Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 2nd, 2016

I don’t believe in principle,
But oh I do believe in interest.

James Russell Lowell

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


One of the most satisfying ways to generate extra tricks for the defenders comes when they maneuver a trump promotion – or force declarer to do the dirty work himself. In today’s hand the trump seven became a master, even though declarer had a nine-card fit and a combined 100 honors.

North/South were playing a style where a two-spade rebid would have been non-forcing. After his very aggressive three spade call, both players got rather carried away on the deal, eventually settling in the delicate slam. Of course had they not done so, there would have been no story.

West kicked off with the club 10 to the queen, king and ace. With both major suits behaving in such friendly fashion, declarer could have succeeded by establishing dummy’s hearts and playing for an even trump break. His actual line seemed to improve on that chance, however.

South won the club ace and ruffed a diamond. He then crossed to his heart king to trump another diamond, then cashed the heart ace and ruffed a heart with the spade eight – a luxury that it turned out he could not afford. He then ruffed his last diamond, and in the five-card ending he led a winning heart from dummy.

When East ruffed in with the spade queen, it let declarer discard his losing club. Now with the remaining trumps 2-1, declarer seemed to be in control. However, West discarded the diamond king on this trick, and at this point another diamond from East promoted a trick for West’s spade seven.

You must go past three no-trump here, to raise diamonds. Your hand is spectacularly good for play in a suit – especially if you happen to be facing short spades. You could argue that since you have denied four hearts already, a four club call should be a cuebid for diamonds. While I wouldn’t risk that, I do think you are fully worth such an action.


♠ A 10 8 6 4 3
 K 6
 Q J 5
♣ A 7
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 2 Pass
2 ♠ 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


A V Ramana RaoDecember 16th, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff
Did declarer have a plan at all? He would have gone down even if east does not ruff with Queen. West will ruff an back either minor and south should lose trick to Q of trumps.
If south wanted to rely on hearts, perhaps he could have played K, A And another heart pitching his losing club early and now the defence is helpless

Iain ClimieDecember 16th, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Hi AVRR, Bobby,

True as the cards lie but what if East turns up with 4H and spades are 2-2. Now a fourth heart from east gives South a losing option – should he ruff high and play west for Qx or Qxx and set up the clubs or ruff with the 10? I wonder if South actually needs H3-3 here? A nightmare hand as there will probably be a winning line but there are definitely losing ones.



jim2December 16th, 2016 at 1:53 pm

I was East when this hand came up in last year’s in the Lower Slobbovia Mud Cup. Declarer was a Rueful Rabbit type I’ll call Lucky Louie (his legal name was a long one lacking any visible vowels, but it did start with an L).

LL simply drew trump, cashed the top hearts, ruffed the suit good, and trumped a diamond to run the hearts.

All I could do was shake my head.

A V Ramana RaoDecember 16th, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Hi lain
I hope I have permission from our host to reply to you
Yes I agree to your comments but at least there is a chance in that line. But what declarer did is Hara- Kiri

A V Ramana RaoDecember 16th, 2016 at 2:23 pm

& my sincere sympathies to Jim2

bobby wolffDecember 16th, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Hi A. V.,

Yes, this hand was real and only verifies what you suspect. Declarer had no overall plan and only hoped that his line (with too much expected luck) to suddenly produce 12 tricks.

Our principle reason for featuring it is to show the dangers of trump promotion, even with above normal (for declarer) splits.

No doubt your comments were right on, making the defense lucky to have been defending against a hopeful but careless declarer.

bobby wolffDecember 16th, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Hi Iain,

With many choices available, perhaps it would definitely to be better to duck the first club and after losing a soft club trick, ruff good two clubs and, of course play trumps straight up, as only another way to score up this mediocre slam.

As a talented rising bridge star will soon realize is that once this slam is bid, he or she MUST find a way to make it, especially with being able to enjoy more or less favorable breaks. Of course, early on, if not, then, at the very least, be able to reflect on how and why he fell short.

bobby wolffDecember 16th, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Hi Jim2,

We all, even north of Lower Slobbovia, have had to accept the pain of Rueful Rabbit types, after aggressive bidding, accept the pain of an opposing declarer playing a hand getting 3-3 and 2-2 breaks to land a slam, write his score up, and cheerfully act as if it was always his due.

Such is seemingly always the fortune of TOLD to the chagrin of their opponents. BTW, TOLD stands for theory of lucky declarers, an atypical sort who while very polite and pleasant (who wouldn’t be?), is secretly despised by those less fortunate, not to even begin to mention, those afflicted with TOCM.

Iain ClimieDecember 16th, 2016 at 3:47 pm


If the S5 and S7 had been swapped, declarer might still have survived, albeit luckily. Don’t worry about replying to any of my comments, though, although check with Bobby if you want; if I’ve said something daft (no change there, according to my wife) feel free to point it out. One good thing with this column though is the friendly nature of the comments – “you may have missed something” or “it may be better if” are the general tones for corrections or extra thoughts, and that is down to the courtesy and thoughtfulness which Bobby encourages, and not just in the saeaon of goodwill to others (and even partners).


bobby wolffDecember 16th, 2016 at 5:45 pm

Hi Iain,

No, bridge partners, that is, very good ones, should serve as whipping boys, to hot tempered bridge geniuses and emulate Shmoos of Al Capp comic strip fame where they willingly and happily give their lives to be eaten and enjoyed, if only to please their master.

Quite valuable, especially in the bridge world, where when something goes wrong it is always because of the Ox across the table.

ClarksburgDecember 16th, 2016 at 11:57 pm

In a strange roundabout way, Schmoos were tough opponents…never gave anything away by their demeanor, facial expressions, etc.
Both just sat there…

bobby wolffDecember 17th, 2016 at 1:56 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Yes, obviously they were always deadly serious, and after all, why wouldn’t they be?