Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Man, of all the animals, is probably the only one to regard himself as a great delicacy.

Jacques Yves Cousteau

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

*Two kings or one ace

**Transfer to hearts


The target in today’s deal is to reach the heart slam, and then to make it.

Control-showing responses to the two club opener fortuitously get South to be declarer in slam after North shows a balanced 22-24 then jumps to four hearts over the transfer. This suggests four trump and a non-minimum in context.

In six hearts declarer wins the spade lead with the ace and cashes the heart ace. If trumps break, there are 12 top tricks. But the 4-0 trump division places a real onus of care on South. When West pitches a club, the risk of 5-2 clubs becomes a real one, in which case declarer cannot take a club ruff in dummy with either a high or a low trump without creating a winner for the defenders. Accordingly he must make sure to set up the diamonds to ensure his discard, then play to ruff spades in hand.

At trick three he leads a heart to his 10, then advances the diamond queen. East takes the second diamond and returns a spade. After winning this with dummy’s king, declarer cashes the diamond king, throwing a club from hand.

Now comes a spade ruff in hand, the two top clubs ending in dummy, and declarer has reached a three-card ending in which he can lead the last spade from dummy and leave East with no winning options. If East ruffs in, South overruffs and draws trump. If he discards instead, declarer scores his small heart, and has two high trumps for the last two tricks.

Your partner has set up a forcing auction (had he bid hearts at his second turn that would have been a very good hand – this is a better one). I can’t see three no-trump as being a sensible spot, so I’ll repeat my clubs and cross my fingers we have a fit.


♠ J 10 9
 10 5 4 3 2
♣ Q 10 8 6 2
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. Pass
2 2 ♠ Dbl. Pass
3 ♣ Pass 3 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 WarheitJune 16th, 2016 at 9:21 am

Alternate line of play: after E wins the DA and returns a S, cash the DK, pitching a C, ruff a S and draw trumps. S now has CAxx and dummy has Sx CKJ; W is squeezed in S & C. This line is better than the suggested line if E has a singleton C (other than the Q, in which case both lines succeed), but fails if E has 3 C. I think your line is better, although it’s close. Which do you think is better?

bobby wolffJune 16th, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Hi David.

Since you have accurately listed the distributional truths, at least to that point in the defense, it seems that, since only with a 6-1 club distribution, the column line will not prevail leaving, the chances of two or more clubs with East to be substantially better (even allowing for the 4-0 trump split).

As an aside, and from experience, once a hand like this appears, the declarer should, upon the discovery up to then, not take what might seem like forever to the defense, in order to make the decision you suggest. At least it seems clear that the column line is more likely and postponing that decision, while the opponents (and your partner, the dummy) wait, is unnecessary at best and gamesmanship at worst.

While everyone (including the defense) will respect and no doubt not whine over time spent by declarer, there are (or should be) behavioral limits to which one owes those opponents, and to go beyond that timing seems to me, at the very least, either selfish or just needling.

At any rate, the above is just my view, likely not an unanimous one. BTW, always thanks for your time and effort, resulting in a very thorough analysis.

David WarheitJune 16th, 2016 at 5:03 pm

If E has exactly 2 C, either line works. So it is not a question of singleton C versus 2 or more C, but rather singleton C versus 3 C. At the point of decision making S will know that E has 3 S (almost certainly ONLY 3), exactly 4 H, and at least 3 D, therefore E only has 3 unknown cards. Given all those facts, which is more likely: E holding 3C or E holding only a singleton other than the Q? Whatever the answer, I am certain that the difference will be far from “substantial”.

bobby wolffJune 16th, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Hi David,

Substantial is as substantial does.

True, with your analysis of the spades (inferential, but clear), hearts (certain) diamonds (inferential and not so clear), leaving clubs (murky). On the way to the forum perhaps West should have thrown a diamond on the first heart (4th diamond is unlikely to be a later factor and the club is indicative of more than four, which could be too revealing to declarer, but not, since only the possible 6th club would be).

Your description of numbers and their probabilities doesn’t necessarily change from the original more likely distributions (in clubs, 4-3 most likely, 5-2 second, 6-1 third, with a fairly steep curve, 30% drop from 5-2 (approximately 17% instead of 47%), and 7-0, not really in the ball park when East shows up with the ace of diamonds since he should have made a Lightner slam double holding a club void and of course an almost sure, cashing side ace).

No doubt other suit distributions play a large part in recognizing danger and then, of course influencing lines of play, and you are correct in interpreting one persons meaning of substantial compared to another.

Nothing above detracts from your keen analysis, but I do think the column line is, shall I just say, slightly superior.