Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.

Samuel Johnson

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


In today’s deal the optimal contract is six clubs, but it is often hard to locate a 4-4 fit when the auction gets high in a hurry. After North-South had a quantitative auction, it proved impossible to find their minor-suit fit.

When West led the spade queen against the slam, declarer could see that his route to 12 tricks involved getting three tricks from the diamond suit, and to do so he needed to take three finesses in the suit. As this required three entries, declarer played the club ace and king at tricks two and three. Then he took the club jack and played a fourth club to dummy’s queen.

Next he led a diamond to his jack and West’s king. He won the spade return and crossed back to dummy by leading to the heart ace. This was the entry to dummy to run the diamond nine, and he could remain in dummy for the third diamond finesse. In the end, declarer took two spades, three hearts, three diamonds and four clubs.

As an aside, note the effect of West ducking the first diamond. Wouldn’t declarer now have considered crossing to dummy to repeat the diamond finesse? When West produced the king and diamonds broke 4-2 South would have had a cardiac arrest. (For the record, declarer could lead a low diamond from hand after the first finesse succeeds, planning a later finesse – but that might lose out if West had ducked from an original holding of king-third or king-fourth.)

It feels right to reject the game-try – you are at the very minimum of your one no-trump response. The only question is whether to retreat to three clubs, and I say no. Your partner’s auction is entirely consistent with a balanced 18-count, with only three clubs. (Switch your minors, and had partner opened one diamond, then reverting to three diamonds with four-card support would be far more attractive).


♠ 9 5 3
 A 5 3
 9 4 2
♣ Q 5 3 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 NT Pass 2 NT 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


Mircea1July 14th, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Hi Bobby,

Can the “5NT – Pick a Slam” convention be profitably employed here? It would allow easy finding of the small club slam. North would jump to 5NT over South’s 3NT and South would bid his first 4-card suit: clubs

How do you rate that convention?

Bobby WolffJuly 14th, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Yes, it certainly can and should be used by North, with a jump to 5NT (instead of 6) and asking for suits to be bid up the line. When South then chooses 6 clubs as a viable eventual 8 card fit North passes and the right contract is reached.

BTW with only a balanced 6 count North could have contented himself with only a 4 NT raise, whereupon South to accept, (only 25 hcps but that diamond combination (AJ108) looks formidable) must take the aggressive course and bid 5NT instead, to set off the same procedure of bidding 4 card (or longer) suits up the line until a suit is agreed upon, and if no combined 8 card suit (at least 4 in each hand) is found, 6NT will become the final destination.

This conventional use of 5NT does not contradict any other use of that jump, since before asking for kings with Blackwood, aces (4NT) need to be bid first, and after a suit is established, known by both partner’s a then jump to 5NT becomes the grand slam force which asks for 2 of the 3 top honors for a grand slam with: s. KJxxx, h. AKQxx, d. AKx c. void and opening only 1 spade but hearing your partner either giving you a limit raise or better bid, then risking 5NT asking partner to bid a grand slam in spades with both the A and Q of spades.

Usually then in practiced partnerships, partner will jump to seven with two, but when holding only one, grade the holdings he possesses the best way he can, with reserving 6 spades (the best holding of only one) for Axxxx or longer. Keep in mind that since spades are the lucky suit, there are four gradations allowing perhaps (judgment involved) 6 clubs to be Qxxx or worse, 6 diamonds Qxxxx or worse, 6 hearts A109x or worse, and 6 spades Axxxx or better.

Of course when other suits are instead established there is less room to roam and thus less information to be exchanged.

Finally, when a partner does have 2 of the top three honors he, instead of jumping to 7 spades, should choose 7 clubs, allowing his partner to return to 7 of the agreed suit, but also the flexibility to suggest another, perhaps safer final grand slam location.

As an example, suppose we hold: s. Qxxx, h. void, d. AK, c. AKQJxxx and open 1 club (only) and have partner respond 1 diamond. After rebidding 1 spade (?) hear partner jump to 4 spades, then 5NT by us and an acceptance of 7 clubs showing both the ace and king of spades, allowing us to choose our solid club suit in order to ward off most bad breaks in spades by merely passing, and hoping to find the queen of diamonds or some such for trick 13 in case of a nasty spade break.

Isn’t modern bridge bidding wonderful? However might partner have, s. Jxxx, h. AKQ, d. QJxxx c. 10 and, if so isn’t modern bridge bidding overrated, but what about a non spade lead against the 6 club bid partner chose (and we passed) and then scored up our “lucky” final contract.

I rate that convention as practical, necessary and therefore good.

Mircea1July 14th, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Hat off to the world class player who is willing to share his knowledge and wisdom with the mere mortals.

bobby wolffJuly 14th, 2015 at 6:35 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Whomever it is that you are complimenting, is enjoying his work to the fullest because, of course, the subject matter, but most of all because of the off-the-charts appreciation from people like you who share his love of the game, which, in turn makes “Bridge For Peace” (the motto of the WBF) absolute proof that everyone who has the interest can share the same goal in appreciating a much loved educational and glorious pastime.