Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Chi Wen Tzu always thought three times before taking action. Twice would have been quite enough.


N North
None ♠ A 8 7 2
 K Q 7 3 2
 A Q 3
♣ 4
West East
♠ J 6 5 4
 10 5
 9 8 6
♣ Q 9 7 6
♠ 10
 9 8 6 4
 10 7 5 4
♣ A J 8 2
♠ K Q 9 3
 A J
 K J 2
♣ K 10 5 3
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 3 ♠ Pass
4 NT Pass 5 Pass
6 ♠ All pass    


North has a tailor-made hand for a jump to three spades at his second turn, showing extras and four trumps. With as little as the spade jack in addition to his values, he might make a jump to four clubs, a splinter bid setting spades as trump and showing the values for game.

In turn, though, South has enough to drive to slam. Depending on whether he is playing Blackwood or Keycard Blackwood, and what responses his side plays, the auction may follow slightly different routes, but North-South should find a way to end up in slam.

Against small slams there is no reason for West not to lead his best suit, hoping for a fast or slow club trick, together with a winner in trumps or hearts. Aggression is generally key against small slam, passivity against a grand slam.

In turn, East should win the first trick and return a club. Why? To weaken dummy’s trump — imagine the club king and club queen were switched to see what I mean.

South wins the club king (if he ruffs this trick in dummy he is dead). Now he leads the spade king, to retain flexibility in the trump suit. Since he won’t be expecting to negotiate jack-tenfourth in trump in either defender’s hand, he must ensure he does succeed when either opponent has a singleton spade honor.

Once the spade 10 appears from East, it will be easy to follow up with the spade queen and subsequently to finesse against West in spades to make the contract.

Whether your partner’s one no-trump call is forcing or not, it doesn’t feel like you should pass here, with an unbalanced hand. But what to bid? My instincts are to bid two diamonds, rather than repeat the hearts, to show six, or to bid two spades, which would require at least an extra king.


♠ A 8 7 2
 K Q 7 3 2
 A Q 3
♣ 4
South West North East
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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 18th, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Hi Bobby,

A few thoughts. I might have bid 4S on the North hand anyway especially vul at teams but does a splinter show extra values relative to a simple raise or does the raise to 4 just deny the ability to splinter? On the play, suppose that South ruffed the club on table and played a spade to the King. Restricted choice suggests a finesse but east may have J10x and will feel very pleased with himself.

Agree with the 2D bid on BWTA if partner is awake enough to give false preference.



slarJanuary 18th, 2017 at 3:05 pm

I have an unrelated question. Can you give any guidance on when to blast vs. when to be scientific on slam-going auctions?

Hand 1: 1S-3S (limit). I have a two-suited monster with good controls so I probably have 12 tricks (13 is too speculative) but there is the possibility that the opponents have two quick tricks if partner has the wrong cards and the opponents make the right opening lead. I can cue bid which would be scientific but would give away the hand. I could just bid 6 directly. Blackwood would fall in the middle in terms of utility and disclosure. I can even make a false cue bid. I guess my question here is whether it is sound to occasionally ignore scientific methods when you have them available.

Hand 2: 1H-2NT;3H-4NT;5C. At this point I know we have a 9-card fit and both sides have extras but we are missing one KC. I have the ability to make a Q-ask, but should I? I decided I wanted to be in slam either way even though it was possible we had a trump loser. My partner would have preferred a Q-ask but since I didn’t feel that should stop me I just blasted. (Compare to an 8-card fit where the Q is much more important.)

Iain ClimieJanuary 18th, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Hi Slar,

Bobby will give an intelligent and technical answer but I would ask who you are playing with. I bid 1S 3S 6S the other week and we had two quick losers but that partner was philosophical about it. One other partner I know would have thrown a tantrum lasting the rest of the session and several weeks afterwards. How big a results merchant is your regular partner?


bobby wolffJanuary 18th, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Some good players have switched to what they call a mini-splinter…jump to three of an unbid suit to suggest shortness, but a lesser hand, enabling his partner to return to 3 spades (in this case) which would then become non-forcing.

While the above appeals to some, I am not one of them since although bridge bidding, of course, is by way of language, the only way of describing, but bridge being nowhere near an exact science, I would rather keep that jump to three in another suit, showing that suit, but a very good hand instead, not necessarily prime support in partner’s suit.

Also, restricted choice should only apply when only one key card remains (in this case not with 5 out instead of 4 and when, whichever way declarer guesses to play it, one then follows and it is up to declarer to now decide.

In this case, every very good player would falsecard the ten holding J10x, (or the jack) proving the reason for the last paragraph.

Finally I am lukewarm to against showing only three card suits when 4 are available and regard the Flannery convention, 2D or if preferred instead 2H, to show 4-5 in the majors and a limited bare opening bid. In the long run I think it wise to do so and does eliminate bidding that difficult distribution while playing 5 card majors with a forcing NT response, by far now the most popular system among USA duplicate matchpoint players.

Others think differently, so “To each his own”.

bobby wolffJanuary 18th, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Hi Slar,

I’ll give you an indecisive answer which you will need to ponder. First while holding s. AKxxxx, h. AKQxx, d. xx, c. void and after deciding to open only 1 spade, but hearing partner jump to 3 spades, I would take the scientific approach and cue bid 4 clubs rather than just jump to 6 spades and sometimes make it instead of making it much easier for the opponents to get off to the right lead (of course if they do we will probably then have the good sense to realize we are off two diamond tricks, but, yes, it might keep us from occasionally scoring up a windfall result.

My reason for selecting science is that this hand could range anywhere from making 11 to 13 tricks and to prematurely just choose 12 to bid is, at least to me, not treating my partner and the game itself in a respectful enough way by gambling when information is there for the taking.

However a hand I remember, believe it or not, from the 1961 Summer Nationals in Washington DC accomplished by two good friends of mine while playing an early round of the Spingold when Charley Gabriel my firend and while playing against Al Roth and Tobias Stone held: s. AQxxx, h. AKQJxx, d. xx, c. opened a very aggressive forcing 2 clubs, Al Roth at favorable vulnerability overcalled 2NT for the minor suits and Dr. John Fisher responded 3 spades. Stone then bid 4 diamonds, whereupon Charley blithely jumped to 7 spades. Stone, then on lead took the bait and led a club with Fishers hand s. KJxxxx, h. xx, d. xx, c. QJx.

Needless to say that this hand was the talk of that tournament, but sadly the end result bode the bad news of the favorites still winning that match, but every “dog has his day” if only for a few minutes in a match.

With your second hand, you certainly have my blessing, for skipping the trump queen ask and just barreling into slam. Because of the possibility of the Queen (if not held) is singleton it still becomes an odds on slam plus the subtle fact that when a declarer doesn’t ask about the queen it is usually assumed that he has it, so once in a while a trump will be led from the non-queen opening leader.

Since unknowns are working for you, your odds go up letting you have excuses for being brash though occasionally unsuccessful. All positive features for being what almost all winning players really are, “very aggressive”.

Good luck, a commodity bold players need more than not-so.

jim2January 18th, 2017 at 4:45 pm

This is another board from last year’s LS Slush Cup Teams!

I ended up at 6N. All would have been routine if West had led a club, but I (of course!) got the 9D.

My first hope for a swing was that spades were 0-5. That is, I could handle that break, while the expected 6S declarer in the other room could not. My next hope for a swing was a 4-1 break with one hand holding J10xx of spades, but with the AC onside.

Accordingly, I won the lead in hand, unblocked the hearts, and led to the AS. The 10S on my right was an unwelcome development, as was East discarding on the next round.

If West also held the AC, I could not squeeze him and endplay him because both black suit threats were in the South hand which played before West. Thus, I simply played off winners and led toward the KC.

A lot of work for a flat board!

slarJanuary 18th, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Thank you for your fair and honest answer and for the history lesson!

bobby wolffJanuary 18th, 2017 at 7:52 pm

Hi Jim2,

Are you sure that none of your ancestors were Hungarian? Reason being that Robert Darvas, the renowned bridge author, whose book, “Right Through the Pack” was also Hungarian and your enlightening bridge stories tend to resemble his great style and force.

If so, the king of clubs may be the inspiration of likely being not needed until later to save the day, or to be more specific, the bid contract.

The moral gleaned is that at one time almost all of us have, at one time or another, been put on the shelf as perhaps only an accessory, but at the death, be enabled, to come to a glorious rescue.

bobby wolffJanuary 18th, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Hi Slar,

You’re welcome!

And, as Jimmy Durante used to say, “Don’t worry, I’ve got a million of ’em”. Especially if one lives to a ripe old age.

jim2January 18th, 2017 at 7:57 pm


BTW, playing in the Slush Cup is colder, but it’s still better than all the laundry problems from the Mud Cup.

bobby wolffJanuary 18th, 2017 at 8:24 pm

Hi Jim2,

Perhaps its time to relegate the Mud Cup to only those bridge players who lead middle, up, down while on opening lead.

For my judgment that rule with opening leads should only apply in that particular event, and for bridge value, in no other form.

jim2January 18th, 2017 at 9:47 pm


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