Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them.

David Hume

West North
Neither ♠ K 7 5
 10 9 3
 K Q 2
♣ A 5 4 2
West East
♠ A 9 8 6 4
 K 8 4
 9 7 4
♣ K 10
♠ 2
 Q 7 5 2
 10 6 5 3
♣ J 9 7 3
♠ Q J 10 3
 A J 6
 A J 8
♣ Q 8 6
South West North East
Pass 1♣ Pass
3 NT All pass    


At the Yeh Bros. tournament last May, this was the first board of the second half of the knockout match between The Netherlands and Australia Youth. The Australian juniors are one of the strongest young teams in the world, and although they lost to the then world champions, they were not disgraced.

For the Dutch, Ricco van Prooijen, West, led the spade six against Liam Milne’s three-no-trump contract, the seven winning in dummy. Next, Milne led a club to the queen and king (yes, setting up spade or heart tricks might have been a perfectly reasonable alternative) and now van Prooijen switched to the heart king. What, you may ask, was he thinking? Well, you will have to wait and see.

In retrospect it might have been better to duck this trick, but Milne made the natural play when he took the trick with his ace and led a spade. Van Prooijen took his ace and switched to the club 10, Louk Verhees overtaking with the jack. Milne ducked, so Verhees continued with the club nine to dummy’s ace, pinning declarer’s eight, and setting up his seven. Now the foresight of the heart king shift revealed itself. Verhees had a club winner ready to cash, and, because of van Prooijen’s earlier play, had the heart queen as an entry to cash it. Maybe this is why Milne should have ducked the heart king and taken the finesse for the queen later, but that is a lot easier to see with a view of all 52 cards.

For better or worse, I would play pass here as prepared to play two hearts redoubled, so I must bid with this hand. However, rather than pick a minor and guess unluckily, the best option is to bid two no-trump, which is a way to show a two-suited hand in clubs and diamonds since you would bid spades if you could, or a minor if you had a single-suit. So this asks partner to take his pick of the minors.


♠ 2
 Q 7 5 2
 10 6 5 3
♣ J 9 7 3
South West North East
1 Pass 2
Pass Pass Dbl. Rdbl.

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 29th, 2014 at 10:31 am

Hi Bobby,

Hindsight is always helpful but I suspect declarer just rushed this. He has 8 easy tricks after knocking out the SA and 3 50-50 chances for a ninth based on the location of the heart honours and CK, although care is required in the timing. Running the H10 at trick 2 is surely sensible, then play on spades if west exits with a diamond. The club to the Q is just far too committal although even with the later chance of a 3-3 break.



Iain ClimieMay 29th, 2014 at 10:33 am

Oops, brain’s grasp of English going awry at the end.

jim2May 29th, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I agree. I think I would play on spades, but maybe hearts. Playing a club to the queen would never have occurred to me.

bobby wolffMay 29th, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

No doubt, you are both correct that either major, with probably hearts the better percentage choice for success at trick 2 (at least psychologically). In some ways, as Iain discussed, the club play appears reasonable, but in effect it is inferior since it enabled Ricco to make a sensational play (the obvious reason for our report). Liam (being an up and coming junior) will learn by his mistake and later gain the experience necessary to go with his talent, so that he, too will not choose a club at trick 2, if for no other reason than West upon winning the heart, may switch to a club.

Thanks for both of your opinions which bridge the gap to discussing how and why and with a real life hand.

Mircea Giurgeu, Kitchener, ONMay 29th, 2014 at 5:25 pm

I hope you all don’t mind if I interrupt with an nagging problem that causes me a lot of sleep depravation. How would you bid this:

Q J 10 8
7 5
10 3 2
A J 10 3

K 3
A K 9 8
A K Q J 8 4

Dealer is South and opponents are silent. If it matters, we are red and this is pairs.

Thank you very much.

bobby wolffMay 29th, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Hi Mircea,

How about:

South North
1D 1S
2H* (1 rd. F) 2N (F)
4NT (quantitative) 5NT (accepting and
6D asking partner to
pick a slam)

South’s hand is barely strong enough to go past 3NT, but it’s playing strength is enormous and should be respected. North did just that by accepting, knowing he had a semi-diamond fit by having 3. His alternate choice in response to 4NT might be 5 or 6 diamonds, allowing partner to judge from there. He would then undoubtedly have raised to 6 over 5 and, of course, would have passed 6 by partner.

While playing matchpoints we must not forget the advantage of NT being the final contract, but since North was slightly pushing he should seek the safest slam and that had to be his partner’s long suit, diamonds.

6NT would make in the absence of a club lead while 6 diamonds is very good and almost laydown.

Good luck!

Mircea GiurgeuMay 29th, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Thanks Bobby for your reply. What if we play 2NT as Lebensohl after the reverse? My partner bid 3NT directly over my 2H and I passed. Is there a way to bid this slam scientifically or is it too close to worry about? My dilemma is weather the slam has to be pursued and if yes how to do it (playing Leb) or if 3NT is enough.

Iain ClimieMay 29th, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Hi Bobby, Mircea,

This hand could be an advert for old fashioned strong 2 bids. 2D – 3D – 3H – 3N – 4D – 5C – 6D. Of course they don’t pay off that often, but occasionally hands crop up which suit such methods.


bobby wolffMay 29th, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Hi Mircea & Iain,

When partner bids 3NT as a rebid, I certainly realize, unless there is a conventional understanding to the contrary, that he should posses at least one key card, and since he cannot have one in either red suit, plus not a fitting honor in diamonds, I would either use whatever I need to do to find out aces, or if not available just venture 6 diamonds.

At the level of bridge to which I am talking about, it doesn’t make sense to me that partner could have the QJ of spades, the queen of hearts and the KQ of clubs without an ace, but I, in the absence of an ace asking method, would simply gamble it out that partner had at least one (but likely only one) and hope to be able to take care of my two low hearts (could be done if partner holds the queen of hearts, intermediate spades, a heart doubleton and adequate trump or secondary clubs which can be established.

Obviously bridge systems which can find out 3rd round controls in suits would be preferred, but those are few and far between.

Iain, your proposed sequence featuring a strong 2 diamond opening is picture perfect to arrive at the almost laydown diamond slam. However, there is still a small risk in being able to handle the 3rd round of hearts, but no one should look for aces and cinches when playing our great game at any level. If they would they wouldn’t find many which fit the bill.

Mircea GiurgeuMay 30th, 2014 at 10:12 am

Thank you Bobby, this was very helpful.