Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

In our plain defects,
We already know the brotherhood of man.

Christopher Fry

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

*Two key cards plus the trump


A small slam on the North and South cards looks a good proposition; indeed, on a good day all 13 tricks might well roll in. But the battle today was to find the safest route to 12 tricks.

During the auction, South had shown slam interest and a twosuiter at his second turn, then had used Keycard Blackwood to make sure the spades were robust enough to play slam. After winning the club lead, declarer played the spade ace then queen, to discover there was an inevitable trump loser. Now all South needed to guard against losing a heart as well. The key was to prevent East being able to ruff a heart winner then remove dummy’s last trump. South worked out that so long as East held at least one card in hearts, he was likely to be able to achieve his target.

At trick four South cashed the heart ace, then led a low heart towards his hand. East could see that if he ruffed a loser he would be wasting his trump trick to no effect, so he discarded a club. South won with the king in hand, returned to dummy in diamonds and played another heart. Still unable to ruff profitably, East discarded yet again, and South’s heart queen held.

Now came the heart 10, ruffed with dummy’s last trump. East could overruff, but that was the only trick for the defense. In essence, South had combined his heart loser and trump loser on the same trick.

It is tempting to raise to three clubs, but my guess would be that I don’t have quite enough to invite game. A fifth club would make the raise far more attractive, or perhaps as little as an extra queen on the side. As it is, pass, and apologize if you have missed game.


♠ 2
 J 9 8 3 2
 8 6 2
♣ K Q J 6
South West North East
    1 ♠ Pass
1 NT 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


slarMay 19th, 2015 at 12:10 pm

RE BWTA how about bidding 2H over 2C? Since 2C is so wide ranging (could show a balanced minimum, could show just shy of a jump shift), who’s to say that 2C is the better contract? Even if partner has a singleton heart it should still be playable and there are many layouts where it is superior.

Or have I been playing too much matchpoints?

bobby wolffMay 19th, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Hi Slar,

The play of today’s hand is all about proper declarer play technique and little else. The bidding was fine both as to strain (spades) and level (small slam). On a good day both spades and hearts would have split well with spades the normal 3-2 and the heart jack able to be captured without loss, but there was some rain present (4-1 trump break) and the declarer had to overcome it by necessary and excellent, careful technique.

However the BWTA (to which you refer) is all about judgment, nothing to do with technique.
Sure, partner could hold: s. Axxxx, h. AQx, d. x, c. A10xx and 4 hearts could be cold losing only 3 red suit tricks and on a really good day make even 11 tricks with a favorable lead and good declarer play, however…..

A long time partner of mine long ago once warned me, please do not play me for specific cards and a perfect hand, simply because I will NEVER have it. And although never is not a good word to use while playing bridge he was on track with his point and right on with his advice.

Bridge bidding, especially with judgment is a blend of experience and the right dose of optimism. Today’s problem, at least to me, cries out to pass 2 clubs and go plus rather than to attempt to find a miracle fit. Even raising to 3 clubs becomes anti-percentage since IMO, that encouragement will cause us to go minus more than it will serve to secure a bigger plus.

Branching off into a new suit, holding only Jxxxx is a dangerous business, causing partner to pass even with a singleton (he doesn’t know that you might hold QJ109xx) because your 1NT response could easily include it.

In any event both the technique learned in today’s declarer play and the suggestion of pass with the BWTA should help you with gleaning the experience necessary to directly improve in two key, but very different, aspects of the game. All I am doing is trying to sort their importance out in your mind and remind you that the best anyone (even world champions) can get in bridge is being right more than he is wrong, but at the same time moving on a straight line in the right direction.

Much good luck to you.

jim2May 19th, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Another question is what to do when West bids 2D after the pass and it rolls back around to South. I might bid 2H then.

bobby wolffMay 19th, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

Granted, that particular unusual turn in the bidding changes things (as it often does) but even that late arising choice is worth discussing.

While I am perhaps 75% closer to now choosing to bid 2 hearts (much safer and less demanding), instead of opting for 3 clubs (with the pusillanimous pass not to be considered), I still would prefer 3 clubs, since I can offer a pleasant surprise in that suit for partner, whereas bidding a new suit of J98xx, even though it is a major, is still not for me, although a higher upside, the percentage choice.

However bridge bidding is sometimes like horse racing and I didn’t have any money on American Pharaoh in last Saturday’s Preakness.

slarMay 19th, 2015 at 6:11 pm

I suppose you’re right. Give partner a decent hand like AKxxx/x/Kxx/Axxx and you could easily be down one before you even get the lead. In retrospect @jim2 probably has the right idea – 2C is a safe stopping point but 2D is not.

And yes, I am trying to file the declarer hand in memory for later use. (My gut reaction was to do a dummy reversal but that fails due to lack of transportation and even if it didn’t, it would be susceptible to an imperfect club break.) I do find these hands instructive even if I don’t comment.

jim2May 19th, 2015 at 11:19 pm

slar —

Ah, methinks I may have been misunderstood. The auction I meant was:

1S — Pass — 1N — Pass
2C — Pass — Pass — 2D

N-S do not have much more than half the HCPs and E-W probably have 8 or more diamonds, so the odds of @D after the pass of 2C is pretty good, especially at MPs.

The Q I posed to Our Host was should South (having implied decent clubs and minimum) now compete to 2H, letting North decide between bidding 2S knowing my holding was likely a singleton or void, showing clubs with 3C, or simply passing my 2H knowing I must certainly have five of them.

jim2May 19th, 2015 at 11:20 pm

2D not @D — sigh

angelo romanoMay 19th, 2015 at 11:28 pm

I thought you could also make the hand with a reversal – i.e. ruffing three clubs in hand after AK of spades, but it doesn’t work as E has the Heart singleton and you can’t come back to dummy anymore to play the SQ, I think. A funny play, anyway

bobby wolffMay 19th, 2015 at 11:30 pm

Hi Slar,

Like most all others on this site, your attitude is as close to picture perfect as possible, especially trouble spots in the bidding, high-level play, and sometimes the table psychology du jour.

I feel very grateful to even be part of the process and, in spite of the difficulty in moving forward through the stages of moving up notches toward getting better, no one can ask for an overall better cast of characters.

As far as I know, and at my age I should, every very good player in the whole wide world has to go through these same stages in order to achieve the desired goals, even if all one wants is to better understand the very high-level game and what it takes to compete successfully.

The exposure discussed, almost on a daily basis, will indeed be a feeding ground for some in eventually becoming as good as he or she can get. However to cap it off there is no substitute for playing tournament bridge and at the highest level possible, where ever the community.

bobby wolffMay 20th, 2015 at 1:10 am

Hi Jim2,

If I held as the opener a 5-3-1-4 (14-15) and after opening 1S heard it go P-1NT-P 2C-P-P-2D (balance by the enemy). I think it correct to slide (my coined word) with 2 hearts since I have already denied holding 4 of them when I rebid 2 clubs instead of 2H, freeing partner to make an intelligent preference. Then depending on his hand, and knowing partner MUST be 5-3-1-4 or 5-3-0-5
with the void diamond hand very unlikely perhaps only about 10%-, it becomes a difficult choice whether to raise to 3 hearts or pass with only a small consideration of raising to 4 hearts even though the club holding looks sensational you’ll have to ruff the diamonds with high trumps.

At any rate the 3 heart slide makes more sense to me than does a 2 heart effort by the responder.