Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 16th, 2016

Often a sign of expertise is noticing what doesn’t happen.

Malcolm Gladwell

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

*One key card

**The trump queen and spade king


Today’s deal is from the pairs contest in Tromso at the European Open last July. It produced an excellent technical problem for the North-South declarers.

This board was played in seven no-trump at only seven of the 53 tables. Slightly to my surprise, making seven hearts would have been a considerably better than average result. Maybe the board is harder to bid than it appears?

Anyway, be that as it may, your task today is to play seven notrump from South. A spade lead may be the most awkward (because it prevents you discarding a spade from South on the hearts). So let’s give you the most challenging defense.

The correct line is to win the spade, cash one club if you like, then four (and only four) hearts, overtaking the third. When you cash the fourth (but not the fifth!) heart East is obliged to pitch diamonds – the menace he holds under South — not spades, which would produce a relatively simple double squeeze for declarer.

Beware: Cashing the last heart now would squeeze your hand. Instead you must take the diamond ace-king first; when you do this and lead the fifth heart, East must discard a spade, or the clubs will run. Now you have to bite the bullet and pitch your fourth club (never easy to do, since partner will sneer if the opponents had double-bluffed you and set it up as a winner already). When you cash off the clubs, West will be squeezed in diamonds and spades.

Much depends on your methods. If you play new minor forcing, you can bid two diamonds now to find out about your partner’s major-suit pattern. If not, bid two spades, which is clearly forcing for one round, if not necessarily to game.


♠ A K 4 3
 Q 7 5 4 2
 K 6
♣ 10 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 1 NT 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


Patrick CheuJuly 30th, 2016 at 7:36 pm

Hi Bobby,Not sure how the bidding should go on this hand..pairs EW vul. North(dealer) QJ4 3 AKQJ54 762-East AT9753 AQ9 T82 A-South 82 K752 void KJT9543-West K6 JT864 9763 Q8.Playing Acol of sorts, N 1D E Dbl S 2C(9+) W p~N 2D E 3S S 4C W p~N 5C ..pass out,-3bottom.North felt he was worth 5C over my 4C..He was hoping I would pass 3S,and he would bid 3N,then he thought I should bid 4C to play..What should South bid over double by East? Minus 2 would have been ok. regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffJuly 30th, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Hi Patrick,

After North opens the bidding one diamond, I think East should prefer to only bid 1 spade and then depending on whether NS are playing preemptive jumps South bidding either 2 or 3 clubs immediately. If 3 then passed around to East who should rebid 3 spades and whether North then competes to 4 clubs will be up to him.

However if South only responds 2 clubs, North will rebid 2 diamonds and then over 2 spades by East, South would probably rebid 3 clubs (in spite of his diamond void). This would then either go all pass or West may raise to 3 spades (close) and if so, North will probably bid 4 clubs, all pass and in the play at spades EW or clubs NS both sides will take 8 tricks against decent defense meaning this table was playing a game often played.

“Last bidder gets the minus score”.

As an added feature, if North imaginatively bids 3NT he may, no less tie a record, for the least tricks a declarer (especially an opening bidder) ever took, exactly none, against just a decent defense…two round of shades and then hearts. And unless the declarer guesses clubs correctly by playing them from his hand the result will either be down one or more unless declarer ducks one heart after East switches to them after cashing two spade tricks.

Isn’t bridge a great game?

ClarksburgJuly 30th, 2016 at 10:17 pm

And…in the recreational Club Duplicate…one C-Stratum EW Pair found their way to play 3H by W and scored +140 for a Top.

Patrick CheuJuly 30th, 2016 at 10:22 pm

Hi Bobby,Against East’s double,would you bid 3C(weak) with this South’s hand?

Patrick CheuJuly 30th, 2016 at 10:32 pm

Hi Clarksburg,Would be interesting to know how they got to hearts in the our room nobody has,one in spades,most in clubs, a couple in diamonds..perhaps East did double as well there?!

ClarksburgJuly 31st, 2016 at 12:04 am

@ Patrick
My first post above was tongue-in-cheek just for fun. But perhaps consistent with Mr. Wolff’s frequent remarks about how difficult Matchpoint Pairs can be with a wide range of skill in the game.
But yes, I did envision something like that ill-advised Double by East, and a fearful Pass by South. So then Hearts, declared by West, are in the mix.
From there it’s judgement by both sides.

bobbywolffJuly 31st, 2016 at 12:25 am

Hi Clarksburg,

If so, I would think I know just what to say after I was North and led three top diamonds and partner obviously threw three clubs away, but not two spades, prohibiting me from giving him a setting spade ruff.

“Partner, thank you for not discarding your spades, but instead your clubs, however for those discards to be productive I would have to take the first seven diamond tricks, and I only had six to start with”.

In the day, I could be a little tough on partners so when I started to run out, I decided to cut the sarcasm.

bobbywolffJuly 31st, 2016 at 12:33 am

Hi Patrick,

Just a tad strong for that bid, but I would since I was void in his suit, not usually a good offensive sign.

Also, at least to me, while some make TO dbls just to show a good hand, I prefer not giving my LHO a chance to jump to something causing my partner to not know my long suit until we may get too high.. Chances are that by overcalling one spade it will not be followed by three passes and if it is, I do not think I’ll be missing a game, but once in a while, I might.

bobbywolffJuly 31st, 2016 at 12:49 am

Hi again Patrick & Clarksburg,

Speaking of matchpoints, a few years ago in 1960 a longtime pal and I opened a bridge club in San Antonio, TX. After a while we started a Junior duplicate on Tuesday night and, at least, attempted to kibitz the hands played and give lessons as we thought appropriate.

Believe it or not a hand occurred which wound up being played at the same contract at all seven tables (4 spades making four. +420).

However after an investigation (the normal bidding would be 1 spade, P, 2 spades P, 4 spades, all pass)and after the opponents took an AK in one suit and an ace in another all cards were then good for declarer.

All as simple as it could be and often is, but upon investigation all seven tables had different sequences with five different opening leads and at four of the tables all the defenders had to do was take the second ace for the set, but all declined.

Those were the days, my friends, I thought they would never end, but welcome to the world of learning bridge and its supervision.

Thanks for listening (assuming you have).

Patrick CheuJuly 31st, 2016 at 9:02 am

Hi Bobby,I often reminisce about the 70’s and it seems to be only yesterday. So much can happen at a bridge table and the stories to follow.How can one not learn and apply it to life.’Those were the days,my friends,I thought they would never end’ sang by Mary Hopkin 1968, I still love listening to..and finally thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us -Best regards~Patrick.

ClarksburgJuly 31st, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Oh by the way (still tongue in cheek) the same hand was played at another mythical recreational Club.
There, a beginner-level C-stratum Pair had a bad bidding mix-up (misundertanding what Transfers were and when and how they applied) and landed in 3H declared by East.

bobbywolffJuly 31st, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Hi Patrick,

If I was reincarnated (pity the world) I would love to come back as a romantic singer crooning all the “oldies”.

However I must confess that I am “tone deaf” with no singing voice or beat and unless a total reconstruction will take place in the afterlife, the above is not the “percentage play”.

bobbywolffJuly 31st, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Tongue-in-cheek or not you are indeed, a clever rascal. Especially adept with getting the void in your very weak suit on lead.

The above fact must then lead me to notify my cavalry to be at the ready for any untoward effort to unravel my propaganda. Just an alert, since the ACBL requires it.

Patrick CheuJuly 31st, 2016 at 6:43 pm

Hi Bobby,Where there is life,there is hope..:0)

bobbywolffAugust 1st, 2016 at 1:24 am

Also Patrick where there is a will

there is always