Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.

Stephen R. Covey

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

*Two key-cards and the trump queen


Once North splinters with four clubs he should pull in his horns at his next turn. 4-4-4-1 distribution rarely plays as well as it might be expected to. Be that as it may, against six spades West leads the trump 10. Are there any hidden traps to making 12 tricks?

Assuming that trumps are 3-2, you have 10 tricks. Two more will come from club ruffs, but you need to be careful when the full deal looks similar to the one shown below.

The opening trump lead must be won on table, with the king. Next play a club to the ace and ruff a club. Now is the time to lead a low diamond from the table. (If you take another club ruff before playing a diamond, West will win the trick and play a club. East will be able to then ruff this with the jack, and the contract will fail.)

The defense can do no better than win the first diamond and play a second round of trumps, won by dummy’s ace. After a heart to the ace for a second club ruff, you will cash the diamond ace and ruff a diamond with the eight of spades.

Art this point, after drawing West’s last trump with the queen and discarding dummy’s diamond jack, dummy will have only top hearts left. You will have taken the three top trump, four hearts, the diamond and club aces, and three ruffs in one hand or the other, for a grand total of 12 tricks.

When you jumped to four clubs you bid your whole hand at one go. Yes you have a spade control but in context you have no extras. If partner cannot move over four hearts you won’t have missed anything. With the diamond queen instead of the jack you might do more now.


♠ A K 7 5
 K Q J 2
 A J 9 5
♣ 4
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
4 ♣ Pass 4 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


TedAugust 2nd, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Hi Bobby,

In BWTA what is the minimum hand partner should have to bid 4D? I would expect if he has less than the diamond K and a round A, he’d bid 4H instead. His bid, I think, further improved your hand and makes a 4S bid appropriate.

If you now bid 4H, he’s likely looking at a couple spade losers and a bad trump suit. If he has a hand as bad as Qx 10xxxx Kxx Axx (or something similar), slam actually looks good, but should partner make a try with this?

jim2August 2nd, 2016 at 10:43 pm

Courtesy of the TOCM ™ hand generator:


TedAugust 2nd, 2016 at 11:39 pm

Thanks Jim2,

Never said it was a guaranteed slam! Besides, with the opponents having all those clubs, my rosé colored glasses would figure maybe someone has the doubleton spade Q.

Actually, the club shortness and balance in the other suits would be a red flag, though likely not enough to keep me from bidding.

Jane AAugust 2nd, 2016 at 11:58 pm

Me either Ted. I agree with your analysis, and hope I never get the affliction that Jim2 has although there have been times……..

bobbywolffAugust 3rd, 2016 at 4:08 am

Hi Ted, Jim2, and (of course Jane A) monitoring,

No doubt, our magic carpet has taken off, searching for bridge Nirvana, next stop over the rainbow and Oz. While flying at warp speed, we visualize different type hands which fit the prototype of what it takes to jump to game via a splinter.

Logically by definition a splinter at the four level is a slam try, so let us consider the three major ingredients of what it takes to make one.

1. Not being off two immediate tricks, whether they are both in one suit, or not enough first round controls (two or fewer).
2. An adequate trump suit, both numbers and solidity.
3. A source of tricks where optimism often requires an outside solid enough combined suit (often 5+ long or longer) where the partner of that suit has the proper filling honors if necessary.

On this particular hand it will be easy to find out that #1 is satisfied when all the opener or even the responder, as the case may be needs to do is ask for key cards (or just aces as the case might be). Number 2 becomes pretty evident since the opener is blessed not only with the KQ of trump but the J as well which sometimes, especially when TOCM is threatened, becomes a necessary safety play.

However #3 is not in the cards, at least at this moment, not even a 5 card suit, For example change the diamond suit from AJ9x to AKxxxx and we can do away with the king of spades and maybe even our secondary heart honors (assuming partner has as much as A sixth or even AQxxx)

Let me say now that even with the specific hand mentioned, no one could justifiably criticize a 4 spade response to partner’s 4 diamond bid. To be blunt, with a panel of the world’s best players, playing this type of system I do believe that over 1/2 of them would indeed cue bid 4 spades, and whether or not others may or may not choose that bid would depend on their sophisticated slam bidding judgment, even narrowing it down to how aggressive each one of them has consistently responded.

It becomes a partnership matter for two partners to learn to blend together, depending on which hand they happen to hold, whether to be aggressive or conservative compensating for his or her partner, who is trying to also calibrate his judgment to what partner will normally expect.

Finally my experience in slam bidding and, of course, with mostly wonderful and thoughtful partners (however, some aggressive, some not so) the fact that there may not be a long suit in ether hand, usually takes on a hue of several suits having to rely on reasonable multiple suit breaks (and sometimes finesses) in order to take at least 12 tricks.

In the case at hand diamonds is the key suit and although partner has cue bid in that suit, he will possibly think that Kxx is better than Kx, but in truth it isn’t, at least normally. Number 2 in importance is the length partner has in his trump suit with only four opposite the opener’s announced four becoming dangerous.

Remember when we choose a 4 heart return instead of the spade cue bid, doesn’t automatically end slam investigating. It is only for that partnership to each decide what they would bid over 4 diamonds (assuming both agreed to bid 4 diamonds to start with).

If the above sounds somewhat complicated is because it is, however that complication has to do with a partnership decision of who is better placed to bid what, depending on which hand is held.

Again my experience has suggested to me that the best partnerships through the years consist of two partners who understand the nature of each others bridge reasoning. Without that asset, no matter how talented either or both are, their airplane ride to Oz may end with instead of the wicked witch killed upon landing will instead destroy their own precious bridge partnership.

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