Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.

Eliza Tabor

S North
None ♠ J 9 2
 A 7 6 3
 A 2
♣ A 9 7 6
West East
♠ A 7 3
 5 2
 J 8 7 5 4
♣ 4 3 2
♠ K 10 8 5 4
 K 8
 10 6 3
♣ Q 8 5
♠ Q 6
 Q J 10 9 4
 K Q 9
♣ K J 10
South West North East
1 Pass 2 NT* Pass
4 All pass    

*Game-forcing heart raise


Today’s deal from a team game saw one South bring home his game, and expect some congratulations from his teammates. He was rather disappointed with the follow-up.

He had declared four hearts after an uninformative auction, and won the diamond lead in hand to take the heart finesse. He won the diamond return to draw the last trump then lead a spade to the queen and ace. The defenders exited passively with a second spade, and forced South to ruff the third spade. Now declarer had a guess for the club queen. South led the club jack from hand and when West followed low impassively he went up with the ace and successfully led to his club 10.

When declarer came back to score up the board he had hopes for a swing, but the board was flat. When he asked his teammates how declarer had guessed the club queen, the response was “He didn’t”. Can you see what his teammate was getting at?

After winning the second diamond, South crossed to hand with a third trump, cashed the diamond winner to pitch a spade, then exited in spades. The defenders could take their two spade winners but then had to lead clubs for declarer and solve his guess for him.

This approach of eliminating the side-suits and forcing the opponents to lead the danger suit or give a ruff-sluff is sometimes referred to as an elimination play, and is an important technique to acquire.

Bid three hearts now. Your partner presumably has short clubs and worry about your side’s club stoppers for no-trump. You have no reason to commit to no-trump yet, particularly when you have a four-card major to show. If your partner rebids three spades rather than three no-trump, you can reconsider what strain or level is appropriate here.


♠ J 9 2
 A 7 6 3
 A 2
♣ A 9 7 6
South West North East
  1 ♣ 1 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 ♣ 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


Iain ClimieJune 24th, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA what next if pard bids 3S? Presumably 6D and 4S but is 5D, 3N or even 4S the spot. Compare AKQx xx KJxxxx x, KQ10x Qx KQJxxx x and Axxx Qx KQxxxx x as different possibilities. OK these are specific hands to illustrate my point (a bad habit) but how would you decide what to bid here?



Bobby WolfffJune 24th, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Hi Iain,

Your conscientious effort in describing likely potential hands that your partner is likely to hold leads to the inescapable conclusion that slam is practically impossible. Your three options are 4S with only three card support or four or five diamonds. My choice is 5D because partner has gone out of his way to show a good hand by his cue bid (very likely six decent diamonds) disdaining a spade raise with only three weak.

Thanks for your creative problem for many readers to ponder.

Iain ClimieJune 24th, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Hi Bobby,

4D is a safe plus but did 3N slink under the radar? Assuming the diamonds run (reasonable I think, but could misfire) 3N is good if pard has SA, HK, CK or a 7th diamond. If someone has DJ10xx or similar, we are going more off in 3N than 5D but could there be more tight 3Ns with 5D off than vice versa – or am I overdoing the “if pard has this, that etc” which you note Bob Hamman criticises?



Joe1June 25th, 2015 at 12:09 am

Can’t S finesse in clubs, and as the cards lie, pitch a S on the long club, losing only S and H? Possible 4 losers, 2s, H, C; for a top, why not look to get down to 2 or 1? After H loses, minimum loss down to 2. 2 remaining possible finesses, but if club works and 3-3, pitch the spade.

Bobby WolfffJune 25th, 2015 at 12:40 am

Hi Iain,

Obviously bridge is very rarely an exact science and is usually an exercise in judgment. Judgment IMO, is about 60% jugment .. the rest in talent. Bob Hamman’s wise admonition pertains to playing anyone for specific cards and does not refer to any of several. Therefore, the bidding on this hand does not apply.

Bobby WolfffJune 25th, 2015 at 12:55 am

Hi Joe1,

Without appearing to preach, the objective of all bridge is to make your contract. True, match point duplicate rewards for overtricks. However, that fact leads to a severely bastardized version of the game. Surely, any form of bridge is both fun and challenging. However, from a declarer’s prospective, making one’s contract should be the only consideration. I’m not trying to rain on
anyone’s parade .. just stating the obvious.

This hand represents bridge at it’s finest .. everyone playing it as well as possible .. but the victory going this time to the declarer who is able to eliminate a dangerous guess! Nothing less – nothing more!