Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

There are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream.

Charles Kingsley

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


Today's deal from last year's Yeh Bros. Cup tournament in Yokohama features Bauke Muller of the Netherlands, who was given the equivalent of a knighthood last year. He is the only Dutch player to have played on both their world-title winning teams, in 1993 and 2012.

Here he declared six spades on the lead of the club four, East-West playing third from even and low from an odd number. He drew trump, ending in hand, then took a diamond finesse. When the defenders won and continued clubs, West followed with the club two — confirming an original four-card suit. Now declarer ruffed out the hearts and trumped a club. In the three-card ending, Muller knew East had begun with three spades, two hearts, and four clubs, so he could successfully finesse against the diamond 10. But had West concealed the club two, the count might have been far harder to confirm.

Paul Hackett of England also played slam here, from the North seat, on a trump lead. He won in hand and went to the club ace to take a losing diamond finesse. Back came a trump (yes, a club would be better) so Hackett won and played three rounds of hearts, ruffing in dummy. Then he played the last trump, followed by the diamond jack and a diamond to the ace. Now he cashed the last trump, and both defenders were squeezed. With East guarding diamonds and West guarding hearts, neither could keep a second club. So declarer scored the club eight for his 12th trick.

On this auction, the two- heart call shows no extras at all. Your partner would make this call on any hand with four hearts, even the barest minimum opening. You should bid four hearts — but it should not surprise you that your partner is more likely to go down in game than make 12 tricks.


♠ A Q 9 8
 K 9 8 3
 A Q 4
♣ 10 3
South West North East
1♣ 1
Dbl. 2 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


Mircea GiurgeuMay 28th, 2014 at 9:39 am

On the BWTA hand, is it not better to invite with 3H? Based on the bidding thus far and the holdings in the minors the hand’s worth has diminished. Based on this, I’m not sure that jumping to game is reasonable even at teams.

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2014 at 11:27 am

Hi Mircea,

Your thinking is certainly as a potential very good bridge player should, but you need to temper it a notch.

Yes, your values in diamonds, your balanced hand type and your lack of an honor in your partner’s original suit clubs, detract from its value, but to bid only 3 hearts, only an invitation to game, is much too conservative.

On the positive side, you have found an 8 card major suit fit (4-4), you have a sound 15 HCPs with nary a jack (at the value of 1 point, that is still a slight overstatement as to its normal value), the AQ of the opponents suit figures to be well placed behind the diamond overcaller, and your partner has opened the bidding, promising about 12+ HCPs, making the combined total about 27+.

It feels about right, when considering a game contract to only need about 22 or 23 HCPs plus an average or so of 3 or 4 distributional points (short suits after finding an 8 card trump suit). This hand more than fills the bill with a few extras to boot, making a game bid (and not just an invitation) mandatory.

Also to be noted, since bridge is thought to be an overbidder’s game (and I certainly agree) it, on the average and faced with a choice, is more a winning style to overbid than to underbid, in other words, Go For It.

However you give very wise advice, when you agree with the BWTA and not try for slam with perhaps a 3 diamond cue bid instead of a mere 4 heart raise since your partner’s bid of 2 hearts figures to be just a competitive effort (he, opposite your negative double which promised the unbid suits, in this case accenting the majors), was merely making a noise with his 2 heart interjection (with only a few values more, he would have jumped or cue bid, rather than only bid the minimum) so his partner (in this case, you), need to respect his judgment and together, not bite off more than you can chew.

As always, thanks for writing since by not, many important different subjects in bridge (and there are thousands) will never be discussed.

Iain ClimieMay 28th, 2014 at 11:28 am

Hi Bobby, Mircea,

Aren’t you being a little pessimistic here, as it is still a 15 ct, partner has opened and the DAQ could well be over the King? True, trumps may break badly, but if partner had Kx xxxx xx AKJxx then a jump to 3N will still work well. If the original double guarantees both majors, partner can still return to hearts with better trumps and/or a hand more suited for the trump contract. Any thoughts?



Iain ClimieMay 28th, 2014 at 11:44 am

Hi Bobby,

crossed in the post!

jim2May 28th, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I do not understand why the column North bid 6S with a balanced 15 HCP. Presumably South has showed 15 – 17 points and four spades.

jim2May 28th, 2014 at 12:11 pm

BTW, on other ways to kill this feline of a hand, South could also:

– win the club,
– ruff a heart,
– cross with trump,
– ruff a second heart,
– KS,
– AD,
– draw trump,
– drive out KD,

All lines seem to pretty much need even trump split. This one needs some major suit cooperation, but is independent of the KD or other minor suit holdings.

(It might be even better to try the D finesse along the way, but I stopped before my head began to hurt. 🙂 )

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Hi Iain,

Crossed in the post happens often in our little active group. From my perch I would like to compliment everyone for understanding that the above is an occupational hazard with unintended criticism and rancor always possible, but, at least up to now, the respect we have for one another shines through, which speaks positively for everyone involved.

Now, getting back to your idiotic comment (just kidding, please laugh, instead of cry or worse, curse at me), No doubt an extremely untoward trump break could spell finis to our 4 heart contract with 3NT (as in your example hand almost laydown after a diamond lead and with the 10 of clubs in tow), but there could be, as there often is, slips in the road.

Holding s. AQxx, h, QJx, K108x, QJ or many hands of this type of feather (or, of course, weaker) a negative double would be my choice, even though I do not have the 4-4 in the unbids that I (and others) allude. However, if partner would have instead had 4 spades and then responded 2 spades the safety of that trump suit would (should) have priority over a 3NT contract opposite partner’s singleton. Obviously in a perfect world a negative double would always fit the right mode, but in real life, and at the bridge table, to think it always so, unfortunately IMO is to dream, simply because skill in high-level bidding at bridge constantly requires lesser of evil choices rather than slam dunks.

Your originality and expression are precious commodities, valuable in bridge and even more so in life. Never lose them, if for no other reason than to experience different partnerships which usually adds much needed spice.

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Hi Jim2,

Although all self respecting bridge authors would certainly agree that the “bash” to 6 spades is premature and unnecessary, some extremely good and particularly in the past, top players (when high-level bidding was relatively unknown, cumbersome and certainly not discussed enough) taken that course, in order not to have a partnership disaster as to the various meanings of slam tries or even being on the same wave length as to what bids were game forcing or not.

IMO and surprisingly when one just blasts to slam, opponents defend worse especially in the selection of the opening lead, since the enemy is always listening to the bidding which although often necessary to scientifically reach the best contract sometimes causes defeat because of the lionizing of the enemy.

While I am not in favor of less science, especially in the bidding of slams, there is another side to this story.

On the issue of the play, my guess is to agree with you about the closeness of lines of play including yours of ruffing 2 hearts in hand, but that may require length in hearts (at least 4 by LHO).

My “gut” feel is to immediately take the diamond finesse and then decide on the exact order of play based on whether or not that succeeds.

I, like you, do not respond well when my head starts hurting.

Iain ClimieMay 28th, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks and no worries – in a previous life I was a front row lemming – the sort that not only merrily leaps off the cliff but cheerfully eggs on those around and behind to join him. Beware optimists – if they say “chin up”, they may be trying to get a noose round!

OK, lemmings don’t really do this, but we all know players who take unnecessary plunges.


jim2May 28th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

I do not claim to be an expert, but I tend to bash into slam when one or both hands have shape or a potential source of tricks or something. This sequence would seem to the WORST candidate:

– South has opened with a balanced limit bid (and has not even jumped to 3S in response which might show a super-max and spades)

– North has a flat hand

– Adding the points easily shows 8 – 10 are missing.

My interpretation would be that North felt they needed a swing to have a chance.

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Hi Iain,

Life is about learning and with the world getting so much smaller with the internet and the cultures colliding, maybe it is time to get philosophical.

Perhaps the most dangerous change surrounds itself with the different senses of humor and I must say I adore yours. It is so honest, so graphic and uses words which get right to the point, like “chin up” “noose” and “lemmings” with their suicidal reputations.

My side of the pond often deals with the use of words and the sometimes “hypocrisy” of changing emotions on the spur of the moment from sweet to vicious or versa vice.

I only wish that I had another 80 years to enjoy what others have to offer, but instead I was blessed with living “a bridge life” which although a roller coaster up and down allowed me a life of competition, travel, and to meet a number of very bright, thoughtful and genuine people who all loved to intellectually challenge the world.

Thanks for being one of them.

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Hi Jim2,

Perhaps you are right in your evaluation, but once his partner responded spades to his Stayman inquiry, his hand had to go up in value and although catching partner with a theoretical minimum (15 HCPs) did reach about a 50% slam as he probably figured to do. Remember his partner did not have a “super accept’ available as in transfers and the disparity in points is not near 8-10 but rather pretty close to the theoretical 33 needed, including distributional points (however they are figured).

What”s it all mean? Nothing spectacular except slam bidding should be more specific and slower than that, but what all of us have to realize, but many, even at the top do not, that when doing so they, against peers, almost always get the very best defense, starting with the opening lead and continuing throughout the hand. I think the current crop of super experts are almost undeniably correct, but not without paying a stiff price and after all, bridge should be an intellectual exercise and to not use science in some ways, challenges that.

Iain ClimieMay 28th, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for the kind comments – much appreciated after the gruesome week I’ve just had. One of the great things about bridge is that the game and the people you meet provide a marvellous escape from the bad days in the office or elsewhere. I’ll talk to you soon,


Mircea GiurgeuMay 29th, 2014 at 11:11 am

I subscribe to Iain’s last comment (including thanking our host for his generosity in sharing his knowledge and wisdom as well as encouraging us on our path – it is remarcable)

bobby wolffMay 29th, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Hi Mircea,

It is, as so often happens in life, a rwo way (or a much larger multiple) street, which enables a successful and hopefully educational and enjoyable project to develop.

The coterie of our commentators is made up from all around the world of bridge of devotees who all individually and collectively love our game. That, together with the grace and manners (not to mention humor) which is shown by all, adds to the respect for each other which is always present.

For me, it is such a pleasure to deal with, that I look forward every day to hearing from as many of you as possible.

I should be thanking you for your love of the game which is both hopefully for the rest of most of our lives and possibly even (to quote the motto of the WBF) a Bridge for Peace.