Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 17th, 2015

I want minimum information given with maximum politeness.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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

Today’s topic…

This deal featuring Sally Brock caught my eye. Brock sat North in a team of eight event (two pairs sitting one way, two the other). Her four clubs was a splinter-bid agreeing hearts; her partner’s four diamonds was a mild slamtry (known as ‘Last Train’) rather than promising a diamond control. When her partner signed off in five hearts Brock knew he must have a spade control but he couldn’t have both top honors, so it was easy to bid the small slam. That was the par contract, but none of the other tables managed it.

Brock’s teammates with the North-South cards climbed to the grand slam. East doubled for no obvious reason, and West interpreted it as a Lightner double and made the unfortunate choice of the spade jack as his opening lead. That ended the defense, and led to a score of 2470.

One of Brock’s opponents also bid to the grand slam. Here, though, West led a quiet club king and the grand slam was one down.

Finally, at the fourth table, South passed as dealer and North opened one spade. South now made a splinter bid of four diamonds which encouraged North to use Blackwood (not the best choice with a void). That led to South making a five heart response, which West doubled for the lead. North now bid six spades and East duly led a heart, which West ruffed. Unsurprisingly, declarer now did not guess trumps, so six spades went down one, and Brock’s team got the maximum possible swing, of 24 IMPs.

A simple change of suit is best played as forcing after a two-level overcall. Though your plans are to reach game, you have no idea yet which strain will prove best, so you can wait to show your club support. Bid two hearts, and you can be confident that partner will introduce a spade suit next, if he has one.


♠ A 10 9 5
 Q J 7 4 2
♣ A 10 6
South West North East
  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 WarheitOctober 31st, 2015 at 10:02 am

In the fourth room, shouldn’t N have redoubled W double of 5H? I would think this would show both decent H & HA. S would happily pass and make 6, losing points but no where near what he did lose. Frankly, I can’t understand why W doubled 5H; the chance that NS have a good H fit is fairly high.

Iain ClimieOctober 31st, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Hi Bobby,

A question about the play on today’s hand. 6H is clearly good and the spade layout means declarer can’t go wrong but consider it as a single dummy problem with hearts 3-1 (say) with West holding a singleton. Declarer ruffs the first club on table, draws trumps ending on the deck and now has to decide how to play the spades. Suppose he runs the SQ which loses to the K and West exists with a diamond. Cash the DAK dumping the losing club, lead another small spade, and up comes the remaining small card – to finesse or play for the drop? Is West 1156 or 2155?

4-0 hearts make things a little more complex, but it still boils down to the spade position. Here it seems likely that west will have 2 or even 3 spades rather than a small singleton and 6-6 in the minors, so I’d play A and another. Can you give any guidelines on these situations where there is definitely a winning option but… I have to admit that with a trump suit of J109xxx opposite Axx (and with no extra info) I’ll lead the Jack to see if LHO flinches with KQx(x) and probaably put the Ace up to spare myself anguish on the next round. I know about the rule of restricted choice, but anything which stops me mentally gnawing my own leg for the next 3 boards when applying it goes wrong with seems worth the slightly worse odds I’m accepting. Of course what has gone has gone, but taking the losing option in these cases annoys me beyond any sensible level.

Persuading partner this is a sane approach can naturally be a different matter but KQ or QJ doubleton offside seem to occur more often than they should at least with the hand-dealt boards a one club where I now play. Sinilarly 4-3-3-3 shapes and 3-3 breaks also exceed their expected frequencies, so that’s an excuse for some sessions.



Bobby WolffOctober 31st, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Hi David,
As usual, you bring up valid provocative points, always to be considered.
Your issue could go down in bridge learning as a lesson of risk verses gain and, probably as no surprise, especially to you, I am on the side of opting aggressive.
Will the lead directing double of the 5 heart response to Blackwood be worth the risk of NS having a sufficent combined heart holding to switch gears during that auction and profit from my action? Here, of course, that option was available, but the elephant in that room continued to be, even if so, would the opponents be thoughtful and fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of this usual extraneous condition? Please consider that a redouble of the doubled cue bid isn't supposed to be length, but actually only at least 1st or 2nd round control of that suit, not necessarily to play.
At least on this hand, the proof is in the result, at least for this foursome.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained" except perhaps for David to win his argument later with his profound observation.

Bobby WolffOctober 31st, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Hi Iain,

You discuss the bane of very talented players, especially ones with scientific bents like you, although you would never classify yourself as one, since probably your own self image is one of carefree and reckless abandon, happy-go-lucky attitude (WRONG).

Underneath, my guess (by your posts) you have a strong, but very healthy, desire to be the best player you can be, suffering more than most with basically miss guesses, rather than errors reminding you that Dame Fortune (with help from your wily opponents) has used her influence to direct your current not so happy mood.

All I can offer is a suggestion that you temper the strict mathematics of how to play Q87xx opposite A109x for one loser, by using your sensitive table nose to gain maximum effectiveness. Possibly leading the nine from hand toward dummy, just to see West’s reaction to his possible Kxx, x, Kx, or Jx.

Of course, the bidding obviously needs to be considered and the choice of opening lead by whoever the opening leader happens to be enters the equation for hoped for success.

One table feel is worth at least 10% in the percentage tables. However, in a strictly world class battle, both the defenders and the declarer had better stick to raw percentages, because it is dollars to doughnuts that the defenders (based on the bidding and table pauses) are close to 100% aware of the specific problem.

No further advice from me, simply because, at least as far as I am concerned, have nothing further of value to suggest.

Iain ClimieOctober 31st, 2015 at 2:36 pm

Hi Bobby,
Thanks for this and you may have a point with that first paragraph. I used to have a poster of Snoopy the Beagle from Peanuts walking along with a tennis racket and a pained expression. The thought bubble said "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose UNTIL YOU LOSE!" I'm less competitive now but some things still smart.

Bobby WolffOctober 31st, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Hi Iain,

Perhaps Snoopy should continue with his thought bubble, “More appreciation, celebration and euphoria for winning is necessary”.

I, too, sometimes feel like elephants must, when headed toward their final destination.