Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 10th, 2018

I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention – invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble.

Agatha Christie

E North
None ♠ A K J 6 2
 K Q 7
♣ A 7 6 5
West East
♠ 10 8 5
 8 6 5 4 2
♣ Q 9 4 2
♠ Q 4
 9 6 4 2
 K Q J 9 7
♣ K 10
♠ 9 7 3
 A J 8 5 3
 A 3
♣ J 8 3
South West North East
1 4 4 NT Pass
5 Pass 6 All Pass


Italy’s Andrea Manno had to emulate Hercule Poirot to succeed in his slam at the 2014 Cavendish, held in Monte Carlo.

Manno ended in slam after East had opened one diamond, guaranteeing an unbalanced hand, since he would have opened one club with a balanced hand. West selected the club four as his opening lead (lowest from an odd number or third-highest from an even number) — a fine choice, since on a diamond lead, declarer will take 12 tricks without breaking a sweat. He can set up spades to pitch his club losers, even if he loses a spade trick.

On the club lead, Manno rose with dummy’s ace and took due notice of East’s 10. Declarer cashed the spade ace next, then set about drawing trumps. When East showed up with four hearts, that meant that he surely held at least nine cards in the red suits. The club 10 at trick one suggested a doubleton; it could not be a singleton, since in that case West would have led the king from the king-queen, and not the four. And if East had three clubs, East must also have a singleton spade, in which case the contract could not be made, since there would be no entry to dummy’s long spade.

This allowed Manno to deduce East’s 2-4-5-2 shape, and he also knew East had a maximum of 9 points in the minors. To have enough material for even the slightest of opening bids, East surely had to hold the spade queen. So Manno cashed the spade king, and down came the queen.

I cannot tell you that Stayman here is a bad bid, or that it will not work. It is indeed the normal (if unthinking) thing to do. But consider that if you play a 4-4 heart fit, it might be the only game you cannot make if partner has bad hearts or if the suit does not break. With honors in your short suits and a side source of tricks, I suggest jumping to three no-trump, which gives away far less about declarer’s shape.


♠ Q 4
 9 6 4 2
 K Q J 9 7
♣ K 10
South West North East
    1 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


David WarheitNovember 24th, 2018 at 9:31 am

I don’t understand your “sweatless” comment. Assuming a S loser, S has 4S, 5H, DA & CA for only 11 tricks. The only way I see around that is to ruff the second D high, cash HK noting the fall of the 10, and then finesse H8. That works, but it definitely isn’t “sweatless”.

On BWTA, suppose partner has Kx KQJ10 Axx Axxx. Almost always makes 5H but goes down at 3NT. May well fail at 3N even if partner has SKxx and one less D or C.

Iain ClimieNovember 24th, 2018 at 10:49 am

Hi David,

True but suppose partner has much weaker hearts e.g. Qxxx but decent black suit holdings. Now 4H is losing (say) 3H and the DA with 3N probably making while a 4-1 trump break could sink a better trump holding. Maybe an idle bid can be found after 1N 2C 2H to show a raise to 3N or 4H with misgivings about trumps. Would 3S fit the bill? Your quoted hand would bid 4H, weaker trump holdings could bid 3N.



Bobby WolffNovember 26th, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Hi David,

While “sweatless” or “no sweat” is definitely not an overall feeling while playing this heart slam, the modern game which in this case is based on an opening bid (hedging toward lower values) but instead differentiation between so-called balanced (with a random 5-4-2-2 being called unbalanced and 5-3-3-2, 4-4-3-2 and of course 4-3-3-3 the only three thought of as balanced) could be important information, but, and, of course, the enemy is also listening and by such will be able, as declarer, to divvy out certain distributions heretofore having to be guessed with less certainty than before.

That above fact is illustrated here in the discussion, together with the lower range of opening bids by those opponents who one happens to be playing.

No doubt, no sweat is an overbid, but still possibly in the range of more likely than before.

Regarding the BWTA and no doubt, I tend to agree with you as to the utility of using Stayman on today’s example. However the thoughts tied to the 3NT choice should also be considered and, if you’ll excuse the expression are not a “game dunk” as opposed to a “slam dunk”.

No more, no less, but everyone to make his or her own choice, but needing some logical consideration in the way of facts for both, before making one or the other. And, please that strong diamond holding (with 5 of them) usually, although certainly not always, appears to be better for declaring NT than a suit.

Bobby WolffNovember 26th, 2018 at 6:43 pm

Hi Iain,

After answering David, I then read what you had to say. While appearing to lean toward NT, you offered some reasoning to be applied.

That in itself can cause more creativity in the development of different type responses to coordinate more information before making the final decision.

While I heartily endorse creative thinking, I do not want any future sound thinkers to forget or worse, totally ignore, the lionization of the defense to not defend better, but worse, to sometimes allow the “killing opening lead” without which, the original bidding would never have had to face it.

The above is merely a disclaimer to consider, not to being placed in a position of having no defense to another’s counter suggestions.