Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.

G. B. Shaw

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

*Mild slam try for hearts


As South you have become declarer in six hearts on the lead of the club queen. Your three notrump call was conventional, indicating suitability for slam, but no extra values. (With a dead minimum you would sign off in four hearts, with extras you would cuebid yourself). This gadget is known as ‘non-serious three notrump’. For more information check here.

How do you play your slam on the lead of the club queen? The only danger will come if your RHO holds all four trumps, so you must start by playing a low trump towards the dummy, if West follows suit you could insert the jack, but it looks equally good to go up with the king, and if East discards you can come back to hand and lead up to the heart jack. Barring a highly unlikely ruff, you are home.

However if West shows out on the first heart, go up with the king, ruff a club, cash your three top spades, then play a diamond to the jack, ruff a club, and take the diamond king before playing a diamond to the ace. When you lead dummy’s last club, East is down to just three trumps and must ruff in. You underruff, and run East’s forced trump continuation round to dummy’s jack to land your slam.

For this line to succeed you need East in addition to his four hearts to hold three cards in each of the other suits, or precisely a 3=4=4=2 pattern.

There are two directions you might go here; you might raise clubs, or bid notrump. I prefer the latter, and though I only have a 10-count, I’m optimistically driving to three notrump, for two reasons. The first is that my four small clubs will help to solidify partner’s suit. The second is that I want to keep the opponents out – they have a lot of major-suit cards after all. A call of two no-trump is also just fine.


♠ J 10 7
 K J 9
 A J 3
♣ 7 5 4 2
South West North East
Pass 1 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


David WarheitSeptember 22nd, 2015 at 9:43 am

You say that your line will succeed if E is 3-4-3-3 or 3-4-4-2. I can’t see making if E is 3-4-4-2. You can make it if E is 3-4-2-4, but now you must hold off cashing the third D before ruffing C for the 3d time.

Iain ClimieSeptember 22nd, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Hi Bobby, David,

If East has a doubleton club, doesn’t he ruff with the H8 on the 3rd round? I think this is what David is getting at. If east is 3-4-2-4, then presumably the third diamond winner forces him to ruff and endplays him after the three club ruffs first which David describes.

Would a diamond lead (if East is 3424) then mess up the timing sufficiently in this case? All West’s fault as usual, failing to find a double dummy opening lead.



slarSeptember 22nd, 2015 at 12:54 pm

With BWTA, I suppose it helps to have some confidence in the quality of the 2C overcall. My inclination is to stretch to 2C to take away the one-level, especially when non-vulnerable. If that is the expectation, a 2NT advance is indicated. If the pointy suits were swapped all the way around and we are vulnerable, I would expect the overcall to be sound and I could see stretching to 3NT.

jim2September 22nd, 2015 at 12:55 pm

I (also) don’t see how the contract comes home after a ruff of the third club (and a diamond exit if allowed to win the trick).

bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Hi David,

Right you are, as if you didn’t know! Thanks for the necessary help, assuming, as it should be, the pride which goes along with making fewer errors than we do.

Your correction(s) should surely indicate how difficult our game can really be, with speed traps all around, and dangerous pitfalls at every street corner.

To add to the beauty and luster of our great game, in order to even think about achieving perfection, most advanced bids, plays, and defenses in bridge need to be proof read multiple times before 100% accuracy even begins to enter the room.

We’ll keep on trying, but cannot in good conscience promise succeeding, but with you around and all of our readers then checking our site on the internet (fat chance?) we may accomplish it.

bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Hi Iain,

Again after David, you clean up the details involved in a scholarly way, just like a how to book on how to manually put things together.

Thanks for the extra help and also your calling card, to inject humor into our careless act, sort of a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.

bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Hi Slar,

No doubt, you make a very good point and only emphasizes the necessity for a bridge partnership to know each others tendencies.

The result then makes both 2NT and 3NT the recommended advance, depending on your partner (also considering the vulnerability with being vulnerable attracting the higher bid). At least, to me, both bids and whoever your partner is, becomes a better “run for daylight” effort than does 3 clubs.

bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Hi Jim2,
The good diamond is led at trick 11 and catches East with only his Q108 of hearts, giving him no option but to trump it and, of course, the final indignity of end playing oneself.
A kinder way of describing East's plight is to suggest that for him to defeat the slam he would have to renege (running the risk of being caught) and trump in earlier.
But of course, accurate card reading by declarer, is vitally necessary which to you would be impossible since with TOCM TM in full bloom, East's full distribution would not be determined until the declarer has selected his exact line of play.
Yes that would require the bridge genie to be paid overtime for his presence. I wonder if that would extend to the 31 employees allowed before taxes go up. No doubt our Congress considered this possible event (bridge with TOCM TM lurking) before enacting this current Obamalaw.

jim2September 22nd, 2015 at 2:23 pm

That is a different line. The column text:

“For this line to succeed you need East … or precisely a 3=4=4=2 pattern.”

Bobby WolffSeptember 22nd, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, I agree. I was only talking about the original 3-4-3-3 line, with the 3-4-4-2 pattern an afterthought which should have remained such.