Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Whatever you do, crush the infamous thing (superstition) and love those who love you.


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


Today’s deal, based on a recent Common Game deal with the club honors slightly altered, sees East use a defensive technique that everyone should know. It may seem obvious when you see the point, but at the table, the intermediate player who was faced with the problem did not see the solution.

North used Stayman, then settled in three no-trump when he did not uncover a four-card spade suit opposite. West led a top diamond; declarer won and passed the spade jack. East won cheaply and shifted to a low heart. When declarer guessed correctly to play low, it forced the king, and declarer now had nine tricks without breaking a sweat.

Notice the difference if East shifts to the heart 10. Whether South ducks or covers, the defenders will be in position to run the hearts when they regain the lead with the spade ace.

This concept of leading a high card to squash a doubleton or tripleton spot-card in dummy has more than one variation. (The play would work equally well if the heart two were in dummy rather than in East’s hand.) It may be right for East to shift to the jack from A-J-9 or K-J-9 if there were a doubleton or guarded 10 in dummy, for example. When declarer has queen-third, this will allow the defenders to run the suit on defense.

Of course, in our example hand against a good defender, maybe you should assume East is more likely to have the K-Q than Q-10 or K-10 when he shifts to a low card!

Neither a limit raise nor a pre-emptive jump to four hearts does justice to this hand. There are two possible treatments you might consider. The simpler is to play a jump to three no-trump as showing a raise to game with some defense. The second is to use the first step higher than the limit raise (three spades here) as showing a limited hand with unspecified shortness. Partner can ask where, if interested.


♠ A Q 7 2
 Q 10 8 7 2
♣ J 6 2
South West North East
    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


Bruce KarlsonJuly 3rd, 2018 at 11:48 am

BwtA: being the eternal optimist and not seeing much of a downside, I would likely splinter. Please advise the error of my ways (not all of them please)

Iain ClimieJuly 3rd, 2018 at 2:33 pm

HI Bobby,

Whatever happened to the old delayed game raise, and might it be appropriate here. After all, if partner has the SK over there + HAK and CA, this is getting quite promising. Yes, I know this is breaking Bob Hamman’s dictum (I haven’t got the cards you’re hoping for) but I recall Jeff Rubens suggesting a good rule for making a game / slam try is to do so if partner has a perfect minimum making it a decent contract. If partner bids 2C over 1S (or raises spades) the hands really could be fitting very well.



bobbywolffJuly 3rd, 2018 at 4:08 pm

Hi Bruce,

Being an eternal optimist, or some sort of pessimist (Jim2 can tell you what TOCM TM feels like), but also somewhere in between may strike a positive chord, sometimes depending on your partner, with a dose of who your opponents happen to be,, the nature of the game, usually matchpoints or IMPs, and (no way of predicting, how that fickle Dame Fortune dealt that hand.

To me, the elements to consider as the bidding develops, starting immediately:

1.Since thinking of slam will likely need a perfect blend with partner

2. The strategy of not allowing an easy early entry for those worthy opponents, when they will find out how well fitting their hands happen to be (remember one of them will have no more than a singleton heart and maybe a void)

3. The all important vulnerability, when at favorable (NV vs. vul) there is not as much worry since those opponents figure to be much more conservative as against unfavorable (V vs. NV) where immediate action and little caution may be their theme.

4. A vital understanding with your OX (pet name for partner) just how light (95% for slam) a shortness bid (here 4 idamonds) may be chosen. Yes, I agree that anything short of game should be ruled out, but at matchpoints this hand, opposite a bare opening or a miss fitting better hand may well have at least 4 losers (witness s. KJ, h. AKJxxx, d. Kx, c. xxx).

All the above is integral to understanding what lies in store for all of us. Therefore any attempt at anywhere near perfection is theoretically and practically impossible.

Therefore I would just bid game in whatever way your partnership decides and partnership convention allows, whether of course, a simple 4 hearts, 3NT which might show a possible short suit and leaves cue bidding (at least a minor suit, an option for partner who might have a barn burner or at least a hand good enough, with cooperation from you to at least try and sniff out a making slam.

Finally, IMO both partners must entirely forget the idea of any close to perfection result and merely make the bid, against those specific opponents which in the long run figures to work specifically against them (If they are ultra conservative and vulnerable) perhaps Iain’s 1 spade may be the right choice, allowing your partnership, maximum room to find a super fit and wind up with a bell ringing result. However dame fortune being involved the opposite might happen, one of them will be enabled to venture 2 diamonds and they wind up with them ringing the bell in the form of a profitable sacrifice or (are you listening Jim2?) a miraculous make at the 5 level.

IOW, the winners at every level in bridge, IMO all the way to the top, is dependent, certainly on excellent technique, total consistency, great and winning tactics, but always (well almost) doing the right thing at the right time, something that only a combination of built in talent and most important long time experience will provide.

Aren’t you glad you asked? Maybe you shouldn’t answer and embarrass me.

bobbywolffJuly 3rd, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Hi Iain,

Some partnerships (or maybe just one player) have enough intimidation value at a table where maybe just their or his (her) presence is enough to silence less experienced players into acquiescence while they anxiously await the end of that round.

While contending against them then 1 spade as you suggest (and mentioned up above) may allow you to reach an incredibly good slam and unlike our beloved Jim2, not get horrible breaks and bring it home for an obvious top board.

However I wouldn’t bet my farm on it (or even your farm) since it rarely happens and even more realistic would rather use such luck to win a real windfall not just many matchpoints.

In truth different methods do produce different results even sometimes when the normal (if there ever is such a thing) contract is reached non silent opponents are more likely to get off to better leads (with information gleaned) for possibly preventing an overtrick or even making the hand a bit harder to score maximum tricks and sometimes (horror) finding the only lead to achieve a set.

Of course, playing straight down the middle with total consistency does sometimes get boring and after all, bridge is only a game (to which I never will agree) and therefore excitement comes with different methods so fun is where you find it, especially so, when venturing out of the ordinary, one is much more interesting than others, during the postmortem at the bar.

Not to say that you seek fun instead of good results, but you always, during your posts, give all readers at least a chance to consider out of the box thinking, which, no doubt for you, may be your calling card.

The above reminds me of what a great poker player always attempts to do, be thought of as a frequent bluffer, but, in fact, hardly ever offers one.

We all appreciate and even more important, respect your views.

Iain ClimieJuly 3rd, 2018 at 4:49 pm

HI Bobby,

Thanks for that and a famous Scots football manager Bill Shankly put games into a lovely perspective in the 1960s: “Football’s not a matter of life and death; it’s far more important than that.” He was of course joking but we’ve all met players like that, and at least Myrtle Bennett was severely provoked.. I recall an old cartoon with a tombstone inscribed with a bridge hand and a comment saying “After a trump lead, declarer won in hand and led the 9 of diamonds….


jim2July 3rd, 2018 at 5:03 pm