Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Mathematics is not a careful march down a well-cleared highway, but a journey into a strange wilderness, where the explorers often get lost.

W. S. Anglin

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



West leads the heart jack against three no-trump, dummy’s queen winning the trick, while East’s card is consistent with showing an even number of hearts. How should you plan to make your contract?

If you take the club finesse, West will win his king and drive out the heart ace, and you will be held to eight tricks. A far better approach is to assume that West has the diamond ace, so cross to your hand with a spade at trick two and lead a diamond toward the king.

If West takes his ace and continues hearts, you will win that ace and lead a low diamond, intending to cover West’s card. West has to follow with his six, and you insert dummy’s 10. After East wins the jack and shifts to a club, you rise with the ace and cross to the spade king to run the diamonds. You will take 10 tricks: three spades, two hearts, four diamonds and a club.

If West wants to prevent the overtrick, he must follow with a low diamond at trick three. You will put up dummy’s king and remain on lead to run the club 10 to West’s king. You will emerge with nine tricks: three spades, two hearts, a diamond and three clubs.

Finally, if West takes the diamond ace at trick three, clears hearts, then follows with an honor on the second round of diamonds, you will have to hope East started with three diamonds. You need to win the second diamond with the king, then cross your fingers and play a third diamond.

Today’s feature is more about judgment than system, but if we assume this hand is (barely) worth a slam try in diamonds, we must have methods to show a diamond one-suiter and still say safely low while using transfers to the major. I recommend using three spades as a transfer to three no-trump. Following that, bids in the minors show one-suited slam tries, and bids in the majors show both minors.


♠ K 10 6
 Q 6
 K 10 9 8 5 3
♣ 10 6
South West North East
    2 NT 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


Michael BeyroutiJuly 12th, 2018 at 10:49 am

The diamond 4 and 6 tocmed… just to show that, sometimes, even Jim2 can survive.

Iain ClimieJuly 12th, 2018 at 11:02 am

HI Bobby,

On BWTA, what would be the distinction between the major suit bids? Shortage or feature (e.g. Kxx / Ax) strike me as obvious ideas.



jim2July 12th, 2018 at 11:15 am

Well, I think the column hand shows that East need not have three diamonds for declarer to prevail on the last defense described in the text!

bobbywolffJuly 12th, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Hi Michael, Jim2, and Clark (aka SM),

Jim2, when and if, when engaging in TOCM TM, do the specific cards have to join their respective defensive hands? Before or after declarer commits to his play?

If after, it becomes similar to what the world thinks of as nuclear rather than only just bombastic.

If so, the bridge world needs to create an antidote to handle this Kryptomite, gone mad.

No doubt every NATO country needs to budget at least 2% (and perhaps 4) of their gross national budget, just to save our bridge world from ultimate destruction.

If successful we could call it, a vital use of our Trump card.

bobbywolffJuly 12th, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Hi Iain,

Good question and how I would handle it:

One suggestion:

1. 4H then asks partner, slam force or not?, 4 spades would say not and thus, partner with none to small interest, bids either 4NT, 5C or 5D all just to sign-off (although the minor suit hand can correct to 5 of a minor over 4NT).

However if the responder bids 5H and 5S it shows, of course a slam to be bid and respectively stronger clubs and then diamonds,
with of course at least 12 tricks to be bid. From there minor suits by either partner are to play with 5S or 5NT gradations of strength for a possible grand slam with 6 of either minor a sign-off. Not much cue bidding, only general strength.

Although the above treatment is not guaranteed for success the track record for those playing it has been reported as 4 makable small minor suit slams, 3 grand slams one being in NT, 2 murders and 1 suicide.

Interestingly, the 2 murderers were both found innocent (Justifiable Homicide), but with the coincidence that both judges and many on the jury were bridge players. The next murderer may not be so lucky.

Iain ClimieJuly 12th, 2018 at 3:05 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that and one for the file if I ever return to playing bridge at a more serious level than at present. Was the suicide declarer, dummy, a defender, the TD or a kibitzer though? Just curious…..

bobbywolffJuly 12th, 2018 at 4:53 pm

Hi Iain,

The suicide was one of the defenders
when their opponents bid to seven hearts
s. Axxx
h. AKJ109
d. Ax
c. Kx

s. x
h. Q8
d. Kxxxx
c. Axxxx

North South
2NT 3S
3NT 4H
4S 5H
7H P

North forgot the convention but his partner made 7 hearts when both minors broke 3-3, although he didn’t need both to break, and with a heart lead.

I am not sure whether poor Frank was sitting East or West, but soon after the session and in the pale moonlight someone heard a gun go off. His partner Earnest never played another hand of bridge either, and all because of the wonderful system I had suggested that got them to that grand slam.

Of course they forgot the conventional bids, but “all’s well that ends well” and at least this hand ended that way, but, I guess, not the evening.

When North jumped to 7 hearts he was heard to say some curse words, before blurting his bid. It was a sad night for some, although the system was (sort of) on target.

TedJuly 12th, 2018 at 8:50 pm

Hi Bobby,

Regarding the movement of defensive cards, I would recommend the Bridge Master app in BBO’s Practice section to those who haven’t tried it. When you lead, the defensive cards will move to defeat you unless you have taken the optimum line of play. Good practice, and an opportunity to experience what Jim2 constantly deals with.

jim2July 12th, 2018 at 8:58 pm

Preach it!


bobbywolffJuly 12th, 2018 at 9:29 pm

Hi Ted (and bro Jim2),

That new app (a new modern expression for me) sounds like a souped up edition of an 80 year old version of Autobridge, when while playing a famous hand, (hand always labeled by featuring the so-called real declarer, like Waldemar Von Zedtwitz), coming to mind, allowing the beginner (me) to defend, or declare it, to best advantage, together with bells and whistles present to signal mistakes. Others, my age, were learning reading and writing, but I, bless my heart, was learning ‘rithmetic!

Why oh why, was that so much more fun than the real stuff taught earlier in the day in elementary school?

Thanks, Ted, the more things change, the more they are the same. but the new process seems much more comprehensive.

No doubt, Jim, you are due an inventor’s royalty.
courtesy of Jim.

TedJuly 12th, 2018 at 10:57 pm

My parents taught me bridge when I was seven, but I didn’t have anyone to play it with. Played Autobridge so frequently as a child that I unintentionally memorized almost all the deals they had. As a result it ceased to become much use in improving my game. It did get me permanently hooked on the game however.

bobbywolffJuly 13th, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Hi Ted,

My parents also taught me bridge, probably when I was nine or ten, they being used to playing several nights a week at rotating homes in the neighborhood. (cannot help but believe that being a healthier experience than what now goes on in our still, at least to me, great country, at least one which could get back to being such, once racism, other hate, and vicious competition is controlled.

With your facility to automatically memorize the deals, should enable you to reach great heights in the bridge world. That facility plus your subconscious obvious enthusiasm is, at least to me, the perfect formula for limitless optimism making it very sad for me to suspect
that there was not enough follow through for you to enjoy the sensational ups which our off-the-charts game will provide.

However, knowing no more than what you wrote, will surely mean that only you can make the decision on whether or not to still pursue the enjoyment it could produce.

In any event good luck to you in whatever you are doing and much sincere thanks for keeping in touch.

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