Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Misery still delights to trace
Its semblance in another’s case.

William Cowper

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


It was easy enough for North-South to bid to a slam on this deal from the Nationals at Vancouver — particularly if East had doubled a heart cuebid, making South's hand even more valuable. The North hand is difficult to value over an opening bid of one spade. Most experts these days have a way to show a game-forcing hand in support of spades — and that should be enough to excite South enough to drive to the six-level.

However making the slam was a tougher matter; it required some accurate card reading, together with a knowledge of technique. On a heart lead, South does best to win dummy’s ace and finesse the diamond queen at once. If the diamond king is onside, he has 12 tricks at once by ruffing dummy’s heart losers in hand. However, when the diamond finesse loses, declarer seems to be almost out of chances — not so. Put yourself in South’s position and see if you can spot your slim residual chance.

The answer is that you must play East for the club king and four diamonds to the jack. Ruff the likely heart return, (a diamond does not disrupt the timing although it leads to a slightly different ending) and cross to dummy with a trump to ruff another heart. Now comes the key for producing certainty in the ending; cash the club ace, — the Vienna Coup — and run all your trumps, reducing everyone to three cards. Dummy’s three cards include the club queen and a diamond, and on the last trump, East has to reduce to only two diamonds since he cannot discard his club king. Now you can bring in the diamond suit for the last three tricks via the finesse of the 10. You cash the ace, and your last diamond wins trick 13.

I don't particularly like the trump lead here (dummy rates to be very short and we might be pickling partner's vulnerable honor. So though I am not a fan of leading doubletons in declarer's suit, I will start off with the diamond eight, knowing that the auction has suggested to my partner that declarer won't be overloaded in diamonds, and thus he may work out not to give me a ruff.


♠ A 10 6 5
 9 6 4
 8 5
♣ A Q 4 3
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass 1
Pass 2♣ Pass 2
All 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


bobby wolffMarch 9th, 2015 at 1:24 pm

OK, so West, Mollo’s RR* held:
s. 3
h. Q8762
d. KJ9873
c. K

*Rueful Rabbit

And after leading the 6 of hearts and then winning the king of diamonds reached down to continue hearts but since his 3 of diamonds had found its way to be held among his hearts led it instead which resulted in his immense satisfaction of setting the HH, when all HH needed to do is first draw one round of trumps remaining in dummy to go about his combination diamond finesse or lacking that,
squeeze to score his slam up.

Better to be the first to mention safety first, rather than safety last, and especially with you bridge vultures looming overhead and almost seemingly everywhere.

Iain ClimieMarch 9th, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Cheer up, Bobby, nothing was further from my mind. If you run into that scenario, it is not so much the pigeon of life leaving droppings on your head, but a whole flock of them to go with the hungry vultures. The time to worry is when the latter decide they’re bored with waiting!



jim2March 9th, 2015 at 2:30 pm

At the Rocket City Rednecks say, “Safety Third!”

Rule 1: Refer to Rule 3.
Rule 2: Refer to Rule 1.

Mircea1March 9th, 2015 at 3:09 pm


A few questions from the galley of the aspiring intermediate players:

1. playing in A/X at a Sectional/Regional, is this a slam that should be bid? It is quite obvious to me that playing in a weaker field (such as my local club), South should be more cautious and stop in 4S when North fails to bid 4D in response to the 4C control bid that I think South should have made regardless.

Assuming the slam had been bid:

2. what’s wrong with drawing trump first? I just want to make sure that I got all three of your (you, Iain, jim2) point right.

3. is it a guess to play East for length in diamonds and KC? Without actually trying it, I have a feeling that other advanced techniques, such as a double squeeze, can be employed if West turns up with one or both of these.

bobby wolffMarch 9th, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

What kind of fool am I to never proof in time. It seems I’m the only one to not fall in line.

What kind of man is this, an empty shell. A lonely cell in which a lowly heart (lead) will tell. What kind of clown am I? What do I know of bridge? Why can’t I cast away this mask of play and live my life. Why can’t I fall in step, like any other man? And then I’ll know what kind of debt I’ll pay.

jim2March 9th, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Our Dear Host appears to be channeling Sammy Davis, Jr. (or, later, Marvin Gaye).

Iain ClimieMarch 9th, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Or Leonard Cohen trying to turn Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment into a musical.

jim2March 9th, 2015 at 4:05 pm


Not only am I not Our Host, but I have never won a World Championship nor even a Nationals. With those disclaimers out of the way, my pre-discredited opinion follows. 🙂

I think it’s a good slam to bid. First, the KD onside is enough for a make, so it starts as a 50% slam. Second, even if the KD is offside, it diamonds may get led anyway in some cases. Third, there are chances once the first diamond finesse loses.

On your thought about 4C, partnerships’ bidding structures after a 2NT major suit response may not be consistent with your view. For example, with the partner I played with last, 2NT pretty much demanded South rebid a short suit. North’s 3S reply (avoiding fast arrival) indicated continued slam interest, signaling that there was no duplication of values in hearts (such as KJx, for example). Then South’s 4N suggested to North that South had a singleton heart (and not a void, as why else ask for aces). This allowed South to bid 5N and allow North to show kings (and South would know North’s 3S had implied no KH). Thus, I am not sure South should bid 4C even if it was in the partnership repertoire, since there was the above path to learn about minor suit kings.

On if declarer should cash a high trump (or two) before the diamond finesse, I agree that I would do that. I took from the text that the diamond finesse should be tried before making any club play more than anything else. It’s always better to make plays that risk letting the defense back in the lead before the defenders have time to improve their understanding of the hand.

(It also avoids accidents like the Lupus Lagomorph, of course.)

bobby wolffMarch 9th, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Hi Mircea1, (this time I didn’t forget your last name)

It is probably a good time to review high-level technique, which is not usually much talked about, but invariably purely applied.

Once either partner has decided that he now knows enough to bid a slam he then bids it by first using ace asking to make sure he is not off 2 aces. South, by first responding properly by showing his heart shortness, now receives by innuendo from partner that he is interested in slam by encouraging with 3 spades only, which is by definition stronger than a mere jump to 4 spades which would exclaim, “from what I have learned up to now, no more”!

Since South has control of all four suits (not two immediate losers in any) and powerful distribution, he bites the bullet, as I think he should and decides at this point to bid the slam.

After checking, he then perfunctorily chirps 5NT (announcing the partnership holding of all aces) but then after the response (modern, showing no additional kings) of course, passes.

It is incorrect for either partner, once he thinks he is in the position of knowing enough to be able to make a partnership decision to then bid a slam and. for from there on, by pussyfooting, would only tend to confuse partner rather than clarify what to do. “I’ve got it, no you take it” said Alfonse to Gaston, a comedy rerun designed to show up hapless ambivalence, translated into losing tactics.

Since your first query has been dealt with (rightly or wrongly) we now should turn our attention to the play. Sometimes, psychologically it is better to not play 100% safely (draw trump) in order to not allow the opponents to gather surplus information to which they are not ever entitled, however it is problematical whether this is one of those hands. In any event the play took its course, as described.

When you talk about a double squeeze, you may be right, since this is a real hand and has not been, to my knowledge, been expertly analyzed. As far as I can gather the play shown (perhaps by instead first eliminating the hearts and drawing trumps first before attempting the diamond finesse) seems to be as good as any, but what say you?

It should at least be mentioned that the elimination first before the diamond finesse may create a different problem for West once he wins his diamond king, with not all of the possible solutions, being winning choices.

Much of the above, although I am trying to not be mysterious, but rather straightforward in some of the logistical problems (number of words allowed and sometimes over cooking the possible answers) in writing bridge columns.

bobby wolffMarch 9th, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Hi every one involved and all classify as the usual suspects,

Crossing in the mail, yes crossing in the mail, in the next thousands of years since mental telepathy will allow all of us to not have to wait for someone to say something but will be able to read it, maybe even before he even thinks of it, we (well especially moi) feels disadvantaged but in actuality I’m probably blessed.

However, leave it with, all of us at a round table with King Arthur in jolly England almost a thousand years ago, would no doubt, pale with anger at all of us babbling together shouting, “I can’t hear you when the water is running” that is, if water could be running except along the rain soaked floor, from the leaks in the roof.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 9th, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Hey guys,

At one time I thought this was a sophisticated bridge exchange but I am beginning to have my doubts. However, I suppose in all walks of life, if you cannot retain your sense of humor, you might as well throw in the towel!

Cheers ,


jim2March 9th, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Judy Kay-Wolff –

I have never before been accused of being part of anything sophisticated, so I am vastly relieved for you to confirm that my record remains unblemished in that regard!

Iain ClimieMarch 9th, 2015 at 5:22 pm

My favourite comment on sophistication comes from a definition of being drunk. Drunk is when you feel sophisticated but can’t pronounce the wretched word!


Judy Kay-WolffMarch 9th, 2015 at 5:32 pm


Relax!!! I wouldn’t dream of spoiling your reputation. However, often the erudite backgrounds of Bobby’s early morning delightful contributors sneak upon the scene .. and I soooo enjoy the banter back and forth. In my youth (which seems like centuries ago), each morning I would make a dash for the daily newspapers’ comic strips. Dick Tracy and Maggie and Jiggs (whom you’re all too young to remember) have been replaced by AOB thanks to the Internet and!

A great way to start the day!

More cheers,


jim2March 9th, 2015 at 6:06 pm


As for your other point, on Sunday mornings my sibs and I would argue over who got the Dick Tracy comics section first.

bobby wolffMarch 9th, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Hi Jim2,

But those Dick Tracy (Chester Gould) dreams of wrist radios and telephones turned out to be plum crazy.

Just as when my parents drove me to the NYC World’s Fair in 1939 and they had previews of TVs as coming attractions. Just pipe dreams!

However, during that same NY trip I was taken to Yankee Stadium one fateful Sunday when the Cleveland Indians were in town for a doubleheader and over 74,000 people (a record for that time) were in the stands to see Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing pitch against Bob Feller and Mel Harder. The Tribe won both games. However Babe Dahlgren had already replaced the ill “Pride of the Yankees”, Lou Gehrig at 1st base. Flash (Joe) Gordon, Scooter (Phil) Rizzuto and Red Rolfe around the infield with Charley (King Kong) Keller, Joe DiMaggio and I think Tommy (Clutch) Henrich in the outfield and the great Bill Dickey behind the plate. However I may be mixing up a few years and included the early 40’s instead of the very late 30’s.

Bobby WolffMarch 9th, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Hi again,

A few years later Henrich earned another nickname as “Old Reliable”.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 9th, 2015 at 8:42 pm

The Lone Wolff might be unsure of that exact team from 76 years ago.. but I give you fair warning not to challenge his memory of hands from long, long go… like the contract, his opponents or the system they were playing, which position declared the hand, the opening lead .. even how he misguessed a crucial card! He rarely forgets an error (his infrequent and miniscule ones or my overwhelming whoppers)!
It is like living with a bridge encyclopedia. However, as I have been told repeatedly… “It is only a game”!

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 9th, 2015 at 9:04 pm

P.S. How’s this for kickers?? Every now and then (with a cute smile on his puss), he reminds me how I lost a Sectional almost a decade ago by forgetting Wolff Sign Off. Doesn’t get much worse than that! Funny now .. but not at the time (especially to our teammates)!!