Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

It is no matter what you teach (children) first, any more than what leg you shall put into your breeches first.

Samuel Johnson

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

*Spade support, short clubs


A fine place for instructive and free bridge material is Larry Cohen’s newsletter. Today’s hand from that source discusses splinter bids.

When you open one spade and hear a four club response, it is forcing to game, promising decent values, with spade-fit and club shortness. Now you can cuebid, or take a chance on finding a heart control opposite by using Blackwood. The four diamond and four heart bids show controls and let you use Blackwood with more confidence, to reach slam. Now all you have to do is make it.

When West leads the heart king against six spades, your preliminary diagnosis should be that there is a fast club loser and a slow heart loser. To succeed in your slam you must set up the diamonds to create a home for your heart loser in hand.

A trump to the ace reveals the 2-0 trump break. Now careful counting is required. A 5-1 diamond break will sink you unless the queen drops. But you can cope with a 4-2 diamond break – if you are careful.

Cash the diamond ace next and follow with a diamond to the king. Ruff a diamond high in hand, and only now do you draw a second round of trump. Lead to dummy’s jack, trump another diamond, and go back to dummy in spades to cash the last diamond and discard your heart.

You can now surrender a club, but crossruff the last two tricks. Had you drawn trump prematurely, you would have run out of spade winners. Try it if you don’t believe me!

There is no way in standard bidding to show this precise two-suiter, since a cuebid shows the majors, a jump to two no-trump shows the red suits. But you must bid, and despite the fact that your diamonds are better than the spades, I would overcall one spade now. The space-consuming nature of the bid, and the fact that spades are the ranking suit, tips the balance for me.


♠ J 10 9 4 2
 A J
 K J 8 7 6
♣ 3
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1 ♣

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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


slarFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Here is one that I think you readers might find interesting. In Matchpoints, dealer has QT/Axxx/Jxxxx/Ax. Third hand has AKJxxx/Q/xx/xxxx.
1. Do you open as dealer or leave it for partner to open?
2. If you’re the non-opener, do you invite? (1D-1S;1NT-3S) or (p-1S;2NT)
3. Do you accept the invitation from either side?
4. If you’re the defense, do you lead a trump or a club (JTxx or KQx)?
5. Plan the play in either case.

We got away with one this time. We were the aggressors and scored game when the opponents just let us ruff two clubs (Club lead, heart shift). +420 was a top but we risked a bottom and +170 would have been an average plus. If they attacked trump, we still had a chance in diamonds (3-3 break) but accurate defense would have thwarted that plan too (knocking out the entry before the suit is set up).

bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 4:15 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, your post is into close situations which become make or break in duplicate matchpoint tournaments. You make them you finish high, but failing, the opposite.

In IMP matches or while playing rubber bridge bid em high and perhaps sleep in the streets, but in the long run the pressure you keep on your opponents starts taking a toll on their patience and it becomes a plus, anywhere between medium to very high.

Consistent good scores is one of the signs that what your partnership is doing, seems to be working.

On any one hand, like yours today, while being an example, is not important to either reach game or to not. Obviously against inexperienced opposition you are more likely to make 4 spades, but when that happens is usually difficult to impossible to determine.

A good rule to follow is to not be too aggressive against some of the better pairs in the room, but do so against those still in the learning stage.

Good luck.

T GatesFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 4:51 pm

As regards the bidding exercise below the featured contract, would it be possible to double rather than bid a suit?

bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Hi “T”,

With a 5-5 distribution it, except in rare circumstances of an extra good hand (20+ pts), it is normally always right to bid your higher ranking suit first (in this case, spades) followed later by diamonds later (if the bidding level is not too high).

Take out doubles are better used when support for all the unbid suits are present and usually a balanced or semi-balanced hand with shortness in the suit doubled.

Peter PengFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 8:51 pm

hi Bobby

pulled this from common game – it said EW makes 6 in H or S

I had to get lots of help to see how with a trump lead

Hope you have fun

Dlr: West
Vul: E/W

Hope my layout is OK

—————- Q 10 8
—————- 6
—————- 4 3
—————- K Q J 9 6 5 4

J 9 6 4——————————-AK5
K 10 3——————————-AJ9542
A Q 9 7 6 5 ————————-void
void ———————————–A832

——————- 7 3 2
——————Q 8 7
——————- K J 10 8 2
——————-10 7

David WarheitFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 9:29 pm

Peter: In 6H, S leads a H. Win the 10, cash DA pitching a S. Cash SAK, ruff a C, ruff a S, ruff a C. Now lead SJ, discarding your last losing C. S ruffs in but with his trump trick. You ruff his return, cash HA and claim.

bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 10:10 pm

Hi Peter & David,

Thanks for the beautiful cat & mouse game with Peter presenting a very difficult bridge riddle and David, rising to the occasion and giving the winning answer.

Better the two of you than poor me who would be still laboring away with no way to surely predict the final result.

I’ll always get along, but only with the help of my tried and true bridge friends.

David WarheitFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 10:20 pm

Peter: In 6S. Presumably W is declarer, so if N leads a S you have 12 tricks with the H finesse. If somehow E is playing 6S & S leads a S, win the A, finesse H10, ruff a D, cash SK, ruff a C, cash DA, pitching a C, and lead dummy’s last S, pitching E’s last losing club. N wins but has nothing left but C, so E wins CA and runs H. Of course, everything is double dummy.

Joe1February 24th, 2016 at 1:16 am

On today’s hand HK lead suggests E also has HQ. So why not play HJ from dummy? If it loses, I go down quickly, but it covers other bad breaks, like 5-1 D’s as you suggest.

bobbywolffFebruary 24th, 2016 at 8:34 am

Hi Joe,

There appears to be some communication problem with your description. If it is indeed the playing of 6 spades by South, it, of course, demands declarer to establish diamonds, (hopefully not distributed more wildly than 4-2).

Once West leads the heart king, he should also possess the heart queen, but that is incidental to the correct play.

If you have second thoughts about your comment it is not necessary to respond, but if I am missing something, please let me know.

Also thanks for responding.