Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 14th, 2017

What is a better way to prove that your methods work than by winning? I have proved that my methods work.

Bela Karolyi

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


North-South certainly had the values for slam in today’s deal, but the two flat hands and duplication of values in diamonds made the contract touch and go. When declarer played on his suits in the wrong order, he could not recover.

The bidding was over quickly. South opened with one no-trump and North used Stayman to investigate for a heart fit (though one could make the case for not looking for a fit, because of the balanced nature of his hand) then jumped to six no-trumps when he did not find one.

Let’s revert to the play of the slam. West led the diamond nine, and South won in hand, and tried a heart to the jack. When this lost, he now needed both major suits to break 3-3. Hearts did not behave, so down went the slam.

Declarer’s mistake was to play on hearts rather than spades. If you test spades and they don’t break 3-3, then hearts will need to supply four tricks, with the queen onside. There is the slight extra chance of a club-heart squeeze, so declarer ducks a spade and takes a heart finesse, then runs his winners and hopes for the best.

But if spades behave, then you only need three heart tricks, and you can afford a safety play in the suit. Instead of finessing, take the king and ace of hearts to pick up the doubleton queen offside. If no queen appears, a heart towards the jack brings the slam home if West started with the guarded queen, or the suit breaks 3-3.

In unfamiliar partnerships there is often a question of what is forcing here. A simple rule (if not playing the Wolff signoff) is to play that the only way to stay out of game is to pass two no-trump. So the three spade call is forcing; if you play new minor or the like it would show six. With a balanced minimum, despite your great trumps, I would simply raise to four spades, rather than cuebid four diamonds.


♠ K Q 3
 K J 7 6
 A Q 4
♣ K 7 5
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 NT 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact