Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 4th, 2015

The first blow is half the battle.

Oliver Goldsmith

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


In today’s deal when you make a game-try of three diamonds, North’s call of four clubs is a cuebid in case you have slam interest. Maybe you aren’t worth a drive to slam, but in fact you reach a respectable contract – one that is no worse than the spade break. West leads the diamond jack against the slam. You try the queen, but East covers with the king.

You will have no problem with your contract if trumps break 2-2, so you must start by drawing trump. Lead the spade ace then play to the king, discovering West with three trumps. Plan the play now.

Your only chance is to be able to discard all your diamonds from hand on dummy’s clubs. As you can see, any 3-3 break gives you no chance, and equally, if the man with the long trump has the doubleton club, there will be nothing you can do. So you must try to find a lie of the cards where you can succeed. You need the player with the singleton trump to hold the doubleton queen in clubs.

The best play is therefore to lead a club to your 10, cash the club king, then cross to dummy with a heart. Now you cash the club winners, pitching as many of your losing diamonds as you can.

When West has to follow to four rounds of clubs you can run the whole suit. West can ruff the last one, but that is the defenders’ only trick, since all three of your diamonds have gone away.

This is an invitational sequence, and while you have no real extras in high cards, your fifth club and reasonable spotcards suggest you give partner a try at making game. There is no reason why the clubs won’t prove a useful source of tricks; if they don’t, even two no-trump might be a struggle.


♠ K 9 8 2
 K 7
 Q 6
♣ A J 8 7 4
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 Pass
1 ♠ 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


Iain ClimieDecember 18th, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Hi Bobby,

The likelihood of CQx e,actly in the short trump hand seems quite low. At teams, rubber bridge or a pairs competition where I’d expect most to miss the slam, I’d play for it though. If the hands were stronger, so you’d expect a fair number of pairs to be in 6S, would you ever settle quietly for one off or always try to make it?



Bill CubleyDecember 18th, 2015 at 9:14 pm


An extra Merry Christmas from you at the movies! The score editor in Star Wars, The Force Awakens, is Robert Wolff. Thank you.

Iain ClimieDecember 18th, 2015 at 10:01 pm

Hi Bill,

I was going to take my kids (plus me, a big one according to my wife) to the film anyway but this is another excuse to do so. I saw an article on Mark Hamill who had to shed a fair bit of weight; he said he’d exercised and followed a diet of “If it tastes good, don’t eat it”. A man suffering for his art and profession!


bobby wolffDecember 19th, 2015 at 4:58 am

Hi Iain,

I doubt either you nor I would ever settle for down 1, especially in an aggressive slam, such as this one. The chances of Qx where you want it are not very good, but certainly above 10% and closer to probably 20%.

bobby wolffDecember 19th, 2015 at 5:12 am

Hi Bill,

The Force Awakens does get one’s attention and, as he ages (the alternative to that is not attractive), emphasizes to all that only just being a factor is worth accepting.

We all need a reason to get up in the morning, without which everything seems toned down. Bridge and its many colors, makes for a good companion. Add a loving wife and it only gets better.

Thanks for your consistent good cheer.

David WarheitDecember 19th, 2015 at 9:13 am

The chance that E has CQx aren’t 20%; it isn’t even 10%. Clubs will divide 4-2 about 48% of the time, E will have the doubleton half of that, or 24%. If he does have the doubleton, it will include the Q 1/3 of the time or 8%. But this in turn must be reduced because E is known to have only 1 spade and W has 3. So, overall, 8% gets reduced to something like 6%. Still, it does seem like it is the only chance.

bobby wolffDecember 19th, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Hi Bill,

And if you run into my namesake, the score editor, before I do, encourage him to “Let the force be with him” and be sure to not change the “o” in force to an “a”.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

bobby wolffDecember 19th, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for the mathematical correction.

Sometimes, while being an optimist at the bridge table and left with not much choice, it is better to assume more hope than fact.

Sorry for my incorrect and obviously not properly figured percentage application.