Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 13th, 2016

This ideal conception — that one should have an aim in life — had, indeed, only too often occurred to me as an unsolved problem; but I was still far from deciding what form my endeavors should ultimately take.

Anthony Powell

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

*Non-serious try for slam


When South shows the majors, North, who has set up a game-forcing auction at his first turn, can afford to raise to three spades to set up a slam try.

South may not be encouraged by his partner’s earlier diamond bid, but his controls and shape suggest making one mild slam try. Here, facing North’s three spade call, South might sign off at once, but he chooses a modern gadget to make one small effort toward slam. His three no-trump call indicates no extras but that he is otherwise not unsuitable for slam.

(When a major suit has been agreed this is the so-called nonserious three no-trump bid. This was invented and popularized by Eric Rodwell).

Over three no-trump, North signs off in four spades, and when West leads a club to the king and ace, East returns a trump. South has only two plain-suit winners and therefore needs eight trump tricks to make the game contract. He can get these tricks if he ruffs three times in the dummy. South wins the spade in hand, ruffs a club in the dummy, then takes a discard on the diamond ace. Here he must discard a heart rather than a club. South needs all of his clubs in order to ruff three times in dummy.

The rest of the play is a crossruff. South ruffs diamonds in his own hand and clubs in the dummy. 10 tricks made, and West is left to rue not leading a trump to the first trick — not an easy play to find, I admit.

It feels right to lead trump, to cut out spade ruffs in dummy. That being said, a low heart is surely best, since you can hardly afford to waste one of your spots, and the odds are heavily in your favor that partner has one of the top four missing hearts.


♠ 8 3
 J 10 8 2
 K J 6 5 2
♣ K 3
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠
Pass 1 NT Pass 2
All 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


Peter PengJune 28th, 2016 at 1:34 am

I put the card by card Lauria play in the Sunday follow-up

Peter PengJune 28th, 2016 at 1:36 am

You had it absolutely right, Mr. Wolff.

I must say that my partner, after he gave up and I told him,

gave me the same encouragement you gave me. He said = WE can do that also!

bobbywolffJune 28th, 2016 at 10:31 am

Hi Peter,

Much thanks for your optimistic appraisal of the result achieved by Lauria and my duplicating his play.

However, I think my solution to that hand will not work if the defense, at the right time, gives me a sluff and ruff (spade lead) which, I believe will have me come up a trick short.

No matter, although in truth I believe Deep Finesse is correct and a;though that hand cannot be made, it does not detract from your time and effort to admire his play (and mine).

All we can do, as fallible human beings, is to try our best to do as well as we can, and if and when we come up short, no damage done, only a good try.

Thanks again for all you add to our site. Good luck in your steady climb, along with your partner, of improving your game the right way.

Kind regards.

jim2June 28th, 2016 at 10:43 am

Peter Peng –

I have lost where things stand in the discussion. Are we agreed that a ruff-sluff return beats the hand?

If declarer ruffs on board, he now has 1S, 1H, 2D, 6 trump, and 1 bonus ruff = 11 tricks. He cannot get back to hand (to run trumps for a squeeze) without ruffing a diamond. That kills the Vienna Coup since the AH must be the late Board entry for the diamond threat.

If declarer ruffs in hand, pitching a heart from Board, he cannot play his last trump to try to squeeze North because he would no longer have a hand entry. (That is why the 3rd trump that is NOT in declarer’s hand is so important.) Say, declarer instead plays to the AH, takes the top diamonds and ruffs a diamond, and ruffs a heart. This sets up declarer’s hearts for 12 tricks, but there is no longer a hand entry to them. (Again, because of that 3rd trump NOT being there)

So, Peter Peng, did the commentators note that North could have returned a spade for a ruff-sluff and defeated Lauria?

Peter PengJune 28th, 2016 at 11:56 am


the commentators did not see what you saw

jim2June 28th, 2016 at 12:16 pm

I guess I still do not understand.

Don’t the commentators see all four hands?

Or, are you saying they missed it?

bobbywolffJune 28th, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Hi Peter & Jim2.

Apparently the commentators missed the ending, and when it involves a ruff and sluff best finish it is not terribly surprising since many well played hands try and force the defense to do just that thing.

Perhaps when Mr. Lauria is winning the best played hand of the year, one of you brave gents should stand and dispute it, causing the wedding, I mean awards ceremony, to come to a sudden end.