Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 15th, 2016

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.

Mark Twain

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

*0/3 keycards


The field did not shine on this deal from the first day of the Tromso Mixed Teams. Only 12 of the 84 tables playing this deal reached the grand slam – and 10 went down in it! Seven pairs went down in game – one in five diamonds! That might make the result of the pairs who went down in six hearts look more acceptable. Meanwhile 30 pairs bid to the small slam, the rest contenting themselves with game. I suppose we should be happy no one played partscore…

The two tables who bid and made seven diamonds received a top club lead. They won the ace, led the spade queen to the ace and ruffed a spade. Then they unblocked in hearts and ruffed a spade with the 10. They cashed the heart ace to pitch a club, ruffed away the last spade winner with the diamond ace, and drew trump.

This line required spades to break 4-3 and diamonds no worse than 3-1, and might have survived West’s holding either the doubleton spade king or five small spades. The failure of so many pairs in the grand slam – by playing on hearts, without realizing that this line entails more luck in hearts than the winning line requires in spades – is remarkable. If you won’t stop to do the math in a grand slam when WILL you stop to think?

Only Ton Hoeyland and Maria Dam Mortensen played the grand slam correctly. They were thus rewarded, if not with glory, with something at least as important: a metaphorical ‘thumbs-up’ from this column.

The two spade call is forcing to game so you have no need to take violent action here. A simple bid of two no-trump is sufficient for the time being. You can move past game at your next turn, if your partner simply raises to three no-trump. Your partner will support hearts if he has three; if he doesn’t, hearts rates not to be your side’s best strain.


♠ Q
 A 9 7 6 5 2
 A 10 8 6
♣ A 6
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 1
1 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


TedJuly 29th, 2016 at 6:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

Following a recent hand where after an overcall partner raised my 1S opener to 2S with three spades to the 8, a balanced hand and an outside Q , we are rediscussing major suit raises in competition. His raise was for “preemptive purposes”.

He sent me a treatment where the single raise in competition shows less than 6 points with 3 card support (with a better hand a transfer is used).

Intuitively (but my intuition has certainly been wrong before), it doesn’t feel right to raise when you are this weak and have only 3 card support unless there is some compensating distribution. I dislike telling the opponents that I have 3 card support, unless I think we may buy the contract or I want to encourage that lead.

Are there advantages to immediately raising with this type of hand that I am overlooking?


bobbywolffJuly 29th, 2016 at 11:35 pm

Hi Ted,

Like many other treatments in high-level bridge, sometimes the ability to raise with only 3 card support and a terrible hand will cause the opponents to miss judge what to do.

However, once your system is disclosed, and the opponents wind up playing the hand, prepare yourselves for a good declarer guessing every card.

No, I do not like that treatment since I think it will not show plus IMPs in the long run, unless the opposition is very weak. And, in that event, your side figures to have an edge at least as big as that aspect of your system.

Yes, and some pairs who raise very lightly sometimes have a way (not necessarily overt cheating) of making the same raise but partner will somehow know that this time he has a little more and thus get the advantage of what most partnerships consider a normal raise.

Somewhat complicated to explain but we have all played against partnerships who tell more about their hand with body language than they should.

However, if you are tempted to try doing it, please go ahead and later let us all know what you then think about its effectiveness.