Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

The first blow is half the battle.

Oliver Goldsmith

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

*Natural but might have a longer minor

20 years after losing the semifinals of the 1996 US trials, some deals still haunt me. This is one of them, where in the last set of the semi-finals, one of the early boards saw my partner Bob Hamman having to figure out how to beat a slam on opening lead.

Normally it is a good idea to pre-empt to the limit, but on this occasion that strategy did not pay dividends. In the other room, my team-mate as south heard West jump to three hearts, over which North’s bid of four hearts was not an unequivocal slam try, but rather simply a suggestion of at least the values to expect to make four spades. South had some extras, but decided to settle for four spades. This did not seem such a bad idea when the defense started with three rounds of clubs, holding declarer to 10 tricks.

However, at the table where my partner was West, he logically enough imagined that declarer had hearts under control. He also expected dummy to produce a side source of tricks, which meant it might be critical to set up his own side’s source of tricks. Since I could have held a longer minor with a four-card major, Hamman chose to lead a diamond.

As you can see, that cleared up the guess declarer would otherwise have had on a major suit lead as to how to play diamonds for his contract. This cost us 11 IMPs where we might have gained 11, and was the first in a series of results that cost us the match.

In response to your partner’s game-forcing fourth-suit enquiry, you have no particularly accurate call, but rebidding a chunky five-carder is not too far off the mark. It is consistent with a six-carder but does not guarantee it, and by virtue of being the most economical call it leaves room for your partner to describe his hand accurately.


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