Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Wit makes its own welcome, and levels all distinctions.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

South North
None ♠ 3 2
 A K 10 2
 K J
♣ A K J 9 3
West East
♠ A Q 9 8 7 6
 7 6 3
 10 7 3
♣ 2
♠ J 4
 9 6 5 4 2
♣ Q 10 7 6 4
♠ K 10 5
 Q J 9 8 5
 A Q 8
♣ 8 5
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1 2♠ 3♠ Pass
4 Pass 5* Pass
6 All pass    

*Asking for a spade control


When South promised a spade control by raising North's five-heart jump to slam, West wisely decided to go passive with a trump lead.

Declarer now tried to improve on the simple chance that clubs would break favorably. He drew three rounds of trump, and when East discarded two diamonds, he realized that West was going to be very short in either clubs or diamonds. It would have been simple (but fatal) to cash the ace and king of clubs. Instead South found a very neat play. He took one top club, cashed three rounds of diamonds, pitching a spade from dummy, and found West with three cards in the suit, then led a club to dummy.

As expected, West showed out, but declarer was unfazed. He had reduced the hand to a five-card ending, where dummy had a singleton spade, a trump, and jack-third of clubs, while South had two trumps and his three spades left. He knew West was down to six spades, including the ace, so he led dummy’s spade and covered East’s card, endplaying West to give him a spade trick for the 12th winner.

Note that even if West had begun with fewer diamonds, and thus had a club left, a club play would have set up a club winner in dummy as an alternative route to the 12th trick. The only shape that would have been fatal to declarer was if West had started life with four diamonds and no clubs, when there is no winning line.

Since three hearts is best played as forcing and you have a little in hand, you are probably worth one slam-try, though you would not want to go past four hearts without some cooperation from your partner. A call of four diamonds simply shows a diamond control and will maybe let partner take over from here.


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


David WarheitMay 16th, 2014 at 9:11 am

Well, there is one other “shape that would have been fatal” and that is if E held SQJ. However, would anybody have bid 2S on A sixth of S and out? Also, this would increase the chance that W would have led SA at trick one. So, I’m probably wrong.

Iain ClimieMay 16th, 2014 at 9:22 am

Hi Bobby,

You say that if west had a club more (xx I presume) then declarer can set up a club winner but can he do so? After the CK wins, declarer ruffs a club back and plays the S10 which a west with strong nerves ducks and east can win to play another spade. As west can be counted for 6322 in this case, though, I think you just revert to the column line after the CK wins.



David WarheitMay 16th, 2014 at 11:52 am

Ian: Our host did not say that “declarer can set up a club winner”. What he said was that after S made the play of ducking a S to W, if it should happen that W still had a C and led it, that that play would set up clubs in dummy.

Iain ClimieMay 16th, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Hi David,

Oops, brain malfunction on my part. Thanks for that.


jim2May 16th, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Echoing David Warheit — In other words, the clubs would be 3 – 3 and a ruff would set them up, or West had four and be leading away from Q10.

(I might note that the column’s economical wording took me a couple minutes to finally work out, myself!)

Iain ClimieMay 16th, 2014 at 1:02 pm

It has been a long and wearing week but, even with the misreads, the column and correspondence are still fun. I need a sane job, though!

bobby wolffMay 16th, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Hi David, Iain, & Jim2,

I’m loving all the right-on conversation among the three of you, including Jim2’s reference of “economical wording”, which, in truth is as well described as it can be.

At least to me, when this column was written perhaps 6 or 7 months ago it symbolized how much a would be great declarer (sometimes a defender) needs to be numerate (numbers are constantly mind accented while playing).

When that talent is present (and usually in spades) the game becomes so much easier for that person, that his or her potential rises to the sky with a chance to be outstanding in our beloved game.

Thanks to all three of you (and many others who mightily contribute) for your loyalty and emphasis in being heard.

Without all of our love for the game, the message sent would never succeed in convincing our world wide readers of the magnificence of our addiction. Non-players or at least the ones who are blessed with the qualities necessary to shine, do not know what they are missing by not testing the unbridled joy and competition which the game will always bring.

That, together with David’s truth, Jim2’s humor, and Iain’s modesty (as well as so many others consistent contributions) could very well (at least the way I feel) rival Victor Mollo’s menagerie in the study of bridge player’s marvelous personalities.

I feel truly blessed to be included.

RyanMay 16th, 2014 at 4:16 pm

On BWTA, I usually would show the 4D bid as a first round control (ace or void), when is it okay to bid with the king?

bobby wolffMay 16th, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Hi Ryan,

Expediency my dear Ryan. When the hand appears strong enough for a cue bid, compromise and show second round control (king or singleton) just to let partner know that the partnership doesn’t have 2 fast losers in that suit.

Last train, a treatment which uses the last bid available as the namesake, disdaims the need for control, but only states that somewhere I think I have underbid this hand up to a point wherein I want to get that across to partner in case he can shore up my slam weaknesses.

Bridge is NEVER an exact science, but rather a judgmental (hopefully percentage) attempt to use our limited language (bidding) to randomly and hopefully achieving the maximum contract.

If only our would be outstanding young players would understand this scientific shortcoming and accept its value or as some would be perfectionists would say, not so.

Thanks for your query which may open some doors heretofore closed for discussion.

Do not expect perfection since it is rarely achieved at bridge, but rather a series of back and forths which add up favorably is more likely its best description.

Herreman BobMay 19th, 2014 at 4:28 pm

would 4clubs not be be a better cue-bid.
I my world (where but i am probably lost), 4 Diamonds denies a club control.

please can you help me to create order in my world ?