Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 20th, 2016

And then I Formulated a Plan. And that made me feel better because there was something in my head that had an order and a pattern and I just had to follow the instructions one after the other.

Mark Haddon

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



Today’s deal sees declarer drawing a subtle negative inference from the auction. One of the most popular gadgets in North America is called Drury, where a passed hand two club response to a major-suit opener shows a maximum pass with at least three-card trump support. In today’s deal when North admitted to his spade fit, South decided that he was not going to hang around short of game.

In four spades South won the heart lead and decided to maximize his chances in the spade suit by leading towards the queen. To do that he was prepared to burn his diamond entry at trick two. East took the spade queen with his king and forced declarer with a heart. When West followed with the three, the 5-3 heart break was revealed.

Now declarer guessed to cross to a diamond honor in dummy and finesse the spade 10. When it held, he did not draw the last trump, instead leading a third round of diamonds. East ruffed in and played a third heart, by which time declarer was confident that West had begun life with a 2-5-4-2 pattern. Since East was a passed hand, he was unlikely to have as much as an 11-count. And because he had not doubled the artificial two club call, West appeared to have a doubleton club honor.

So declarer led a club towards the 10. West, who had steeled himself for this moment, ducked smoothly. East won his queen and played back a club, but declarer confidently rose with the ace, and claimed the balance when the king appeared.

You have no idea if game is the limit in spades, or if you should play a small or even a grand slam. A jump to four spades would surely end the auction. So you should cuebid four hearts, planning to raise a four spade call to five. Since a direct jump to five spades would have asked for a heart control, this sequence should simply be offering partner the chance to evaluate his hand for slam.


♠ A 10 5 4 3
 A 10 5 2
♣ A J 7
South West North East
  2 Dbl. 3

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


Shantanu RastogiJune 3rd, 2016 at 9:18 am

Hello Mr Wolff

If declarer chooses to ruff out hearts (heart Ace- heart ruff using two diamond entries to ruff out hearts) and then plays Diamond Ace which East ruffs with 9 of trumps and could do no better than shift to clubs which is ducked to Easts King. Now east plays a diamond or a trump the declarer is in control even if East refuses to overruff 4th Diamond. The contract makes. Is this like Ok ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Shantanu RastogiJune 3rd, 2016 at 9:19 am

Is this line Ok ?

bobby wolffJune 3rd, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Hi Shantanu,

That line is not only OK, it may be the preferred one.

These types of declarer hands with several options, can usually only be judged by “feel” and thus leave it open to all to rate.

While usually remaining a mystery as to degree of difficulty, your line, at least to me, seems at least as good as both the column line and to any others which come to mind (at least, mine).

Being reasonably sure that West, not East has the long hearts, there is virtually no danger of an overruff, a mighty factor in choice.

Then, add to the likelihood of eventually forcing the opponents to offer the first club play is another sound plus factor.

Thanks for your contribution. So much of playing very good bridge is only based on “feel” and not of attempted exact percentages (which is often next to impossible to judge). Your reaction and then suggestion to this hand in question is an excellent example.

TedJune 3rd, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, my initial thought was to cuebid followed by 5S, but then I thought about partner’s hand. It’s almost certainly Aceless with at least 2 hearts (East only bid 3H). Even if slam were a laydown, would partner believe he held the right hand for slam? Probably not most of the people I’ve played with.

I’d just bid 6S and start composing my apology to partner while LHO selected his opening lead.

bobby wolffJune 3rd, 2016 at 6:46 pm

Hi Ted.

1. I agree, therefore like your initial thought about cue bidding, and then, likely following with a raise, not necessarily just spades, but definitely raising 5 diamonds to 6, but still thinking what to do over 5 clubs, (perhaps bidding 5 spades, but considering instead, raising to 6 clubs TBD, depending on the habits of my then partner).

2. Perhaps I am too much of an optimist, but my guess is that it is at least even money, my partner will have the ace of harts, hopefully not the king or any other honor, but remember that if partner has 3 little hearts (his first three cards to be exposed, if he turns up dummy in a slam I am declarer, I would expect, perhaps 90% of the time for the slam to be laydown, which even goes at least as high if he has Axx in hearts instead).

3. I applaud your practical analysis of one of your now partners (and I am not trying to denigrate any of them) not being able to being able to professionally evaluate their hands, however learning to play high-level bridge is a relatively slow process, and learning this phase of the game is one of the more sophisticated subjects.

4. Therefore, while I am certainly not against your practical application of just “punting” 6 spades (as the British might say) this site is for helping get it done, with shall we say at least, providing slightly more grace (and thus much more satisfaction).

5. Little by little we can do great things, if impatience loses out to fierce determination.

Perhaps no apologies will ever be needed, only hurrahs!

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