Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

For some cry ‘Quick’ and some cry ‘Slow’.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

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

*Hearts, game forcing



It often surprises me to see players rush through playing a slam. After all, if you won’t give full consideration to your play in a slam, when will you take the time? In today’s deal declarer gave his contract the respect it deserved, and was rewarded.

When West led the diamond king against seven hearts, declarer realized that he had reached a contract with 13 apparent tricks available – barring a hostile break. At second glance the grand slam seemed to depend on how the trumps divided. If they were 2-2, he could ruff a spade and club in dummy; if 3-1, then clubs might need to be 3-3. That wasn’t good enough, so South returned to his cogitating, and eventually saw that there might be a way home however hearts broke.

He took the club jack in hand, led to dummy’s diamond ace and immediately ruffed a diamond to hand with the four. A trump to dummy disclosed the bad break, and now declarer needed more help from the club suit. He took a diamond ruff with the eight, then cashed the heart ace. Next he led a club to the king and ruffed the fourth diamond with the king, his last trump. A spade to the ace allowed North’s master trumps to take care of West’s last two hearts.

Declarer had the master clubs and spades left, and ended up taking 13 tricks in the form of six plain winners, three diamond ruffs in hand and four trumps in dummy. This approach is most accurately referred to as a dummy reversal.

Your two diamond call set up a game-forcing auction. In any sequence of this sort, your jump to three no-trump shows the equivalent of a strong no-trump. This means that your partner can bid on with real extras in high cards or shape. A call of two no-trump here by you would show a balanced hand, 12-14 or 18+.


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


Yasser HaiderJune 14th, 2016 at 9:09 am

Hi Bobby, nice dummy reversal but what was the lead again?

bobby wolffJune 14th, 2016 at 10:41 am

Hi Yasser,

At one table, the one primarily discussed, declarer received the jack of clubs lead, and properly timed the hand, in case he needed to execute a dummy reversal (in effect making dummy the master trump hand, in spite of declarer starting out with the long trumps), It then, in turn enabled declarer to throw away his losing club in hand on dummy’s 4th trump (since clubs did not break 3-3).

A dummy reversal occurs more often than suspected whenever the opponents trumps, as did here, not break at all favorably (4-0).

Good technique by a very good player to allow for such a thing, otherwise that grand slam would have gone down.

At the other table West led the king of diamonds knowing declarer had shown shortness in hand (catering to a singleton queen in hand and 4 to the ace in dummy without the jack. Upon leading a second diamond from dummy, East was not tempted to rise with the queen since the bidding had shown no more than a singleton diamond with South.

When the bidding side is naturally listening to the bidding while deciding where to place the contract, so should the defense, after the meanings of their bidding have been properly disclosed.

jim2June 14th, 2016 at 11:57 am

In BWTA, I think a lot partnerships play 4th suit as only a one round force. For those players, what would be the best bid?

bobby wolffJune 14th, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Hi Jim2,

For those partnerships who do not play 4th suit GF, but only forcing for one round, South at least IMO, is almost restricted to bid 3NT since partner is as likely as not to hold something like: s. KQxx, h. Kx, d. 10x, c. AJxxx. Since 2NT, to them, would be NF, it would be unthinkable to not prefer hearts with Kx while instead violating every pairs principles by not having its own diamond stop when partner chooses 4th suit in the 2nd round of bidding. Of course East could hold: s. Kxxx, h. Kxx d. x, c. AJxxx making 4 hearts In matchpoints and probably 5 clubs in especially IMPs superior, but also 4 hearts having a better chance to make than would be 3NT in either game.

My first message is that playing 4th suit by responder GF is almost a necessity, relieving having either partner to now jump, before enough information is exchanged to justify that jump, making that action contrary to what high level bridge is about regarding taking pains to find the right game contract.

For some tortured moments just consider what to do when holding: s. Axx, h. Jxxx, d. AKx, c. Kxx and choosing 3NT when the bidding has started:
1C P 1H (by you) P, 1S, P, 2D, P, 3NT by partner and having partner have a singleton heart down at 3NT when possibly slam is cold in either black suit, partner holding, s. KQJx, h. A, d. Qxx, c. QJ10xx (especially clubs).

Sometimes relatively inexperienced (but among our best and brightest to be excellent players) like this or that without considering the negative alternatives which go with.

Enough room for constructive bidding can be accomplished sometimes in one round of bidding, perhaps 50% of the time with two, but the rest of the time requires at least three + rounds.

Whether this group of people with talent, but not enough foresight or patience to succeed, round off decisions without the ability to inquire or get into it enough to finally understand their responsibilities to each other while forming a new partnership or some other reason I do not know.

However, this conundrum usually effects only the student of the game (certainly not the finished product), and if so, his or her mentor needs to keep control of their bridge education.

jim2June 14th, 2016 at 1:03 pm

In the following, is 1S a GF?

1C – 1D
1H – 1S

A V Ramana RaoJune 14th, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Interestingly, when the K of diamonds is led, if declarer can divine the actual lay out, he can prevail simply by ruffing the third spade and running hearts squeezing east in diamonds and clubs. But then , it is double dummy. Obviously dummy reversal is superior

slarJune 14th, 2016 at 3:12 pm

This is not universal but in Washington Standard it is a one-round force. You can always bid 2S to force to game.

bobby wolffJune 14th, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Hi Jim2,

Back awake after my relatively strange sleep habits, which seem to take, like bridge itself, breaks in tempo.

You did it, that is the one sequence which after 4th suit, it is not forcing to game, but does in fact show 4 spades, while the artificial force is 2 spades which denies 4 spades, but is, of course a GF. Since the lesser one (only a 1 spade rebid) is necessary to not bypass a possible 8 card major suit fit, but since so much room is left available, one can explore without committing to game, therefore enabling stopping short of game. However, if after that above sequence, any jump bid which often can be short of game, is, of course then GF, but by then both hands will be relatively known as far as suit structure (all four first bids are natural) so nothing, if anything, is lost in the shuffle. Of course the secondary jump to 2 spades (over 1 heart) is often very strong, making slam in some suit very much in the air, but the artificial bid of 2 spades is preferred since mere jumps are only invitational but, of course, natural.

I hope the above is self-explanatory and makes good sense.

At times methinks others query, knowing much more than they want to appear (and importantly, why) than they let on, just to play the role. of ” dam or damsel in distress”. (if damsel means female, shouldn’t dam signify male?)

However, while holding: s. Jxxx, h. Jx, d. AKJx c. 10xx, it is perhaps wise, to respond 1 spade, not 1 diamond over partner’s initial 1 club opening bid. but then simply to pass if partner raises to 2 spades. Yes partner may well raise, and often does to 2 spades with only 3 of them, but that advantage becomes an awareness of playing 7 card trump fits, plus the greater possibility of getting a diamond lead.

bobby wolffJune 14th, 2016 at 3:55 pm


Yes, again everyone who contributes to our site, apparently are very well versed on very advanced aspects of our game who can foresee complicated end situations and have excellent analytical bridge talent.

Of course the leading of the king of diamonds has the advantage of plucking a single queen in declarer’s hand, rather than allowing him to run a small diamond lead to his queen for possibly the game going trick, but, of course, the disadvantage of the dummy showing up with all the intermediate honors (of course, on this hand the opening leader possessed the 10) but sometimes declarer will have a choice and the king removes his doubt in case the AJ are both in dummy. IOW, you have to chance to get.

Thanks for your post.

bobby wolffJune 14th, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Hi Slar,

Thanks for your post, informing me that Washington agrees with Texas (my early home, where I spent most of my bridge learning) allowing those 2 areas to definitely agree on bridge, but possibly (likely) keeping their distances on lesser important issues such as country and world politics.

TedJune 14th, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Hi Bobby,

In BWTA, if North’s 1S bid suggest an unbalanced hand (as opposed to 1NT), then all your HCP except the diamond J are working for a club contract. Slam would only need a 3-2 club break and no singleton heart opposite as little as Kxxx Kxx x AQxxx. Would partner consider slam with this hand after you bid NT?

If 2D established a GF, does 3C have some merit?

bobby wolffJune 14th, 2016 at 8:55 pm

Hi Ted,

You are close to being an expert on when, why, and how.

Yes, If 1 spade instead of 1NT shows an unbalanced hand and it might, and if 2D is a GF as it should, then a 3 club bid has more than just merit, it is 100% called for.

Since 1 spade will likely have at least 5 clubs those partners now together will have established a suit to play a slam in, if and when the controls and tricks are likely available. Otherwise, either 5 clubs or a stop off at 3NT appears to be the game of choice.

And that above so-called design for bidding is the way it is done, proving that you are asking all the right questions and have the aptitude to reach sound bridge conclusions.

But, what you lack is where do you go from here, and that very experience is what you need to develop, if you want to continue your climb. Ask around and what ever leads you get to whom is available in reasonably close proximity may be your answer.

Good luck.