Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 19th, 2016

Life’s like a movie: write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.

Jim Henson

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

*Weak, five+ cards


Geoff Hampson, a Canadian who has been a full time professional player in the US for 20 years, won the 2010 world teams championship in partnership with Eric Greco. Today’s deal shows Hampson at work in last spring’s Vanderbilt knockouts in New Orleans.

Hampson, South, knew that he rated to be looking at eight plus tricks in his own hand. So he could hardly bid less than four spades, but he bought an uninspiring dummy.

West led the diamond queen, and East played the five, intended as suit preference, to try to prevent his partner from shifting to a heart. (It is logical when partner knows your attitude to use spot-cards as suit preference; here at trick one West knows East has the diamond ace-king.)

West duly shifted to a club, which went to the 10 and ace. South proceeded to play six rounds of spades, and since East was forced to keep two clubs — to prevent his partner being endplayed in clubs — and the diamond ace, he could only retain two hearts.

The simple line in the five-card ending was to enter dummy with the club king and take a heart finesse. But given that West appeared to have opened a weak two-bid with a five-card suit, he was an overwhelming favorite to have the heart king. Hampson instead played East to have both the jack and 10 of hearts. He led out the heart ace followed by the queen, and now whether or not West won the trick, Hampson had his 10th winner.

The right way to describe this hand is to transfer into diamonds by your partnership methods (either two no-trump or three clubs) and then to show a singleton spade. After transferring to a minor, a new suit at the three-level shows shortage in that suit. So transfer to diamonds and bid three spades. Incidentally, if you had diamonds plus a four-card major, you would start with Stayman.


♠ 10
 J 10 6
 A K 9 7 6 5
♣ J 10 7
South West North East
    1 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitApril 2nd, 2016 at 9:57 am

How about: E overtakes the DQ with the K and returns the D5. W ruffs and returns a C. I believe that this defense works, and it is what I would have done as E.

Iain ClimieApril 2nd, 2016 at 10:05 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, is it better to show the shortage (as suggested) or the fragment in the major suit and why? One thought is that 1-2-4-6 and 1-2-5-5 hands may become unbiddable if you try to show a stop (or at least xxx) in a major. Against that, showing a 3 card major suit may yield some delicate 4-3 fit games when 3N and 5 of a minor both fail. Any thoughts here?



bobbywolffApril 2nd, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Hi David,

No doubt, that is the winning defense.

While with East going all in on his partner having a singleton diamond queen rather than a brilliant lead from Qx is a slight risk, playing top flight bridge is, at least to me, more a question of great judgment than it is of either playing safe or taking undue risks.

Here, considering East’s hand, West’s non-heart lead should reek of being a singleton, making your choice of overtake and leading a low one back a deserved winning action.

bobbywolffApril 2nd, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Hi Iain,

Seemingly, in answer to your question, the expert community prefers showing the singleton with an immediate jump to such, usually with at least 9 cards in the minor suits and preferably at least 4 in each. However, if 6-3 then the long suit should be in diamonds, allowing the responder to correct 5 clubs to 5 diamonds.

Certainly not perfect, but probably workable. Also the opening NTer can suggest playing partner for 3 of the other major and bid one of those rare successful 4-3 fits, especially when the opener has Axx in the short major by partner (2 ruffs in the short trump hand, always to be cherished).

Of course the real elephant in the room is when the opening NT has a 5 card major opposite 3 making it very likely that 4 in that major is the winning contract.

In some ways the above treatment is comparable to Puppet Stayman (asking the NTer for a 5 card major) which some expert partnerships now play with an immediate jump to 3 clubs over 1NT (giving up other meanings to that bid).

Finally, your worry about not holding at least 3 cards in the other major is valid and only, at least to me, just another reason to play 2 way Stayman so that an immediate 2 GF diamonds can also be used in order to next start bidding minor suits at the 3 level looking for a fit there before finally making a partnership (not as unilateral) choice.

Michael BeyroutiApril 2nd, 2016 at 10:16 pm

David W:

I am surprised our host agreed with you. It seems to me that declarer can rattle off six spades and reach a 4-card ending very similar to the 5-card ending described in the article. East has to keep the DA and therefore only three cards in H and C. West has to keep HKx and two clubs. If East keeps CJ7 and West dumps his CQ then, after HA-Q, dummy’s 9 will be good for a club discard.

bobbywolffApril 2nd, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Hi Michael,

Wouldn’t the four card ending be: North with 98x of hearts and the king of clubs, East with J10x of hearts and the jack of clubs, South with AQ of hearts and xx in clubs, leaving West with Kx in hearts and Qx in clubs? Of course South on lead is then left with no resources to endplay his opponents Once, after West ruffs the second diamond with East denying wanting a heart shift West will (should switch to a club) forcing declarer to win it in hand, otherwise East can then easily dump his hearts. No doubt a very tricky end game, but apparently, advantage, defense, similar to what often happens earlier while defensing a squeeze, by leading a suit declarer needs late game flexibility, but a good defender will thwart that dream by trampling his timing.

What did David (and I) miss?

Michael BeyroutiApril 3rd, 2016 at 11:23 am

Dear Mr Wolff,
thank you for your response. As you said, a very tricky ending… I think you are right in that the defense will prevail but not when West keeps Qx in clubs. For in that case, since West is discarding ahead of Dummy, declarer can keep Kx of clubs and two hearts and endplay West in clubs which is what you stated in the article.
So… West must discard his queen of clubs and East must keep J7 of clubs… Now declarer has no recourse. David was right all along. I am the one who missed something.