Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

What would life be without arithmetic, but a scene of horrors?

Rev. Sydney Smith

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


As the play unfolded in today's deal, declarer was grateful for the knowledge that West held a six-card heart suit because of his pre-emptive opening bid.

Declaring six spades, South won the heart-king lead in dummy perforce, and it seemed to him that the small slam was cold; in fact 13 tricks would roll in if the diamond king sat with West.

But when declarer continued with a trump to his ace and West showed out, his first thoughts were, that with a natural trump loser, the diamond king needed to sit onside just for him to make his contract. Then further thought brought South to the conclusion that East might be endplayed, so long as he had fewer than four clubs.

Harking back to West’s opening bid, South appreciated that East would hold just three hearts. So he continued by ruffing a heart in dummy, then played the spade king, followed by a spade to his queen. South ruffed his last heart with dummy’s last trump, and now the stage was set.

He led a club to the ace, then a club to the king followed by the club jack. This left East in an unenviable position. If he ruffed, he would be endplayed in diamonds. Accordingly, East elected to discard a diamond, but now South played his last trump, discarding a diamond from dummy, and throwing East in. The forced diamond return saw the slam safely home, as South’s third diamond departed on the club queen.

Despite your lack of real extras and your square shape, what you have is very much in the right place. You expect your trump honors to be pulling their weight and your club honors to be facing three or four cards to one honor and thus useful to your partner. Even your black nines may play a part. So bid four spades.


♠ A Q 9 3
 8 5 2
 Q J 10
♣ K J 9
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 WarheitAugust 26th, 2014 at 9:17 am

Speaking of black nines “playing a part”: S wins the HA, CASHES THE SK and leads a S. E splits his honors, S wins, ruffs a H, and leads another S to hand, ruffs his last H with dummy’s last S. He comes back to the CK, draws trump, discarding a D, runs clubs and the DA and loses the last trick to the DK. Surely this is a far better line than that adopted by this declarer who actually lost an UNNATURAL trump trick.

Shantanu RastogiAugust 26th, 2014 at 10:00 am

Hi David

Just to add to what you have reasoned. Slam is cold if spades are 3-1. The only problem is when Spades are 4-0 and Diamond King is offside. If Spades are with West you cant do anything but if they are with East then Spade King must be played first. The line suggested in the column is much more sexier but your line is fine as well.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Iain ClimieAugust 26th, 2014 at 11:46 am

Hi Folks,

This is another case of a little knowledge being dangerous thing. With AQ10xx opposite K9xx the ace guards against 4-0 and maintains flexibility. The column holding is subtly different while Axx opposite KQ109x needs the ace first to handle 5-0. With AKJ10x opposite xxx, the ace first gives a small extra chance; with AKJ10xx opposiite xx, the finesse first round is far better. Bridge often involves pattern recognition, but the mental equivalent of poor eyesight is scarily common.



jim2August 26th, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I wondered the same thing two weeks ago, but obviously did not wake up early enough today to post first! The KS at trick two seems obvious even without looking at all four hands.

Bill CubleyAugust 26th, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Hi Bobby,

Back from playing in West Palm Beach with Barnet Shenkin. I was delighted that we played defense so well with standard carding/discards. We, not I, set every hand which could be set. Our slam bidding was good but for one board which was my fault.

It was a good start. The hotel gave me a 2 drink voucher, the tournament chairwoman saw me and kissed me, and I had not played a hand yet!

Barnet even had me write down a hand I played for him to publish. It was a set where we won by 20 IMPS and I won 23 IMPs on 2 hands. I always like to contribute to the team winning a match.

bobby wolffAugust 26th, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Hi David, Shantanu, Iain and Jim2,

Haven’t any of the four of you experienced an earthquake, fire drill, emergency evacuation, tornado warning, hurricane or even an air raid?

We were just testing your card combination acumen, and unfortunately for us, you all passed, (with flying colors).

So, if one wakes up and finds someone else missed a very simple card combination, shouldn’t we all follow the American Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared”?

Add that to finding a new popular cliche to match “different ways to skin cats” such as “other ways to make laydown slams” and as Henry Higgins said to Liza Doolittle, “By George, she’s got it”.

Where are your senses of humor when all we were doing was testing our reader’s awareness? Have you four no sense of adventure, nor following the less traveled road? For heaven’s sake, can’t this group take a joke?

Let’s see, perhaps to rationalize I could say, we didn’t have enough words available to explain how to play that particular combination or there would be no comment if East had the J109x, but then we wouldn’t be Dr. Feel Good to any of you leopard like four ready to leap from behind a tree and have us for lunch.

Oh well, might as well just admit it. When poor original writing meets poor proofreading the result is often like a losing bridge session, just at least one too many errors.

Thanks Iain, for your kind attempted excuse of poor eyesight. If deep down, you were only part leopard, at least you were trying to change your spots.

However this TINY error was definitely caused by TOCM tm which migrated declarer’s 9 of spades into his hand knowing by doing so, that he would make a fool of himself.

bobby wolffAugust 26th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Hi Bill,

Obviously, you had a great time in West Palm Beach playing bridge with Barnet.

Perhaps you have both found your favorite partners for the future. In any event bridge has a way of making us feel good, especially so when we feel like we played, defended and bid up to our ability.

Thanks for your report.

Patrick CheuAugust 26th, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Hi Bobby,could you pls give us a ‘sensible’ auction to 7H or 7N on this hand: North 72 A6 AKQJ6 AQ43 South AJ5 KQJ98 952 K2. N 1D S 1H, N 3C S 3S, N 4H(intended to be Ax or Kx) S 4N(South thought N had three hearts),N 5D(0-3) S 5N, N 6D( intended to show one king) South(a bit confused)6H.Maybe 6NT better(pairs).Anyway to find out about the QD?I thought pard should bid 4D over 3S,rather than 4H.If 4H shows Ax or Kx or Qx,would you bid 4H? Second hand brought more headache-bidding went all vul pairs,West 1C North 1H East 1S South ? South AK862 void QJ1075 J108.South doubles, West 2C North 2H East pass South pass,West 3C North 3H pass out -400 not a success.North thought I should pass and bid 2S later to play.West Void K97 AK6 K976532~North 1075 AJ8632 42 A4~East QJ943 Q1054 983 Q.Does South double show 5+d and 3H(8-11)? Or can it show the hand above?Your thoughts would be much appreciated.Regards~Patrick.

Iain ClimieAugust 26th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Hi Bobby,

I mention eyesight as mine is pretty poor, while I also have a tendency to typos. My wife reckons that I would only have been allowed to go on a tiger shoot in the 19th century (obviously not nowadays) if I’d volunteered to be bait. My chances of survival in the wild would depend on potential predators laughing too hard to eat me – ouch!


jim2August 26th, 2014 at 6:24 pm

Patrick Cheu –

I am not Our Host, but on that slam hand:

1) Was South’s 3S fourth-suit forcing or a stopper bid? If fourth suit forcing, what strength did it show?
2) Did South ever show more than four hearts? Did South’s 4N over a delayed raise show five or more?
3) Presumably 5N guaranteed all aces, but did it demand a king response?

Assuming 3S was 4th suit GF, 4N showed 5 good hearts, and 5N showed all aces, sitting North I would have bid 7D over 5N to show a solid suit and offer choice of grands.

jim2August 26th, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Patrick Cheu –

As before, I am not Our Host, but on the part score hand I think the meaning of South’s double would be purely a partnership agreement thing.

BTW, I would have bid 2D as South, if I had bid at all. I tend to turtle when pard makes a one-level overcall in my void, especially when the suit I would bid is not what pard should lead on defense.

Patrick CheuAugust 26th, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Hi Jim2,I intend 3S to be 4th suit forcing,one would assume 4th suit to show extra.. as I could bid 3D or 4C or 3H(5H+)In answer to Q2 no and 4NT would be based on hearts 0314 rkcb.As to whether it shows 5H,we have not agreed.Q3 yes asking for kings.Your 7D bid makes things easier.Re partscore can double of one spade be for penalties or is it strictly 5+D and 3 hearts?Maybe pass is the simple answer..?Nevertheless,your probing questions have been most enlightening and your 4N guaranteeing 5H is constructive.Regards~Patrick.

Patrick CheuAugust 26th, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Hi Jim2,after 1D-1H,3C-3S,4H-4S?What is 4S here,shows 5H n 1st round spade control OR last train-general forward going bid..nothing to do with spades?Our host may have some thoughts on this…

jim2August 26th, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Patrick Cheu –

1) In the slam hand, if I were North’s partner, I would not expect North to have 20 excellent HCP and a solid suit on the bidding. Thus, in my partnerships, North still has unshown values when South bids 4th suit forcing at the top of the 3-level.

2) Also in my partnerships, the 5N “we have all aces” bid is exploring for a grand and answering kings is just one way to answer it. Here, North has a solid suit that has never been rebid and is thus is a source of tricks North’s partner cannot possibly have expected when bidding 5N.

3) On your “double” question, I think you are asking if the double can be a sort of responsive double showing unbid suit and 3-card support. I do not think I have encountered that treatment, but that is Our Host’s area far more than mine. If the doubler’s RHO had raised it might be different, but I defer on that point, also.

4) On 4S in that last auction, I would probably interpret as a cue bid with hearts having been confirmed by the 4H bid. I must note, however, that I personally detest rebidding cue bids. They give me indigestion.

Wen TaoAugust 26th, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff, David, Shantanu, Iain and Jim2,

It was fun to read your comments. However, I think the column declarer’s line is far more entertaining and memorable. Like most movie scripts, our declarer needs to be knocked down first and then emerge as a hero.
Due to poor eyesight or shaky hand, the declarer wanted to play SK but tabled S7 instead (or he tabled S7 because he did not know the correct play for this combination). After he played SA and West showed out, he became sweaty, his partner became upset and silently cursed him, and East became excited with big smile on his face. Then he calm down and played the hand as outlined in the column. Now, East’s big smile was replaced with big disappointment, and his partner jumped up and down with joy. The declarer bragged to anyone he met about his come-back in the next couple of days, and still remembered the hand 5 years after. If he had played SK, well, he would forget about it in a few days. Who could remember what he had for lunch a few days ago?

Wen Tao

jim2August 26th, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Wen Tao –

Come join me at the Fall Slush Cup!


Iain ClimieAugust 26th, 2014 at 11:09 pm

Hi Wen Tao,

Welcome to the group and are you familiar with TOCM (Jim2’s nemesis) yet? If not, he will readily (but not happily) explain it.



Wen TaoAugust 27th, 2014 at 2:48 am

Hi Jim2 and Iain,
Yes, I am familiar with Jim2’s Theory of Card Migration via reading previous comments. It was fun to read the column articles as well as comments. Thanks.
Wen Tao

bobby wolffAugust 27th, 2014 at 5:03 am

Hi Patrick,

With your 1st hand either:
N. S.
1D 1H
3C 3H (looking for support)
4H (not much extra) 4S
4NT 5S (or whatever is 3)
5NT 6C (KC)
7D (solid) 7NT


North South
1D 1H
3C 3H
4H 4S
4NT 5S (2 with the QH)
5NT 7H (JH)
7NT (mostly insurance against a bad H break)

With hand #2 how about:
W. N. E S.
1 club 1 heart 1 spade Pass!!
2 clubs Pass Pass 2 diamonds
3 clubs all pass

South’s 1st double is both actually and tactically unsound. He is basically saying to the opponents without intending to: Why should you go set when we can, once we finish the full auction and we realize who will be playing this hand.

With misfits in the mix, allow the opponents to play the hand with a minimum of competition related to sometimes, but not usually, finding a fit with partner once the 1st round of bidding is complete. DO NOT try continuously for tops, but settle for averages and the tops will be there once in a while for the plucking.

To compare bridge with romance: Top boards and love are where you find them.

bobby wolffAugust 27th, 2014 at 5:32 am

Hi Wen Tao,

A snapdragon double (the name of the convention discussed is after 3 different suits have been bid around the table, when the 4th hand then doubles, it is artificial showing classically 5+ of the unbid suit and perhaps either 3 small or honor one in partner’s overcalled suit). It is a decent convention for getting both suits in, your own plus a scant raise for partner, but the big reason is to not allow partner to double for penalties, something that in Patrick’s question turned out not so well, as is customary when a defender doubles too soon, doing exactly the opposite of what he should. “Better be quiet and thought a fool then give away one’s defense and remove all doubt”. Sometimes in our zeal to not allow our worthy opponents to psyche us out of our best suit, we pay a big price for intervening. I hope that is enough said.

You are familiar and good at bridge stories with happy endings, know about TOCM tm and its up to now no known cure, and also have been invited to attend with Jim2 the always fun Slush Cup in Lower Slobovia with both world class bridge and beautiful women (especially Lena the Hyena), in full attendance.

When and if you ever get depressed about any of your bridge results, Iain will raise your spirits by explaining how it could get worse so with all those perks available, our group will expect daily comments from you, but will understand if during the next year or two you may miss a day or so.

When you add David, Shantanu, Patrick and Bill to the mix how can you possibly not accept?

That’s a, ah, ahh all folks!

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Hi, (going back to) Patrick,

4S in your example is a cue bid toward slam showing a control (almost surely 1st round) and asking for a continuation of controls, unless partner has already given his all and then he should merely return to the trump suit (hearts).

Last train only applies when it is one step below a possible game only contract. It symbolizes extras but not necessarily in the suit bid (cramped and not wanting to venture past game unless partner is interested), then becoming just a somewhat ubiquitous general slam try.

jim2August 27th, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Patrick Cheu –

Note that in Our Host’s auctions, he had North bid 4N.

Patrick CheuAugust 27th, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Hi Bobby,Your comments has been a tremendous help and as always much appreciated here. Best Regards~Patrick.

Patrick CheuAugust 27th, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Hi Jim2,Thanks for your constructive suggestions.Much appreciated.Regards~Patrick.

jim2August 27th, 2014 at 6:44 pm