Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Self-sacrifice is a thing that should be put down by law. It is so demoralizing to the people for whom one sacrifices oneself. They always go to the bad.

Oscar Wilde

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



As South in today’s auction, should you have bid four no-trump over four diamonds? Against five clubs, West leads the spade king, and East shows an even number of spades. You win the ace and cash the trump ace, on which West discards a low spade. How do you plan to take 11 tricks?

West has at least 5-5 in the majors and a trump void, so you should play him for an original distribution of 5=5=3=0 pattern. This leaves East with a likely starting shape of 2=1=6=4.

Your aim is to strip East of his major-suit cards and all but one trump; then you can endplay him with a club to force him to play a diamond: if so, you will make a spade, a two hearts, two diamonds and six trumps.

After winning the first trick with the spade ace and drawing a round of trumps, simply advance the spade 10 at trick three. West can do no better than win the trick with the jack and play another high spade. The trap to avoid is ruffing this trick with the two. Instead, you must ruff the third round of spades with the six, draw two more rounds of trumps, cash the high hearts (East will discard a diamond) and then endplay East by leading your two of clubs to his three — assuming East has done his best to unblock in trumps.

East will only have diamonds remaining, so you will make dummy’s two top diamonds along with six trumps and three winners in the majors, for a total of 11 tricks in all.

The simplest path is to raise to two spades, since you have bad trumps and good defense. You might compete to three spades later, depending on how the auction works out. An immediate jump to three spades would be a pre-emptive raise, and this hand is too strong for that. A fit jump to three diamonds, showing a spade fit and a diamond suit you want partner to lead, would be possible if you had a fifth diamond.


♠ 7 6 3 2
 7 6 2
 A K 5 4
♣ 8 4
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ 1 ♠ Dbl.

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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitMay 23rd, 2018 at 9:49 am

Note that EW have a good save in 5D: it’s only down 2. Of course, if the E hand were slightly weaker (C2 instead of C3), it’s not a good save since 5C doesn’t make. Lesson: sometimes weaker is stronger.

A .V. Ramana RaoMay 23rd, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Perhaps south should cash top three trumps ( with east unblocking of course which obviously will not help as south retains deuce)before advancing spade ten. Just in case , west comes up with six carded spade suit, east can pitch his singleton heart (assuming east has a 1 1 7 4 hand ) on west’s spade winner and west can give east a heart ruff and the contrac beaten. However, as you mentioned that west has a 5 5 3 0 hand, this play may not be necessary. But I think prudence pays

JohnMay 23rd, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Hi Bobby – I’m no expert with the strong 2 club bid but I wonder if I were to play that then wouldn’t it be better to open that instead of 1 club? Not sure if West can show a two-suiter by overcalling 3 clubs.

Iain ClimieMay 23rd, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Hi Folks,

If South bids 4N (natural) over 4D then life is easier but where would the fun be in that? I think John has a point here – it is very unlikely to go 1C All Pass but give partner (say) DQ108x with nothing else and a very probable 3N has been missed. I think AVRR is on the right track, though, while David’s wise words often apply. Imagine you’re in 3N with SAx opposite SQx in dummy and a spade led – no choice. Now give dummy SQ10 and torment awaits.



bobbywolffMay 23rd, 2018 at 3:03 pm

Hi David,

Yes, sometimes, weaker is stronger (as in today’s hand with East being unlucky not to have the club deuce), but at least in theory (with victims of TOCM TM an exception, since with them, it will always be exactly the same) but when holding the Q10 instead of just Qx opposite Ax, and faced with a guess instead of a choice, it would just be too self-effacing to deny an advantage.

The advantage could (may) present itself in various ways, choosing one rather than the other for strategic purposes later in the hand, perhaps a tempo variation in the bidding, dictating (sometimes only very slightly) a better than 50% choice, how about a Barry Crane type superstition which suggests the queen over the jack or even the 10 over the 9, before computers took over dealing with pre-dealt hands. Then there is the possibility of playing the wrong one (when the six is led, getting it covered, but immediately not gobbling it up (while holding A987x) to prevent RHO from knowing what the declarer possesses (very likely both), higher cards than suspected, even for example A1098, a suit never bid by declarer but after the six is led while playing NT with another totally unstopped suit at large, merely theoretically miss guessing on purpose and then ducking quickly, hoping for RHO to continue his other high card in that suit).

As this site often suggests, the many facets of our wondrous game, you being privy to all or almost of them, creating so much beauty in just being able to put our mind to fun, if not profitable nor humanitarian use.

Thanks for your attention up to now (and others who are also kibitzing) but the praises of our game are too often left out and by doing so and sadly to the ones not as interested, in control, just may bring a too early end to an entertainment and challenging endeavor where the learning logic and strategic thinking could serve as a powerful for a lifetime tool, for a youngster in developing a better life for himself and all who he later embraces.

Whew, my sermon is over!!!

bobbywolffMay 23rd, 2018 at 3:16 pm


An apparent wise suggestion from your pro-active bridge mind, but no cigar since you overlooked East supporting diamonds later, ruling out a mere doubleton unless East has just been recently released from his bridge asylum.

Still a very important post from you, suggesting that if you may from time to time, like all of us, overlook key evidence, it may encourage talented but new keen bridge minds to begin to realize the enormity to which playing good bridge can continue to improve our logical thinking.

bobbywolffMay 23rd, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Hi John,

Sometimes, although the hand to which you refer is worth a strong and GF opening, experienced players holding clubs often elect to take their chances by not opening a GF in order to not arm their worthy opponents (if, in fact, they are) to their playing strength since clubs can always be sacrificed against by not having to go to a higher level to do so.

Therefore, while considering their fear on the table rather than off, opening one rather than two clubs becomes an active option (bridge is not an exact science and this discussion tends to suggest just that), however I tend to think that fact makes it both more enjoyable and thus more challenging to play.

bobbywolffMay 23rd, 2018 at 3:41 pm

Hi Iain,

Who are you trying to kid? My guess is that you love guesses as much as anyone could, since they make one’s blood flow faster and no one could be better adjusted to challenges than you.

Save that conservative talk for Sundays, or in your distant past, when advising your children (with a probable wink) and when bridge is not being discussed.

Finally, the only torment you experience is in your opponent’s eyes when they play against you

Patrick CheuMay 23rd, 2018 at 8:04 pm

Hi Bobby,Not sure how the auction should go on this hand,playing teams: north 6 AJ QT642 AQ654 and south AK2 KQ854 AKJ3 8.E dealer all vul. Playing Acol, E pass S 1H W pass N 2C(9+)-E pass S 3D W pass N 6D..pass out. Your thoughts would be much appreciated. west J975 T32 9875 73 east QT843 976 void KJT92. Regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffMay 23rd, 2018 at 10:08 pm

Hi Patrick,

Playing IMP teams with East dealer and EW passing throughout:
S, 1H, N. 2D, S. 4C (strong diamond raise with shortness in clubs) N, 4S, cue bid, definite slam interest with a mere return to 4 hearts being natural and passable, S. 4NT (KCBW), N. 5S
(2 aces + the diamond queen,
S. 7D N. Pass.

At matchpoints I would not expect more than an average board since 7NT only requires a 4-2 heart break + extra opportunity in case of a bad heart break, but finding out about the jack of hearts is just
too difficult to contemplate.

However keep in mind that the above only confirms why IMPs and rubber bridge, whose principle of making the amount of gain, much more important than the frequency of gain, is miles ahead of matchpoint duplicate in materially reducing the luck element with this hand an excellent example.

Good luck.

jim2May 23rd, 2018 at 10:24 pm

In Patrick Cheu’s hand/auction:

1H – 2C
3D – ?

What would 4S have now meant?

bobbywolffMay 24th, 2018 at 1:44 am

Hi Jim2,

Assuming that pair is playing 2 over 1 a GF, then 3D would be club support and short diamonds, making 4 spades, clubs agreed with short spades.

Of course, at least in my partnerships, when shortness is there, it isn’t necessarily correct to show it unless the bidder, at least somewhat likes his hand. Therefore if the original responder had. s. Q, h. xx, d. KQJx, c. A10xxxx I would agree with 2 clubs, but would only bid 4 clubs over partner’s 3 diamonds.

Personally I hate a semi-forcing or forcing 1NT response when a valid choice (at least to me) is a GF bid at the two level.

IOW I do not automatically show shortness without at least some extra values.

Others require splinters and when they do not bid them, they do not have them. Good for level finders, but not as efficient for fit finders.

A side product is that against fit finding splinter bidding, both the opening lead and sometimes the overall best defense (with a more known declarer hand) is much easier to find.

bobbywolffMay 24th, 2018 at 1:51 am

Hi Jim2,

With my above reply I said it wrong. To elect a splinter bid is good for finding fits, but NOT for level since many automatically splinter with not enough values.

jim2May 24th, 2018 at 2:09 am

Patrick Cheu’s partnership was playing ACOL. I asked the question because I do not know ACOL.

My guess was that 3D showed a suit and a hand almost worth an opening 2C in SA. Thus, would 4S have been a spade splinter for diamonds?

bobbywolffMay 24th, 2018 at 3:50 am

Hi Jim2,

Yes, Acol is (was) the a British bridge system and for many years, spanning most of the 20th century the most popular bidding system in the world. It also was (is) natural.

So yes, 3 diamonds was probably very strong with both red suits, so that with the relatively new splinter bid becoming well known 4 spades would agree diamonds and show shortness in spades. A typical example: s. x, h. Qx, d. AJxx, c. AJxxxx at a minimum, but since in Acol, 2 over 1 does not (in any way) promise a game, but only a decent hand of 10 hcps or only slightly more

Patrick CheuMay 24th, 2018 at 6:11 am

Hi Bobby and Jim2,It’s just great to see you both exchanging opinions on a bridge hand and given us an insight into what each bid could mean. We were leaning towards 1H 2C 3D 4S(splinter) but not sure whether we agree on the values as Bobby pointed out.More discussion to follow..that’s for sure. Many thanks~Patrick.

Patrick CheuMay 24th, 2018 at 6:17 am

Hi Bobby,I do agree with 1H 2D(first).

bobbywolffMay 24th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Hi Patrick & Jim2,

Yes, I somehow bypassed Patrick’s mention of playing Acol.

Britain or possibly better said the UK (at least their legendary Bridge Magazine) has squirmed away from the original Acol and have basically adopted the mostly French and US standard of 5 card majors and forcing 1NT response.

The full reason(s) have not been disclosed (at least to me) but just possibly the science of making greater use of relatively wasted bids (such as what happens now with second round jumps meaning both shortness in the suit bid and fit with the latest suit bid, (instead of natural) is likely a major reason for this radical change.

Of course, another factor is that while bridge is universally played in many countries around the world, there is a significant difference (possibly similar but even more so in the vast difference in quality between new players and world class ones) causing past standards to remain with players just learning but, of course, not with the so-called professionals, who must update or sadly fall back in performance.

The world, she is a-changing….

jim2May 24th, 2018 at 12:13 pm

So, once 4S is bid as a D splinter, as long as 4N is now RKC, I think the partnership is poised for 7D.

That is, 4N is bid knowing that a one KC answer allows 5D, a 2 (w/o QD) KC answer allows 6D, and a 2+ QD answer allows 7D.

The 4N bidder knows there are no black suit losers, and that any heart ruff(s) would almost certainly be available. That is, even the theoretically most bare:


Patrick CheuMay 24th, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Hi Jim2, You are spot on,as after 4S splinter by North,South is certainly the better ‘Captain’.

Patrick CheuMay 24th, 2018 at 2:40 pm

Hi Bobby,Trying my best to keep up. 🙂

bobbywolffMay 25th, 2018 at 6:18 pm

Hi Patrick,

Keep up?

More, you surged ahead, even though, in your haste, you imagined 14 cards.

The good news however, you could lose a trick and still make your grand slam (in addition to more good news, this hand is three days old and almost no one, except me, will ever know).

bobbywolffMay 25th, 2018 at 6:23 pm

Hi Patrick & possibly Jim2,

Just kidding since it was Jim2 who did it, but he is sure you don’t mind taking the rap.

Between you and me, According to the medical books, victims of TOCM TM sometimes are known to overcount.

bobbywolffMay 25th, 2018 at 6:53 pm

Hi again Patrick & Jim2,

Just heard from the US Playing Card Company in Cincinnati.

They have already switched to producing decks with 56 cards since they do not want to be guilty of discriminating against bridge players and now think that each player will be dealt 14.

Sounds OK, especially for new players since the extra card will be colored green and according to the new rules can trump any of the other former 52.

“Little by little we can do great things”!