Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.

Jonathan Swift

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


In today's deal North gambled that his side was not missing the two top hearts — or that the defenders would not cash them if they had them. His jump to five no-trumps was an effort to get to diamonds if his partner had a good four-card suit or five diamonds, since North could see that a spade slam might require a decent trump break if South had honor-third of spades. Meanwhile, from South's perspective he knew his diamonds were good, but was not sure if his partner had the spade queen.

Against six diamonds the lead of the club jack left South contemplating safety plays in the trump suit, such as cashing the ace, or even taking both top trumps, then playing a crossruff. He won the club ace and led a low diamond from dummy, and when the queen appeared, a different conundrum presented itself. If West had four trumps, it might be difficult to take two club ruffs in dummy and retain an entry to the spades. South found the answer when he ducked the diamond queen. He won the heart shift in hand and ruffed a club, came to the diamond ace and ruffed a second club, then used the spade king as his entry to hand to draw trumps, discarding dummy’s heart losers.

He ended up scoring five spades, three trumps, two aces, and two ruffs for his 12 tricks. And note that with the heart finesse losing and diamonds not behaving, the odds are stacked against declarer in six spades.

You can set up a game-forcing auction with a call of three clubs, and support hearts later, or jump in hearts directly. A call of three hearts would suggest invitational values, so you should do more than that. But is a call of four hearts enough? I say yes — the singleton club ace is not pulling its full weight here. Give me a small singleton club and ace-fourth of diamonds, and I would do more.


♠ A Q 7 4 2
 Q 7 2
 7 6 3 2
♣ A
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass
1♠ Pass 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


jim2November 18th, 2014 at 1:27 pm

In BWTA, the recommended 4H call will almost certainly end the bidding (since North bid only 2D and not, say, 3D). A call now, instead, of 3C would also allow North the chance to make a pattern bid, such as rebid diamonds. The question, though, is if N-S gain if the bidding then went:

1H – 1S
2D – 3C
3D – ?

Alternatively, North could bid a black suit, showing perhaps 1-5-4-3. Are N-S slam chances could enough after either of those sequences to justify 3C over a direct (fast arrival semi-shut-off) 4H?

bobby wolffNovember 18th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your comment, particularly your well planned questions and alternatives, have, at least to me, covered the waterfront in as effective a way as possible.

In an attempt to add something of value, I can only remind all readers of how difficult marginal slam bidding can be. Obviously sometimes, and on the exact bidding depicted, 4 hearts goes set, and not because of horrific breaks, but rather a poor fitting hand. Witness: 1. s. Jx, h. Kxxxx, d. KQJ10, c. KQ as opposed to 2. s. KJ, h. AKxxx, d. Axxx, c. xx with each having 2-5-4-2 distribution and 15 HCPs. Hand 1 is almost at best subject to the spade finesse for a legitimate 10 trick make and that discounting less than optimal defensive lies such as a singleton diamond looming or a 4-1 heart break. With hand #2 with spades no worse than 4-2 and hearts 3-2 13 tricks should be scored up.

My purpose is certainly not meant to scare would be bridge lovers from enjoying our wonderful game, it is only to remind them of the perils of the limited code language of bidding not doing justice to identifying enough accurate information to force feed anything resembling expected good results.

In other words, my considered opinion is not to bid anything more than 4 hearts and yes, possibly with hand #2 and although not blessed with much extra, the spade cards (KJ) may produce a further bid from an imaginative partner which may (only) get us to the promised land of a slam (certainly not a grand).

High-level bridge (on most hands and somewhat depending on system) just does not come close to perfection (in spite of what some players claim) because bridge is the master, not the players and Dame Fortune being fickle, has no preference on who she smacks down.

Understanding the above and its effects should be an early course on learning the game, so if even a very numerate, dedicated brilliant to be, bridge player comes on the scene, he (or she) must prepare himself to deal with success and adversity, otherwise his mental attitude, when negativity appears, will likely keep him from being the best he can be, which means only right a percentage of the time.

bobby wolffNovember 18th, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

And just to prove the folly of perfection, my description would need the 10 of spades to accompany the AQ in dummy for what I said to be true about scoring up 13 tricks since there would be no entry to the good spades once the 13th trick (via club ruff) would take a vital entry out of dummy.

Forgive me, since I do not analyze as well as I should.

Patrick CheuNovember 18th, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Hi Bobby, If South’s diamonds were AQJx,would he have bid 6S with KJx or Kxx or Qxx and not 6D? Are we likely to be in 6S playing pairs and 6D teams?Unless we have the above bidding sequence,and South decides on 6D cos he does not know whether North has the QS…regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffNovember 19th, 2014 at 1:33 am

Hi Patrick,

Yes, of course, sometimes in Pairs we search out the major suit contract, provided we expect to take as many tricks in either. However the primary reason for choosing, especially at IMPs is that a 4-4 fit while trump will play better than a 5-3 fit when we can take 2 discards on the 4th and 5th cards in the 5-3 fit.

More times than imagined the above will be the deciding factor in choosing the trump suit, whether one suit is stronger (HCPs) or not. Of course, while choosing a trump suit we certainly need at least adequate trumps or we may go set the straight up way.

I hope some of the above makes sense.