Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

To do a great and important work, two things are necessary: a definite plan, and not quite enough time.


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

*Limit raise or better in spades

**Two key-cards and the trump queen


When South heard his partner show a limit or better spade raise, he took control with Keycard Blackwood. The response showed two key-cards and the trump queen, so South explored for the grand slam, then decided to account for diamonds playing better than spades by offering the choice at the seven-level. You can imagine that if North’s spade four were the diamond four, the grand slam in diamonds would be where you wanted to play, absent a spade ruff.

After West’s top heart lead, it might have seemed to declarer that he could claim 13 tricks. But it never does any harm to take a second or even a third and fourth look at your chances when playing a grand slam. The dangers of a 4-0 trump break were not all that significant, but South realized he could eliminate that risk by thoughtfully ruffing a heart to hand at trick two. Then he cashed the spade king, observing the bad break, and led a spade to the ace.

A second heart ruff allowed him to unblock the spade jack. Then he could lead a diamond to the king. The spade queen drew the last trump, and South was able to discard his losing club, then claim the rest with diamond and club winners. The 13 tricks came in the form of seven winners in the side suits, two heart ruffs and four spade tricks in dummy. If declarer doesn’t take his heart ruffs at once, he does not have the communications to do so later in addition to drawing trumps.

There is a simple choice between bidding one spade and one no-trump here. In favor of bidding the four-card major is that you might miss the fit if you don’t. Against it is that when partner responds one diamond, he probably does not have a major suit unless he has enough values to bid again over one no-trump. I would prefer to have real clubs before introducing spades in this auction.


♠ A Q 9 4
 A 6 5
 K 9 3
♣ 9 3 2
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A.V.Ramana RaoJune 12th, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
A very elegant dummy reversal which may not be needed if trumps break 3-1 or better or if a honor card in diamonds (apart from K) or clubs is switced to dummy Unless a heart is ruffed at trick two, the contract cannot be made . Remembering tidbits like these can make a vast difference to one’s game
Thanks and regards

Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2018 at 2:09 pm


Thanks for your right-on appraisal of a relatively simple dummy reversal, but one which required expert technique by immediately taking a safe ruff of a heart at trick 2.

In truth, at least IMO, a large percentage of very good players would soon recognize the need for executing a standard dummy reversal, but not until he or she had first played a top trump, an immense and critical error, which sadly grabs defeat from the jaws of victory. No turning back, but instead and if done, a possible tremendous learning experience for a talented and determined player to never let such carelessness to happen again.

IOW, while watching bridge either up close, on BBO, or even while playing at the table, a very high percentage of hands (slightly more than 90%) will supply either a 2-2 or 3-1 trump break, but if that declarer does not ruff a heart at trick 2, he MUST resign himself, while perhaps on the way to bridge stardom, but not there yet, or else he is likely to never get there.

And the really to be great ones, who have emerged after such an experience, will share their thoughts with their friends and hopefully their partner later, if for no other reason, than to help, as well, their games flourish, without having to go through the despair of possibly overlooking what could happen.

Finally and no doubt, regardless of the trump distribution, to not ruff a heart at trick two is well below what an aspiring player will accept, if, in fact, he looks forward to, one day, being a world beater.

Thanks again for your always welcome comments and allowing me to encourage players with talent, to recognize the bumpy road they will always find, to get there from here.

David WarheitJune 12th, 2018 at 6:20 pm

There is a mistake in your analysis. After cashing the SA, you have declarer cross to the SA, ruff his last H, cross to the DK and claim. Instead, after cashing SA, he should cross to DK, ruff H, and claim. What’s the difference? If E has 2 hearts and just one diamond, he can sluff his diamond on the third heart and then ruff the DK. What are the chances of this? Way, way below 1%, whether you take into consideration the bidding or not, but it costs absolutely nothing to do as I suggest. Please consider this for the most trivial comment of the month award!

Iain ClimieJune 12th, 2018 at 9:46 pm

Hi David,

Can I trump your ace on trivial comments? I think you’ve used the SA twice in your comment. Nonetheless, even tiny edges can pay off. Someone once pointed out that the presnce of a 0 at roulette is only a 1/37 extra chance but look what it does for asino owners!



Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2018 at 11:34 pm

Hi David,

Although it only matters when it happens, to keep from, one not so fine day, it becomes vital to guard against any horrible distribution, if only to win the postmortem.

Thanks for pointing it out. BTW, all one needs to do is overhear bridge talk at many tables at local bridge clubs to compete for the honor of most trivial.

Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2018 at 11:39 pm

Hi Iain,

Not in legal gambling casinos in the USA, where their roulette tables also have a double zero (00) making it 1 in 38.

That extra number is probably worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for the casino in busy places over the year.

David WarheitJune 13th, 2018 at 1:11 am

Iain: Sorry, I meant to say after cashing the SK, not the SA.

Iain ClimieJune 13th, 2018 at 1:47 pm

Hi Bobby,

Doesn’t this make the house edge 2/38 if 0 and 00 are both house wins? Perhaps 0 is no result and 00 is house win; I keep away from roulette.


No worries, I was just being flippant; I’ll try it at home once too often and probably get a laxative slyly dumped in my coffee..


Bobby WolffJune 14th, 2018 at 12:50 am

Hi Iain,

While I thought single zero in Europe was a house winner, unless bet on, like the USA.

And of course when double zero is added, my simple math (perhaps not valid) is to think it becomes 38 to 1 against winning and only paid at 35 to 1 when the specific winner appears

Perhaps the payment is determined in a different way in European casinos, but also the extra 00 (added to just 0) loses when even or odd, first, second or third 12 or red or black appear.

When reading the above I then realize that I was being highly conservative when I just suggested that USA casinos only take in hundreds of thousands extra dollars and should change it to at least millions.