamond club remainder) puts pause to my thinking and my ordinary laziness grabs control.

It is difficult enough to do it right at the table, but, at least, while actually performing, the reward for
success against an untoward distribution is enough to offset the brain power necessary to accomplish same, making the theoretical perfect solution with contrived hands a doubtful exercise, especially from an old man.

Please say you agree with me, so Jim2 may not get too angry.

Patrick CheuMay 13th, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Aye aye 🙂

Bobby WolffMay 13th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Hi Patrick,

Love is where you find it!

Iain ClimieMay 13th, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the kind comments although I was sweating at the time. My partner was a smashing guy called Dick Shadbolt who is great fun but has his quirks. In our first 7 sessions he put me into 6 slams, only once bothering with Blackwood which he regards as a bit wussy. All made, so I think he just does it to mess with my attempts at a poker face.



Iain ClimieMay 13th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

PS Relatively few cue bids ss well, if I recall rightly.

jim2May 13th, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Wonderful weather we’re having ….