Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Major Yammerton was rather a peculiar man, inasmuch as he was an ass, without being a fool.

R. S. Surtees

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

*Splinter raise

**One key card


South might consider opening two clubs here – and if you were playing strong twos, this hand would be ideal for one. Still, whatever route South follows, a strong heart raise from North will surely see South drive to the heart slam.

After the lead of the spade jack South must make the key play at the first trick, and it might be one that would not occur even to an expert – until too late.

The slam appears to hinge on the club finesse. If it succeeds, so will the slam. But what if it should fail? All would be well if East could be persuaded to play back a spade. Can anything be done to persuade East to return a spade in this situation?

The answer to this question points you to the key play at trick one. You must put up the spade queen from the dummy, hoping East will cover with the king. Now when you win the spade ace it is no longer clearly a singleton.

Next take the club finesse, hoping that if it loses, East will be convinced by your earlier play into returning a spade. If he does, you will claim the rest, and East will feel like a fool; but you will get the credit.

Two further issues: do not draw trump before finessing in clubs, or West might get in a signal for diamonds. Secondly, your use of Blackwood followed by a jump to slam does suggest an ace is missing…but these things are always easier to work out with the sight of all four hands.

With a hand of this sort (where you are happy to act at least twice) start by bidding one heart, planning to bid two diamonds when and if the opponents bid two clubs. Curiously, this sequence should logically suggest better or longer diamonds than hearts – else why bid the minor at all?


♠ 7 5
 K 7 6 2
 9 8 5 4 2
♣ K 7
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ Dbl. 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


David WarheitDecember 29th, 2016 at 9:50 am

When E wins the CK at trick 2, it seems to me that he has some serious thinking to do, specifically: Why hasn’t S drawn trump? The only answer can be: so partner can’t make a revealing signal. What can that signal be: either lead a D or don’t lead a D. So, when E wins the CK, is there any way he can tell whether to return a D or a S? It feels to me like S is trying to encourage a S lead, but I can’t articulate why.

Iain ClimieDecember 29th, 2016 at 10:14 am

Hi Bobby, David,

Any case for West playing the C9 on the first round, trying to suggest something unexpected? There is also another potential deceptive play which faiils today but works nicely if East has (say) Kxxx i.e. club to the Ace and run the queen. Anti-percentage but maybe worth a shot if you are well behind in a match.

It is a non-problem against many weak players, though – they’ll just have banged the DA on the table at T1 regardless.



bobby wolffDecember 29th, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Hi David & Iain,

Nothing scientifically revealing to say, only that, while I am heartfelt in endorsing the exact declarer’s play made and at the same earliest moment possible, the result IMO depends on only two things:

1. How good is East?
2. How good he thinks declarer is.

Obviously East needs to be knowledgeable about the possible ruse, but he (or she) has to think that the declarer is up to such a relatively clever deception. The fact that declarer could have ducked the opening lead and hoped for Kx with East after drawing trump and ruffing a low spade (certainly the laughably correct declarer’s line) will be known to a super East, but quickly discarded as just too unlikely by East, if he judges declarer is just not up to such an unusual play.

Leaving an exceptional East, likely at the time he grabs the king of clubs (no real nor imagined reason for ducking) to ponder the intangibles of what hand declarer can have to take at least a small risk of getting an immediate club ruff back at him should leave East with the key knowledge of what to do, eg. cash partner’s diamond ace (or wait for West’s trump ace later, a likely valid reason to take an early club finesse before touching trump.

BTW, I think it unethical (others may and will disagree) inquire as to if the opponents play jack denies, if only because this declarer, in almost either case would play the queen.

After presiding at many of what might be called high-level appeals cases revolving around possible unethical or at the very least, ethically challenged questions to the opponents, I, at least for one, take a very conservative view of what may or may not be agreed by others.

A player should not enlist an artificial ask of the opponents in order to aid a planned deception. As a matter of fact, although not remembering the exact situation (different from above) I used the above caveat to rule against a clever declarer (at least he was hoping) who enlisted such a thing.

However since the ACBL and even the WBF for different reasons (WBF, just too difficult and costly to spend much time, effort and money in creating important (and I think necessary) precedents which should ring true (at least to some committees) in helping rule the next case which have similar facts.

It seems especially true with the ACBL to not emphasize precedents (or, in truth, not want them even available), a major flaw that, at least it seems to me, that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men are against any kind of help in establishing what could become basically common law by precedent.

Possibly the real reason is that many of the very clever high level players much prefer conning the next committee without having to overcome a precedent. If true and I fully admit to only speculating (but from more experience than anyone else but likely Edgar Kaplan), very sad!

Thanks to both of you, we were able to discuss this, at least to me, important subject, which I sincerely hope, has a happier ending in the future of bridge to come, but, because of older age and its logistics, no forceful further agitating from me.