Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 10th, 2016

The only defense against the world is a thorough knowledge of it.

John Locke

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

*Pick a slam


In today’s deal South gave his slam a decent shot but ran into accurate defense.

Later that night South realized that he could have made his contract; but the damage was already done.

After South opened a strong no-trump, West intervened with three hearts. Maybe North might have settled for a slam try, but at the table he bid five no-trump, to show a two-suiter. That got his side to their easiest slam, but when East found an inspired double, North thought there would be a heart ruff or bad trump break around, and so ran to six notrump.

When West led the heart king, South won and took two club finesses. They both succeeded, but when the bad break came to light, things looked bleak.

However, South spotted that there might still be hope if East could not reach his partner in hearts (and the auction had suggested as much), together with the spade queen. South cashed his club ace and all his diamonds winners, ending in dummy. Then he exited with the club 10, to throw East on lead.

If East had exited with a low spade, declarer would have had the rest of the tricks. But East found the elegant shift to the spade queen, blocking the suit, and leaving declarer a trick short.

So what was South’s error? He should have taken just three rounds of diamonds (leaving himself an entry to hand). That would have removed East’s exit cards, and allowed for the successful endplay in clubs.

This pattern does not handle well after a one club (or worse, a one diamond) opening bid. Settle for the least lie and open one no-tump. Yes, you may find yourself getting too high if partner has a long major. Equally, you may well miss game if you treat the hand as a balanced 12-14. And the club intermediates argue that going low would be something of an underbid.


♠ J 7
 A 7
 A K J 8
♣ Q 10 9 7 3
South West North East

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


Iain ClimieDecember 24th, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

In 6D, what is the best line of play, assuming HK lead? I’m guessing that it is to draw 2 rounds of trumps (in case they are 4-1) then a third round and to play CA then J etc, as a safety play against West holding CK singleton and assuming West has 7H – 6 seems unlikely. Any thoughts?



Patrick CheuDecember 24th, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Hi Iain and Bobby,In 6D West’s 3H bid NV could easily be a speculative 6 carder with KC or QS outside,but East’s double during the auction means West’s suit is more likely to be a 7carder..therefore KC and QS likely to be in East’s hand.If East had not double,how declarer plays the club suit would be more interesting and in the event of a 4-1 diamond break in either hand,how should the clubs be played?

bobby wolffDecember 24th, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Hi Iain,

As Henry Higgins told Lisa Doolittle in “My Fair Lady”, “By George, you’ve got it”, at least as far as I am concerned.

Where East got his inspired penalty double of 6 diamonds, no one is likely to ever know, but whatever, it rousted NS away from a winning contract which turned out to be an unnecessarily losing one. And yes, the gamble is between East having two hearts (as you suggested) and 4 clubs including the king as well as the queen of spades, probably more likely as against West having the singleton king of clubs, fortunately, at least IMO and after the double (without all five diamonds), wildly unlikely.

My choice would be that East would have only 1 heart and, West, of course, not the club monarch, to my view slightly increasing the chances of success since if clubs break 3-2 (possible) East doesn’t need to hold the queen of spades so I would disdain what could turn out to be what later may be called a famous “unsafety play” if I then abandoned leading the ace of clubs. but doing so the second round, if that suit broke 5-0. When diamonds break 3-2 I think clubs figure to be 4-1 when it becomes necessary to play East for only a singleton heart. Usually preempts are not 7-2-2-2 so that while playing against them and the choice making a difference, play him for a singleton somewhere although he didn’t lead it, but in this case, while defending a doubled slam, he may have respected his partner enough (though maybe not warranted in this case) not to lead his singleton club but rather the more conservative heart. All very cerebral and not necessarily percentage, but nevertheless often a factor in declaring well.

PS. The declarer needs to be careful the way he handles the diamond suit, in order to create entries back and forth depending on who has what.

bobby wolffDecember 24th, 2016 at 3:32 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, another crossed in the mail. However, happily no contradictions.

After two rounds the diamonds should not be played prematurely since they will serve as entries back and forth and if divided 4-1 will be a major obstacle in the later attempted end play as declarer will need entries back and forth to both cash the fifth club and force East to lead a spade. If East has 4 diamonds it appears declarer must then play him for only 3 clubs and, then wish he had not converted 6 diamonds to 6NT.

No doubt, bridge can be very frustrating at all levels, but usually for different reasons.

jim2December 24th, 2016 at 4:06 pm

An interesting alternate line of play would be to lead back a heart at trick 2.

bobby wolffDecember 24th, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since I am such a genius I assume you are talking about declaring 6 diamonds, not 6NT.

If so, it should be done while someone sings a chorus of “Tiptoeing through the Tulips”, drawing two trumps while ruffing 1 heart and one spade and then finessing clubs twice.

Any bridge hero would be proud! One thing for sure is that if you were declarer, West would hold three diamonds and no more than 2 spades (allowing him to throw his second club on the third spade assuming he had only 6 hearts)

jim2December 24th, 2016 at 8:23 pm

6D, yes, with the intent to ruff a heart and a spade.

I did not assert it was best, just interesting. Declarer would gather considerable intel on West’s distribution before making decisions late.