Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 13th, 2014

All men are liable to error, and most men are, I many points by passion or interest, under temptation to it.

John Locke

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


Today I feature another deal from Tim Bourke and Justin Canfield's masterful new book "The Art of Declarer Play". Against six no-trump West leads the heart five and both opponents follow to the heart ace-king.

Next you play off two top spades, on which West shows out. When you continue with all the hearts, East has to keep two spades and four clubs, so must discard a diamond. Now the link between the East-West hands is severed. You continue with the spade queen, the club king-queen, and then throw East in with a spade to give you a stepping stone to reach your club winners.

If West had turned out to be very short in both majors, run all the heart and spade winners, coming down to four clubs and the diamond king in hand, and watch West’s discards carefully. When you play the club king-queen, you can overtake if East follows suit. But if East discards, and West still has three clubs left, let the club queen hold, and play a diamond to West’s ace to force him to give you the last two tricks in hand.

The only real problem case is where West has precisely one spade and two hearts. In that event, you will have to decide whether West began with eight or nine diamonds, and thus whether clubs are splitting or not. Unless you know West to be of a particularly timid disposition, just play for clubs 3-2. Finding the right play is more important than scoring style points.

It is acceptable to preempt with six clubs, since no weak-two bid is available, but only if non-vulnerable. Also, the suit should have at least two of the top four clubs and not too much outside defense. The flaws here are that you might lose many trump tricks facing a singleton, while taking too many tricks on defense. I'd pass; change the club three to the 10 and you could sell me on the action.


♠ 9 3
 8 7 4
 K J
♣ A J 7 6 4 3
South West North East

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


Iain ClimieDecember 27th, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

Just out of interest, do you agree with North’s 6D bid today or would you prefer a forcing pass? It is possible that 6C is a better spot (although not played by North, of course, as the cards lie) but South might have (say) xx x Qxx AJ10xxxx when North’s 6D bid may have bypassed the best spot. It strikes me that the club support could make this worth considering, or what about 5N = pick a slam, inferring both majors and club tolerance.



Iain ClimieDecember 27th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

OK, implying …..

bobby wolffDecember 27th, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes indeed, 6 diamonds by North is (at least IMO), nothing short of a terrible choice, but this hand did come from an otherwise excellent book by Bourke and Canfield, and was perhaps the most intelligent way to get to the means to an end, a 6NT contract with, of course, South the declarer.

When writing a bridge book, there are concessions to be made to mostly expediency in achieving the greater good (emphasizing a potential double stepping stone to success).

No doubt, your suggestions are both vastly superior to the cumbersome 6 diamonds, which, as you state, eliminates 6 clubs, while never actually bidding a major suit holding 150 honors. 5NT, if played as PTRSS (pick the right slam, stupid), will now allow South to jump to 7 hearts with perhaps the 432 and, of course, in fantasy land, also a void in diamonds, my guess your intent in using the word, implying.

There is many a peculiar (euphemistic) way of describing the bidding leading to a spectacularly successful contract (always played from the necessary right side).

Comedic personalities often make for the best bridge writers, Terence J. Reese being the one who had an absolute wonderfully, but carefully hidden sophisticated sense of humor, along with Skippy Simon, and Victor Mollo. So, as well, did the naughty Boris Schapiro, all four very British, although I think Victor was actually born in Russia.

Yes bridge does have an incredibly interesting past, which causes me to become very sad when thinking that it may be on its last legs here on this side of the pond and with no likely prospect of it being included in regular school curricula in my Western Hemisphere.

ClarksburgDecember 27th, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Mr Wolff
For your enjoyment (I certainly hope) perhaps at some risk of elevating your level of frustration !!

I am currently reading “Bumblepuppy Days The Evolution from Whist to Bridge”, by Julian Laderman.
Here’s are three quotes:
“…Whist players were in love with their game and boasted of the mental skills it required. They argued its potential value as a general educational tool, not as an outside activity, but as part of the required curriculum. They pointed out that the whist table demanded close observation, accurate recording, correct inference, trust, social intercourse, patience, knowledge of character, judgement and estimating likelihood…”, and

“…The July 1894 Whist Journal carried an article by P.J. Tormey titled “Whist in our Universities”. He pointed out that no University course taught the skills that Whist did. Whist instruction was also advocated in lower-level public schools and Law schools…”, and finally

“…The virtues of Whist were also articulated by Chief Supreme Court Justice Samuel Warren. He wrote in his Popular Introduction to Law Studies “It can induce habits of patient and vigilant attention, cautious circumspection, accurate calculation and forecasting consequences”…”

bobby wolffDecember 27th, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Thanks not only for thinking of me, but for sending me your particular quotes, which did nothing less than thrill me since, IMO, they were so ahead of their times in showing the general educational value of “Whist”, the grandfather of “Contract Bridge”. “Auction Bridge”, being the father.

I had always heard that “Whist”, because of all four hands remaining closed (no dummy), was just too difficult a game to even begin to play in an intelligent way.

However, that probably resulted in what we now play, a small price to pay (especially for us, the beneficiaries), to enjoy for a lifetime.

Your post will enable me to point out what old timers thought of the precursor of a vastly improved version.

You made my day, I should say year, since we are nearing the end of it. What you uncovered is simply precious, no other way to describe it.

Happy New Year!!!

ClarksburgDecember 27th, 2014 at 9:28 pm

And on your behalf, I will pass along a big Thank You to my Partner, who well knows I am a bit of a “out-there” cerebral type, being interested in, and valuing, intangible things that might baffle others…the book was a me…and now to you.
Have a great 2015 !!

LeonDecember 29th, 2014 at 11:19 am


Is there really a guess if west has 1 spade and 2 hearts? Just play 2 spades and 5 hearts (throwing diamonds from hand). If east has spades and maybe also clubs stopped just play K, A, J and small of club and east will have to bring last two spades to dummy.

Throw in is less style points than stepping stone, but if you use it to land a 6NT contract I would give some style points nevertheless!

Happy 2015 (and continue this great column!)

bobby wolffDecember 29th, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Hi Leon,

Yes indeed, whether it becomes a simple squeeze (S&C) or a more rare stepping stone squeeze, the result, fortunately for an adept declarer, will be the same.

But since celebrating New Year’s Eve is often about style, so let it also be while celebrating “The Art of Declarer’s Play”.

However, I am impressed with both your high-level bridge acumen and your assessment of landing a difficult 6NT contract.

Both qualities will serve you well at the bridge table and in real life.

Here is to a happy and stylish 2015 for both of us and much thanks for your kind words.