Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Anyone who thinks there's safety in numbers hasn't looked at the stock market pages.

Irene Peter

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


Bridge is rarely a game that can be seen in black-and-white terms. However, in today's deal, your target is to find a way to play the diamond suit for one loser against as many lies of the cards as possible. After a hotly contested auction (despite your opponents' possessing just nine HCP), you reach six spades.

West leads the heart king to your ace. You take care of all the outstanding trump as West pitches three hearts. Now you take your three club winners, and can end up in either hand. What should be your plan?

As West is almost certain to have the diamond king for his overcall and is relatively likely to have some diamond length, you need to protect yourself against a bad diamond break. The obvious solution is to lead the diamond queen from hand, but, as the cards lie, this would not work. What does work today is to win the third club in dummy, then lead the diamond two. Once East plays a diamond higher than the six, play the diamond four from hand — this is the perfect safety play against West’s having four diamonds to the king.

If West overtakes, he will not be able to lead diamonds without giving up his trick. If East has a diamond to return, you can play the diamonds for no loser. And if he gives you a ruff-sluff, you trump in hand and discard a diamond from dummy, then finesse in diamonds.

There is no need to jump here. True, if you bid two diamonds and partner passes, you may have a frisson of anxiety before dummy comes down. But you do not really want to drive to game by jumping to three diamonds, and while an invitational bid of two no-trump might work, bidding diamonds first emphasizes your pattern to your partner. You can always bid on over a two-spade signoff.


♠ A Q 7 4 3
 A 5 3 2
♣ K 5 4
South West North East
1♠ Pass 1 NT 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 WarheitJuly 17th, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Third straight day with the same theme! EW have a good save in 7HX! So, by now, you know my question. Should EW bid 7H (assuming duplicate and assuming S to be a very strong declarer)?

MirceaJuly 17th, 2014 at 2:24 pm


I think the sacrifice is big gamble, especially at IMPs. Trade one of North’s clubs for a diamond from West and all of a sudden the sacrifice is out of the question. Plus, as shown in the actual post, unless declarer gets the diamond position right, he can go down in 6H.

I have two other quick questions: first, just for my own curiosity, what is 5H from North? Second, is declarer right to cover East’s D7 with the 8 to achieve the same endplay?

bobby wolffJuly 17th, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Hi David,

You are very observant as well as consistent in your quest for perfection, and I would be irresponsible if I did not give you a well-considered intelligent answer.

As I hoped I sort of mentioned before, (if not I should have), in order for a sacrifice to be effective it needs to overcome several variables:

1, Your side needs to go set less than their proposed contract would be worth if made.

2. In both matchpoints and imps their contract must be bid and made at other tables for the sacrifice to suffer anything but a significant loss.

3. At rubber bridge, with no other comparisons, #2 also applies and many points, over 1500 in this case, may be at stake, making a relatively small gain (30 in this case, -1400 instead of -1430) if successful.

Obviously, all of the above caveats (assuming I tell you true), would point strongly in favor of letting the opponents do what they want and then, without going out on the very shaky limb of taking the dive, try and set them.

I’ll now ask you a question while at the same time giving you my answer.

What percentage of players who you may know, read about, or play against, would score up this spade slam, after, of course bidding it?

My answer would be slim and perhaps only a few and that goes world wide. I say that, in spite of a very possible 4-1 diamond break (with West having the 4) showing up when the 2 heart overcaller shows out in spades and, of course East also showing up with at least 3 clubs. It then depends which defensive opponent has the 13th club and how the hearts were originally distributed. It also assumes that West was not playing with our minds with his 2 heart overcall, not likely, but always possible.

All of the above, at least to me, rules out taking sacrifices in general, unless it would appear to be a highly percentage move, since playing tournament bridge it is very hard to guess, before seeing the entire 52 card layout, whether or not the slam will be bid at other tables. Add that to the truly sensational declarer’s play effected here, likely not duplicated by mere mortal bridge experts, and my answer then becomes a slam dunk.

Of course, if it happens in rubber bridge and down 1400 we go I can and of course would (but should not) point out that, of course, NS were cold for their vulnerable slam so our side gained by our judgment. In that way I save face and also would be opening eyes to how smart I am with being right, no doubt, convincing both the other players and the kibitzers of what bridge is at the top.

However, I would still have to pay my losses for probably losing 1500 points on this hand, making the entire adventure not worth the acclaim.

bobby wolffJuly 17th, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Hi Mircea,

After asking for aces, my guess 5 hearts is merely quantitative and asking for another opinion from his partner. South could then only return to 5 spades (somewhat wimpy), cue bid at the 6 level inviting a grand slam if partner thought wise (very aggressive, especially after bidding 4 spades voluntarily denying a minimum) or make the “my porridge is just right”, 3 bears bid of 6 spades (middle of the road).

Also, declarer would still go set by playing a low diamond to the seven, eight and nine, since West’s low diamond return would establish advantage to the defense.

Between all of us conscientiously participating, I think we have a good thing going, and I, for one, appreciate its advantage for the game we play. Thank you!

Iain ClimieJuly 17th, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Hi Bobby,

A stray thought on rubber bridge, which clashes with duplicate. If NV vs V, you need to win the next 2 games to get the 500 for the rubber. Other things being equal, that is a 1 in 4 shot. Someone said “why spend money prolonging a rubber your opponents will still probably win?”. Maybe a cheap save vs a slam, or -100 vs a game, but going for 300 vs game or 1100 vs slam may be bad for the bank balance at rubber, although good at duplicate.



Bobby WolffJuly 17th, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Hi Iain,

Your wise reasoning about the difference in bridge strategy between tournament bridge, especially matchpoints and rubber bridge only emphasizes which is often explained.

Where matchpoint bridge caters to frequency of gain, beating par (or theoretical opponents) on many different hands, by whatever margin (10 points or 1000+) is how to succeed, but in rubber bridge one hand can be more important than 10+ others if the one hand is a huge swing therein catering to amount of gain.

The above only confirms that the two forms of scoring should never be talked about in the same breath since winning and losing in one or the other is as different as rain and sunshine.

Whatever way is used to illustrate it (and I subscribe to yours) always emphasizes the above and is ever present in all bridge competitions, leaving little else to say.