Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Zeus does not bring all men’s plans to fulfillment.


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


When North opens the bidding, South’s assets suggest inviting rather than driving to game. However, East’s jump to three hearts prevents South from bidding his hand scientifically. He might as well drive to four spades — the only question being whether to bid game at once, or to bid and rebid the suit.

In four spades, South can expect to lose two hearts and a spade, eventually discarding his low diamond on one of dummy’s clubs. East upsets the applecart by overtaking the heart king and leading back what appears to be an obvious singleton diamond.

South should now see the danger; if he makes the normal play of leading a trump, East will take the ace and lead a low heart to West! West will then give East a diamond ruff to set the game.

The way to circumvent East’s plan is to win the diamond king and go after clubs at once. If East can follow to two rounds (highly probable since he appears to have only one diamond), South is safe.

East does follow to two rounds of clubs. If he cannot ruff the third round South will discard the losing heart and be home free. When East ruffs in, South still discards his remaining heart.

This was a card South expected to lose anyway, so the play has cost nothing. The big gain is that now West cannot gain the lead; he can never give his partner a diamond ruff.

In effect, South has given the enemy a trump trick instead of a heart trick. By doing so, he has cut their lines of communication.

Some problems can be boiled down to a simple question. Here, that question is: Do you trust your partner? You showed the minors, and partner expressed a strong preference for playing spades. Do you have any reason to overrule him, other than your singleton spade? I don’t think so. Pass and (silently) blame your partner if he is wrong.


♠ 5
 9 5
 A 10 9 4 3
♣ A K Q 8 4
South West North East
1 Dbl. 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


bobbywolffJuly 10th, 2018 at 9:46 am

Hi everyone,

Although worrying a bit about Zeus’ limitations, (at least according to Homer), how would others consider the specific defense planned?

Would it not be a better percentage to play West for the 10 of spades, assuming declarer only had six spades, rather than the jack of hearts, and, of course the slight extra chance that that king of hearts may be singleton, allowing an immediate ruff, assuming West can beat the five (in dummy and by not doing so allow to declarer with a singleton club and a doubleton heart to rid himself of his losing heart.

We could have described the above defense, but space limitations, as they too often do, intervened. Perhaps Zeus and his perch from high above, could see those mammoth spade spots with declarer (and partner’s heart jack) making declarer earn his victory, rather than carelessly falling victim.

Bill CubleyJuly 10th, 2018 at 1:27 pm


Blame Zeus because none of us like to admit error. Our wives are quite able to note errors without celestial help. 😉

BWTA today raises a basic bidding point. Get out FAST when there is a misfit. Do NOT try to rescue partner. You probably won’t get a top but bidding onward always gets a well below and well deserved much below average score.

Iain ClimieJuly 10th, 2018 at 2:40 pm

Hi Bill, Bobby,

I’ve been known to apologise as I come through the door on the basis that it’ll save time later. Seriously, though, I’ve been very lucky to marry someone who is reasonably tolerant of my quirks; I suspect others might have poisoned me by now.

When my late father did his National Service (basically draft) in the 1950s they made him an officer as he had a degree. One day they called the officer intake in for a short lecture for those who might stay in the Navy after the two years of obligatory service. The lecture was (honestly) “How to pick a wife”, mentioning 3 crucial attributes to look for. I’d definitely add tolerance as a 4th.



bobbywolffJuly 10th, 2018 at 3:07 pm

Hi Bill,

Agree, but do not be pessimistic about limiting one’s losses. Partner figures to have at least 6 decent spades, picture KJ109xx since with only 5 he should almost never rebid them, especially if your partnership immediately raises with 3, picture a 3-1-5-4 hand, or even 3-2-4-4 preferring a raise to a NT rebid.

Call it whatever one likes to call it, but a 5 card major system has always catered to comfort rather than to utility, which for a huge percentage of the bridge population is more important than percentage right. Raise immediately, but the responder, if he has enough to bid on will never rebid his 4 card suit, allowing a 3 card raise to pass into nothingness if only a combined 7 or held.

Furthermore, playing a trump contract with only 7 between them can be testing but is often the right contract in both IMPs and matchpoints as well, of course, as rubber bridge.

Even the great Zeus will agree. Just ask him!

Patrick CheuJuly 10th, 2018 at 9:25 pm

Hi Bobby,Could you please advise us on how we might get to 6H on this hand from pairs: West K98 QT9753 void KT83 East AQ432 AKJ8 T74 9.South pass West pass North pass East 1S-South pass West 2H(9+) North pass East 4H pass out.East felt he was not strong enough for 4C splinter,perhaps West should cue KS and…East? Regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffJuly 10th, 2018 at 11:06 pm

Hi Patrick,

The most likely way is to cheat and get hold of the hand records early.

However, West may open a somewhat awkward weak two hearts, to which East may overbid a splinter 4C, to which West should definitely cue bid 4 diamonds, then 4 only hearts from East, but a follow up 4 spades from West. Then a Declarative-Interrogative (DI) 4NT (hopefully this partnership is playing it, not asking for aces, but interested in slam).

Then a re-cue bid of 5 diamonds showing 1st round control by West and finally 6 hearts from East because of the perfect fit, except for the more or less wasted king of clubs (assuming the spades are 3-2).

BTW, I played DI for many years and would highly recommend it. Always a jump to 4NT is ace asking but bidding 4NT in the flow of the bidding and over a 4 level response from partner merely asks for more information in order to determine slam, with, of course, a return to 5 of the trump suit by the responder means no further feature to show (or perhaps just minimum for my bidding up to now).

However, my judgment stands by my first sentence.

Not easy but possible.

Patrick CheuJuly 11th, 2018 at 6:28 am

Hi Bobby,Thanks for your helpful suggestion of 4N bid as forward the heat of the battle frustration at not reaching a seemingly good slam(in my younger days may just have blasted into 6H with South’s hand)tends to cloud one’s thoughts.Older(but wiser) heads seem to reign supreme these days.Much appreciate all that you said and will move forward.Best regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffJuly 11th, 2018 at 5:24 pm

Hi Patrick,

Certainly both understand your frustration and concern for not reaching the good slam, but some contracts just fit while others have either point count, distribution or a combination of both deficiencies which just do not coincide for enough tricks.

When playing 4NT as DI (declarative, interrogative) an apt name which, of course, loses the often overrated concept of number of controls for just more information while conveying an interest, but, up to then, not a commitment. No doubt some experience (and best with your favorite partner) is necessary to get the right “feel” of when to use it, but after the incubation period, at least to me, it is best (proven when I played for all those years with Bob Hamman), but like many other choices with a bidding gimmick, is not 100% valuable, but I will suggest somewhere between 80-90% an advantage.

Remember a jump to whatever is your choice, Gerber, Blackwood or something else is always asking for number of aces, but 4NT in the flow of the bidding will be DI.

When you have a chance and if you incorporate DI, please let me know (at your convenience) your results, if any. Especially good luck to your partnership since I feel responsible and by no means feel obligated to try it, especially with a partner who is not enthusiastic.

Patrick CheuJuly 11th, 2018 at 5:43 pm

Hi Bobby,Thanks again for all your help. Determine to do better. 🙂