Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

You have only one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do.

Melchor Lam

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


These days bridge has become far more level at the top than it was 20 years ago. And this is especially so in the women's game. This can be seen by the fact that while the top countries (USA, Italy, China, France, England, Netherlands) almost always qualify for the later stages of the world championships, there are many other countries who can upset the seeding books, and frequently do.

Spain is just one of those countries, and Nuria Almirall demonstrated her talents here. She found herself in a pretty awful spot, on this deal from the European Championships, but did not give up hope.

Almirall had reached six clubs as South after an auction where both players might have done just a little too much — though it is hard to criticize either player, North should probably not go past three no-trump with such poor controls.

Clearly one might succeed by finding a singleton heart king, but Nuria did better than that. She won the diamond lead in dummy, cashed dummy’s other diamond, then played the spade ace and king and ruffed a spade. Now she cashed one more diamond, ruffed the fourth diamond with a master trump in dummy and exited with the club queen.

West won her bare ace, and was forced to open up hearts or concede a ruff-and discard. She played a heart, and Nuria was not going to spoil a good piece of reporting by misguessing whether to put in the 10 or queen, was she?

Your partner's call of four clubs is a slam-try, and with your remarkably good trumps you have enough to cooperate with a call of four spades, a cue-bid implicitly agreeing clubs, the last-bid suit. If you had diamond preference, you would probably bid four diamonds over four clubs. Just for the record, a bid of four no-trump by you here would be to play.


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


JeffNovember 11th, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Just on my way to work so I may be missing something in my rush, but what was the point of trumping the fourth diamond after West had showed out? Impressive play in any case.

As always, thank you for the column and your insights.

David WarheitNovember 11th, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Jeff: S can make 6C only if SOMEBODY has the singleton CA, and that could have been (and odds are would have been) the player with the outstanding D. There is also the possibility that W has exactly 3D & doubleton CA & he ruffs the 4th D with his small trump. You do have one point, however. When S leads the 4th round of D & W shows out, he didn’t have to ruff it

Our host has defined this contract as “awful”, so I decided to see if I could put a number to its awfulness. The figure I came up with was less than 6%: E has stiff CA & HK or W has stiff CA & HKJ or stiff CA & either HJ or HK & declarer can guess which one.

Final point: 6% can be reduced to 0% if W’s opening lead is the CA. Should W have found this lead?

bobby wolffNovember 11th, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Hi Jeff,

Yes, as the cards lie, it was unnecessary to ruff the 4th diamond in dummy, but, just in case the 4th diamond was in the hand with the hoped for singleton ace of clubs. It was not, but proper technique suggested to do it.

Sometimes dreams are fulfilled, just as today’s quote implies and with this hand the declarer will likely forever be remembered for taking advantage of an unlikely favorable lie of the cards which she, no doubt, took advantage of, accenting the wonders of the game we all love.

Jane ANovember 11th, 2014 at 4:16 pm

On the BWTA hand, what should four clubs actually mean? The club ace, a club suit, possibly even Gerber? Without an intervening bid, how does this change things? Slam try for sure, but how would north ask for aces? If he bids four NT, would that be quantitative? East could be psyching.

How do you recommend playing Gerber, or do you even like it?

bobby wolffNovember 11th, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Hi David,

Please excuse my preempting your interpretation with what is certainly a more complete and very accurate description of exactly what happened as well as surrounding important information which you so cordially provided.

No I would not choose to lead the singleton ace of trumps (even though it is a bell ringer here, with which, however, this hand would never have seen the light of day) since sometimes when declarer miss guesses the distribution could possibly provide the setting trick when partner has the Jxx in trumps.

Opening leads continue to remind me what John Brown (a famous English excellent player and writer around 75 years ago) once said in his signature book, “Winning Defence”. “If a just average bridge player would always make the winning opening lead, when he was the opening leader, he would win every Bridge World Championship. I, for one, would probably agree with that bold statement.

Bill CubleyNovember 11th, 2014 at 4:50 pm


Happy Veterans Day and thanks for your service from another vet.

Bobby WolffNovember 11th, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Hi Jane,

Most high-level bridge partnerships do play Gerber (and perhaps Super Gerber, where other suits at the four level, in a few cases, and 5 clubs usually, being used for ace asking).

In this case when 4NT can (should) be used as a quantitative raise (only a certain minimum amount of HCP’s, in this case probably around 17+-19) 4 clubs should be just a suit, perhaps a hand: s. x, h. A, d. AK10xxx, c. Axxxx which first wants to establish the right trump suit, in case the 3NT bidder had good club support and perhaps only Jx in diamonds making clubs the far safer trump suit (partner should reply 4 spades cue bidding the ace of spades and agreeing clubs. With as good or better diamonds, responder must now show a diamond preference before cue bidding.

For those playing super Gerber a jump to 5 clubs over 3NT should then be an ace ask and after receiving an answer then (if sufficient aces are held) a bid of 6 clubs would then be natural and ask for a preference in the minors at that point. Obviously the ace asker, must be prepared (depending on his hand) for a possible inconvenient response which, in some cases, propel the partnership overboard, if preparation does not proceed opportunity.

Judy and I hope to see you today at the The Bridge World.

Bobby WolffNovember 11th, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the Armistice day greetings (way back in 1918 when I was only middle age). Yes, I am also a vet, having spent my military time in a very safe place within the USA and so and because bridge, not war (at least for me) has been hell at times, since however every life is different, but somehow danger has far flung implications when either being stranded in the wrong hand is compared to being the point man in a scouting mission, with going down having altogether different implications.

This morbid comparison has always made me think how lucky I am to have it mean only bridge, instead of the ultra brave souls who made it possible for me and others like me, to remain alive.

Thanks for the reminiscence.

jim2November 11th, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Our Host –

West had already pitched on the fourth diamond when declarer ruffed it. If West had ruffed it, the trump would have had to have been the ace, making the endplay a trick earlier.

Actually, West pitching on the good diamond indicated that West held the AD singleton.

Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2014 at 12:18 am

Hi Jim2,

I beg to differ. If West had Ax in clubs and ruffed the ace of diamonds he then would have subjected himself to being end played. However since declarer did not have any gain by discarding on the good diamond West would have been foolish to ruff it with Ax.

Obviously, when West did not ruff the ace of diamonds declarer could have just pitched on it, before leading a club for the “lucky” ending (for him).

AlanRNovember 12th, 2014 at 1:13 am

In your Nov. 11th game, it is true that South must choose between leading the HJ or the H6. Given that opponents have 5H and CQ between them, there are 8 possible combinations in total. If South chooses to lead with HJ, he will make contract if East has H10-x or Hx-x-x, a 25 % chance. However, if his attempted finesse of the HQ should fail, then he would lose not only to East’s HQ but immediately afterwards to East’s CQ (if East had HQ and CQ, a 50-50 chance), going down 2!
Conversely, if he leads the H6 to the HA, he will make contract if East has HQ-x or Hx-x-x: again a 25% chance. But if this strategy should fail, it will fail only on the last trick, and he will go down only 1.
Overall, then, his best bet would seem to be to run H from the top and hope that both HQ and H10 drop (same chance, 25%). Worst that can happen otherwise is that he is down 1, not 2.

Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2014 at 2:53 am

Hi Alan,

If I understand your point, it will have to do with the death of the hand, when West is thrown in.

Once done, West must lead a heart, otherwise the heart loser will disappear in the form of a ruff and a sluff (bridge slang for trumping it in one hand and discarding a loser in the other). However when West does lead a heart, declarer (South) will have to guess whether West is leading from the King or the Jack. If West has both, either play will win, but if East has both neither will win and therefore both will lose. However if the two honors are split South needs to guess right and on this hand the 10 from dummy is the winner, while the queen would be the loser.

I do not see your point with the down 1 instead of down 2, but perhaps you can explain it both for me and the other readers who will be interested.

We appreciate your involvement and only want to clarify what is being said.

jim2November 12th, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Our Host –

We may have a misunderstanding here.

I believe I said that West had already pitched on the fourth round of diamonds BEFORE the board trumped it. Hence, declarer knew East would follow suit. (So, for example, ruffing with a “master trump” was not some sort of safety play).

Since the only trump West could use to ruff was the ace, trumping in would have served only to advance the endplay by a trick. Hence, I said:

If West had ruffed it, the trump would have had to have been the ace, making the endplay a trick earlier.

If West held the Ax of trump, as you suggested, West could have ruffed in with the ACE and exited with the small trump, evading the endplay. Still, this is no different in effect than if West had pitched, won the trump lead with the ace, and exited with the small trump.

This is why I suggested that West’s failure to ruff provided some evidence that West DARED NOT ruff, allowing declarer another chance to err, perhaps

AlanRNovember 12th, 2014 at 6:35 pm


I was perhaps ahead of myself. I was commenting on your column “Aces on Bridge” which appeared in my newspaper on Nov. 11th, not on the game above which apparently appeared on Oct. 28th.

I should perhaps wait until the Nov. 11th game is featured in your Blog above! Sorry for the confusion.

Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, however the misunderstanding is totally benign and not worth our lingering. I apologize for not being more thorough and therefore thoughtful.

Never, at least in our rather lengthy association, have I found you to not give attention to accurate detail.

Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Hi Alan,

Yes, you have uncovered the source of my misunderstanding and since my files are far less than adequate, I, believe it or not, do not even have a copy of the Nov 11th column, to appear on our blog site on November 25th.

Sorry for having to mark time, but according to the old admonition, “Good things come to those who wait”, I’ll look forward to reviewing what you have said at that moment.

In the meantime, I hope you continue to stay in touch, especially 13 days from today.