Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Nobody is smarter than you are. And what if they are? What good is their understanding doing you?

Terence McKenna

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


Some of the clever plays found by experts are absurdly simple. Watch Zia Mahmood at work in his contract of six no-trump. West leads the spade 10, you play low from dummy, East contributes the jack and you win the ace. Plan the play before reading on.

The obvious thing to do is lead a heart to your king, but can you see the extra chance spotted by Zia? At trick two he played the spade six from his hand and ran it when West twitched, then played low. That was his 12th trick immediately. Zia was confident that East would not have played the jack unless he had to, and West did not see the need to split his honors, but learned the hard way that it never pays to underestimate your opponents.

Zia might still have succeeded had West split his spade intermediates. Ever the showman, he would have seen that he could make his slam by playing West for the heart ace. If he runs all his winners coming down to a three-card ending (where in his hand he holds the singleton heart king and spade Q-7) West either has to discard down to the singleton spade nine, allowing Zia to run the spades, or else come down to the singleton heart ace, in which case Zia could exit with a heart to endplay West into leading a spade.

We cannot be sure Zia would have played the hand this way, but in my experience it does not pay to bet against him.

Your partner's double here suggests a balanced hand – and indicates the possibility of defending if you have the appropriate hand. Passing would be a reasonable gamble here but you seem to have too much in spades and not enough aces to want to defend. Accordingly, a retreat to three spades seems wise.


♠ A Q 7 6
 K 4 2
 K 7 6 3
♣ J 5
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠ 2♣
2♠ 3♣ Dbl. 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1January 21st, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Hi Bobby and all,

Sorry to jump tracks but I have an interesting question, at least IMO.

Your pard opens a 20-21 2N and you hold: Void, Axxxxx, A 10 xx, J10xx.

Presumably you transfer and surprisingly your LHO bids 3 S which partner passes back to you. He could have doubled for penalty since your transfer doesn’t show any values so his pass tends to show 0 to 1.5 tricks in S (at least that is what I think). What is your next bid

Iain ClimieJanuary 21st, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Hi Mircea,

I think I’d recount the cards first – I think there’s an extra x in there, not that I’m typographically spotless. If I’ve got 6H I’m probably bidding 5H on a quiet day and 6H on a noisy one. With 5H only, I’ll bid 4S I think, passing 4N if pard bids it.



bobby wolffJanuary 21st, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Hi Mircea & Iain,

When partner does not double I, assuming the distribution is 0-5-4-4, would jump to 5NT which should mean, from the previous bidding (knowing that I have 5 hearts, pick a slam) I, then of course would pass 6 clubs or diamonds and would expect to make it, closer to a grand slam than a 1 trick set.

Ever the optimist!

Iain ClimieJanuary 21st, 2015 at 10:53 pm

Hi Mircea, Bobby,

OK, that’s the good advice from our host. Does mine count as the bad, the ugly or some of each?


bobby wolffJanuary 21st, 2015 at 11:54 pm

Hi Iain,

We’ll never know how good or ugly either of our advice really is, unless Mircea opens up and why should he? It is really not at all important, and, if anything, I am probably being way too optimistic.

My somewhat secret feeling is that it is relatively significant that partner did not double 3 spades nor bid 3NT, basically denying a KQx(x) holding leaving more room for a good minor suit fit since he didn’t freely bid 4 hearts either.

In either event, judging our choices, it likely is somewhere in between, a fitting finality to Mircea’s compelling enigma.

Iain ClimieJanuary 22nd, 2015 at 12:03 am

Hi Bobby, thanks for this, and Hi Mircea, please let us know the full hand. I’m interested enough to be posting just after midnight UK time – sad, isn’t it?


jim2January 22nd, 2015 at 2:47 am

With the right vulnerability, 3S x might score the best.

bobby wolffJanuary 22nd, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, of course, 3 spades doubled may go set more than only a game (vulnerable or not) is worth, assuming that some slam is not available for the stronger hands. And that potential slam, when merely guessing what the entire layout of that “real ” hand actually is, of course, subject to random “bad” breaks
facilitated by a heard 3 spade overcall loose as a moose.

For what my “take” is actually worth, without becoming thought of as a badger (maybe too late), is that the “unusual” circumstances concerning the actual competition involved, followed by partner neither doubling, bidding 3NT nor 4 hearts leads me to suspect his 2NT may well include a 5 card minor suit and likely a very good or longer one at that.

If so, my sides slam chances go up exponentially, but keep in mind, “I can dream, can’t I”? In deference to the respect I have for all of us involved I will not pander further with possible hands, since every thought toward that often “unhealthy” goal could be deemed self-serving and unworthy of any fair intentions.

And continuing to beat that “very unlucky horse” whatever “actual” hand was actually the original 2NTer’s hand would then have to pass scrutiny with his pass over 3 spades as well perhaps as his choice of opening bid, making the whole process more and more “icky” as we progress (not sure that is the right verb) toward judgment day.

But only to show how hateful I could become please try out, s. Kx, h. Kx, d, KQx, c. AKxxxx or better. Even s. Kx, h. xx, d. KQJ, c. AKQxxx or s. Kx, h, xx, d. KQJxxx, c. AKQ, all with the “wasted spade K” would probably be almost a laydown grand slam.

Trying to restore just a tad of bridge humanity to this discussion (by me alone), please understand my real “hoped for motive” is to make aware that sometimes normal starting auctions gone awry, do often indicate CAUTION: abnormal “X” rated scenes just ahead, which for imaginative purposes only might heighten the urge to jump in and partake of whatever optimistic future is available.