Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

It is always so simple, and so complicating, to accept an apology.

Michael Chabon

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


Are you a good partner? When your partner goes down in a makeable game contract, how do you tend to react? Say nothing, mutter under something inaudible or unprintable, sympathize, or apologize for your aggressive bidding?

In today’s deal North was not sure if he was in a forcing auction but felt he had enough to take a shot at game. He was right in a sense…

When West led the spade six against five clubs, after winning with dummy’s ace, declarer decided that a simple trump finesse was his best bet. It was not.

It is often right to set up a second suit before tackling trump. Instead of taking the club finesse, declarer should have concentrated on establishing the diamonds for a heart discard. Best is to come to hand by leading the club queen to the ace (the queen might get covered, or the king might drop!). When it does not, run the diamond seven. East wins with his 10 and switches to hearts, but now declarer can win, play a diamond to the ace, and ruff a diamond. Then he enters dummy with a spade ruff to discard the losing heart on a winning diamond. This line fails when West holds the guarded club king and a doubleton diamond, and so can over-ruff the third diamond and cash a heart. But then you were never making your game.

More to the point, it succeeds whenever East holds the club king and when West holds three diamonds and the club king.

Everyone has their own algorithm as to how to deal with 6-4 hands, and my simple rule is: always bid the second suit if you can do so economically, unless you are both a dead minimum and the six-carder is strong, the four-carder a weak minor. This is the case here, so I would bid two diamonds — but not with any great degree of confidence.


♠ A
 J 5
 A J 9 8 6 3
♣ Q 8 5 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 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 WarheitNovember 24th, 2015 at 10:03 am

You say that the recommended line works “whenever E has the CK”. Not quite. If E has CKx(x) & D10 singleton, down you go when the C finesse would have brought home the contract (except probably not when E has CKxx). Okay, I’m being very picky, since the recommended line is much better.

It is one of the unfortunate aspects of our beloved game that one player can take the line of play with the greatest chance and fail while another takes an inferior line and succeeds. If you should ever be the unfortunate declarer, be sure to praise highly the successful one. After all, his money is still good.

Iain ClimieNovember 24th, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Hi David, Bobby,

What if TOCM gives East CKx(x) and a singleton D Queen or King? Now cashing the DA may work well except that West will duck the 2nd diamond and the suit may not get set up. If East has the singletomn D10, West has to have the nerve to play a small diamond smoothly whcih is far from trivial. I definitely take David’s point but that is part of the appeal of bridge – you can be savaged by lucky rabbits on occasion, but where we would we all be without hard luck stories?



bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Hi David,

To your obvious skill of analysis you now have added one of philosophy.

No doubt your end result, assuming “big money” rubber bridge along with a very wealthy opponent who also exhibits great pride, all play roles in the mix.

Yes, it would certainly be worth you staging being the unfortunate declarer in order to kick start your future lucrative “sting”.

However, it is actually my belief that the “unfortunate declarer” story is a huge plus for any aspiring pair to so being inflicted.

Either undue “panic” occurs which would not be good, but, if the opposite develops, unrelenting tough mindedness results instead,
then the future of that pair will have passed the “acid” test and become the “chalk” for a very long time afterward.

You’ve got to give to get, and being very tough competitors (rain or shine) is perhaps the greatest asset ever, with any bridge partnership, past or present.

bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, “hard luck” stories are by nature, much more popular and thus in demand.

Somehow we all can manage and get over, the misfortunes of others. And, wonder on wonder, why aren’t our lucky stories more appreciated?

Mircea1November 24th, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Hi Gents,

May I ask you how would you bid this hand I played at a Sectional this weekend (pairs, nobody, South deals)




Our auction:
1S – 2C
2H – 3D
3S – 4C
5C – 6C

Understandably, my partner went down (for a bottom) when clubs didn’t break although double-dummy 6C makes. The sad part is that 7H makes but what is the best route to get to at least 6H. You can assume opps are silent.

bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Hi Mircea1,

I’ll assume that South is the dealer, not North since South, according to your instructions, was it.

South North
1 diamond 1 spade
2 clubs 2 hearts (artificial but GF)
3 clubs 3 hearts (check signals 5+-5+)
5 hearts 5 spades (grand slam try)
7 hearts (whatever you need I have it, AK of trumps, + all 3 first round controls) pass.

A very reasonable contract which may go set
because of thee 5-1 club break, but many squeeze possibilities for the 13th trick if the 5 club defensive hand also had the king of spades or certain double squeeze possibilities.

Anyway, a grand slam is only marginal (3-2 hearts + extra something)

Good luck

Mircea1November 24th, 2015 at 9:29 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’m sorry, North (me) was the dealer. Essentially, I wanted to find out if responding 2D instead of 2C is OK with you and then, assuming that we find the heart fit at the 4-level how to continue. I’m more concerned about bidding properly to the superior 6H over 6C rather than bidding the grand

bobby wolffNovember 25th, 2015 at 6:28 am

Hi Mircea1,

With North dealer how about:

N. S.
1 Diamond 1 Spade
2 Clubs 2 Hearts (Artificial, but GF)
3 Clubs 3 Hearts
either 5H or 6H I would pass either

The North hand, in spite of being very strong,
might not really fit with at least 10 cards in the major suits with partner, and instead of the key king of clubs, perhaps give North the AKJ of spades and possibly the queen of diamonds or maybe nothing of value in the minors.

At a certain point (at least to me) science in bidding difficult hands has to give way to one partner or the other making a final bridge decision. Often that decision is made on prior experience with that particular partner and even with top drawer partners some are conservative, others aggressive, but no two players have exactly the same judgment.

6 hearts is certainly an outstanding contract and should be bid, but because of not enough room to exchange information The 0-3-5-5 hand should just leap to either 5 or 6 and let partner than make the critical mistake.

It would be very easy to claim that all roads lead to a small slam in hearts, but it just AIN’T so. Having only 3 hearts may force the declarer to have to establish a good spade suit by partner, but by having to trump with at least one major heart honor. And after all a jump to 5 hearts tends to emphasize only 3 trumps. The difference between three and four trumps from the responder is nothing short of immense.

Sorry to be vague, but to judge differently, at least from my point of view, is not honest.

I have no quarrel with the responder just jumping to 6 hearts, but to do so is being somewhat optimistic. And to repeat if partner only bids 5 hearts, I think I would pass with the opener’s hand.

Mircea1November 25th, 2015 at 1:25 pm

thank you very much Bobby for your responses.