Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.

Albert Einstein

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


Staying in control of dummy's entries would have been the key to success on today's deal. North correctly did not introduce his diamond suit at his first turn, and saw no reason to look any further than the no-trump slam when South showed a balanced hand.

Against six no-trump, West led the club 10, and declarer appreciated that he needed to bring in the diamond suit to make the slam. Of course, had dummy’s redundant spade jack been the diamond jack, the slam would have been foolproof.

South won the club lead with dummy’s king, then led a low diamond to his king. Returning to dummy in hearts, declarer played a second diamond. East smartly rose with the ace to return a heart, taking out dummy’s last entry. Although the diamonds could be set up after the queen dropped the jack, declarer needed a helicopter to reach the rest of the suit. One more option remained — the heart king might have dropped the jack — but when that failed, so did the slam.

South had allowed East to disrupt dummy’s entries. See the difference if declarer wins the first club in hand. Next comes a heart to dummy, for a diamond to the king. When that holds, a second heart to dummy is followed by another diamond, and now East is helpless. If he rises with the ace and returns a club, declarer wins in hand, cashes the diamond queen, collecting the jack, then a club to dummy’s king reunites him with the rest of the diamond suit.

Two diamonds is a Michaels cue-bid, showing 5-5 in the majors, suggesting a hand in the range of 9-13, the hand strength depending a little on the vulnerability. With nearly all your values in the majors, you have enough to invite game — after all, facing A-Q-fifth of spades and K-J-fifth of hearts, you have a decent play for game. So bid three spades and let partner make the final decision.


♠ J 10 7
 A Q
 10 9 8 6 4
♣ K 6 2
South West North East
1 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 GiurgeuJune 3rd, 2014 at 10:26 am

Hi Bobby,

Assuming that declarer gets it right with the entries, what is his correct play on the second round of diamonds if East plas low?

On a completely different matter, I played in our local annual Sectional this weekend and was intrigued by this hand:


What would you do with it in first seat at teams, both red? I decided to open 1S. Is that insane? If my 4-card was a minor I would have considered opening 4S

bobby wolffJune 3rd, 2014 at 11:24 am

Hi Mircea,

Good question.

It all depends on who my opponents are and heaven forbid, that scenario is very conflicting.

First, a second duck of the ace by East is extremely dangerous since I easily could have the KQ doubleton and the second diamond trick might easily be the 12th trick (either 3 spade tricks, maybe 4, 3 club tricks, maybe 4, 3 heart tricks, maybe 4), but whatever, the second diamond trick may then be necessary to add up to 12, keeping in mind that while defending against a slam it is usually not wise for the defense (and it usually happens so fast) to give count signals, even if available, since the competent declarer is also watching.

However it is also dangerous for West to duck the king, while holding the ace since his partner may hold the queen (e.g. making, from declarer’s point of view and while playing against very high level players it slightly percentage while holding the doubleton KJ and needing only one trick, to play the king rather than the jack since lefty may duck with the ace but, of course, not with the queen, if I play the jack).

The above makes the second play a sheer guess and I would attempt to determine, from the table action, who is doing what to whom.

I would open 4 spades even if the suit color of my side suit was green. That, to me, makes no difference and is highly overrated as any factor at all. Since both sides are vulnerable the flag is up and waving (on the rifle range that means ready for the shooter to shoot) and that would be my choice of bullet.

I wouldn’t say your choice of 1 spade is insane, but OTOH I don’t like to pass up good opportunities to rain on the opponent’s parade (even at some risk).

Good luck!

ClarksburgJune 3rd, 2014 at 12:21 pm

“… suggesting a hand in the range of 9-13…”
Does “suggesting” mean that it is most likely to be in that range, but could turn out to be stronger? i.e. how would the Michaels bidder start with the same hand shape but say 14-16 ?

bobby wolffJune 3rd, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

At the risk of creating a different perspective in the ladder of education while zooming up the elevator to becoming a high-level player, please consider the following: A partnership only needs, on the average, about 20 or 21 “working points” in order to bid and make a major suit game with the idea that 5 or 6 points (both hcps and distributional ones) will normally be waste paper.

Thus, J10x in spades and AQ in hearts will usually take 10 tricks in spades opposite a 5-5 hand with AQxxx and KJxxx, since the spade finesse is through the opening bidder, suggesting the finesse will likely work.

Changing the subject slightly, while holding, AQxxx, KJxxx, A, Qx it is OK to also use Michaels (since the idea is to elicit a major suit fit from partner). but if partner only gives a minimum response, a single raise would be called for (notice a small slam in spades is now in the mix with the same finesse being onside). However, if the responder held: s. xx, h. xxx, d. xx, c. AQJxxx and responded 2 hearts (it could realistically even be much worse with only 2 hearts and an extra minor suit deuce) after the raise and pass by you, chances are not good that you could get home with 9 tricks.

All the above only suggests the futility of not properly evaluating one’s hand, depending on the bidding up to then. The upshot is that only experience from playing the game, not learning to play the game, may allow the passage (together with some numeracy talent) to get a ticket to that high powered elevator going up.

Strict point count is not the way to secure that ticket, but in the mix is still an enjoyment of the game and an attempt to improve as one goes, but leaving the elevator ride to those who take to it, like ducks do to water.

In other words, I do not have anywhere near a foolproof way to normally describe the above and can only leave it to our best and brightest (you) to sort it out.