Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

There is nothing to escape from
And nothing to escape to.
One is always alone.

T.S. Eliot

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

*Two key-cards, no trump queen


When North supports spades, South drives to slam via Roman Key-card Blackwood, which identifies the missing trump queen.

As dummy wins the first trick with the club ace, South notes that with 13 tricks available on normal breaks, his goal must be to guard against a combination of bad breaks.

His first step is to ruff dummy’s low club. Then he discovers the bad news in trump. Next comes the heart queen followed by the top diamonds. East might ruff the second, but would be stuck for a good return. If he plays a club, declarer ruffs in dummy and cashes a top heart to discard his last two losing diamonds. After a trump finesse, declarer can claim the rest. If East instead returns a heart (his best try), South can discard one of his low diamonds as dummy wins. The remaining top heart is led, and East must ruff in, but South over-ruffs and draws East’s last trump. There is still a trump in dummy to take care of South’s last low diamond.

To beat the slam, East must not ruff the second diamond; he should discard a heart. He then trumps the next top diamond (discarding would not work, since declarer would ruff the next diamond high). He next leads a club for a ruff-sluff, and can then ruff the next heart winner low. No matter what South does, he will lose one more trick.

If South cashes both top hearts at trick three, discarding a diamond, East waits to ruff a diamond honor, then exits with his low trump!

Your partner has indicated he is willing to compete to the two-level, and this hand could hardly be better, but given that you have remained silent so far. Bid three hearts and let partner take it from there — yours not to reason why.


♠ Q 9 8 6
 J 9
♣ K 8 7 4 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 1 Dbl.
Pass 1 NT 2 3

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 RaoDecember 26th, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Any east who defends as described definitely deserves Kudos.
And a small point. Suppose south does not cash his heart Q leading A of spades but leads a sneaky low spade to ten in dummy . ( South knows for sure that if diamonds break there is no problem and perhaps somehow he can address four diamonds in east hand ) East must win else there is no problem and after winning the tendency is to return a diamond but if so , south scores his slam as west is hopelessly squeezed in red suits on the run of trumps .Only card East should return is a heart to break the squeeze.

A V Ramana RaoDecember 26th, 2018 at 12:35 pm

The line should read
Suppose south does not cash his heart Q after leading A of spades
( After was missing)

Bob LiptonDecember 26th, 2018 at 12:43 pm

On a very good day I might find that defense as east.

Of some interest to me is how to play this one if trump doesn’t break 4-0. If both follow with a low trump, cash the HQ and at trick 5, play the Spade Jack. If you lose the trick, you have an entry to dummy for two hearts to discard the lower diamonds on. If it holds, draw the last trump and you won’t lose no more than one diamond.


Bobby WolffDecember 26th, 2018 at 3:36 pm


Yes, your mention of the potential red suit squeeze against West, to counter a specific declarer play, is indeed impressive since it requires East to make a mandatory counter (of a heart back) to complete a winning defense.

Thanks for adding that worthwhile twist
since it glorifies the beauty of the game by forcing aspiring players to exercise their distributional and numerate talent by listening to the bidding, observing the early play and living up to their responsibility of always being as tough an opponent as possible.

That type of talent symbolizes what is needed at high levels and requires an alertness one needs to acquire as he learns the necessity for counting every hand he plays on both defense or, of course, as declarer.

No one has ever said that quality comes easy, but, thanks to you, your intervention calls attention to it.

MarcDecember 26th, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Hello Mr. Wolff. Thank you for your always valuable and entertaining columns. Would it be possible for your programmers to change the format n the “Bid with the Aces” section and post the answer BELOW the question so one doesn’t have to try and ignore the solution before trying to figure out the problem ?

Bobby WolffDecember 26th, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes, your analysis also hits the spot when as usually might happen, both defenders following low to the initial high trump led by declarer. It is a foolproof way of guaranteeing one’s contract, although at matchpoints, where overtricks are often crucial, not necessarily recommended.

However, and similar to AVRRs post, your comment is very worthwhile to the aspiring player who needs to become familiar with how to insure one’s contract when certain lines of play, not always crystal clear,, become available.

Bobby WolffDecember 26th, 2018 at 4:00 pm

Hi Marc,

Yes, I see what you are saying and will look into that possibility. Although I have absolutely no talent as to what is involved with moving the answer lower (I suspect it might be done randomly, since the typesetters are rarely bridge players), but there is no reason I cannot try and allow your eyes easy access to avoid seeing our answer prematurely.

However,, due to whatever is involved, it may take some time before that move takes effect, while assuming that it can be done, without having to move mountains.

At any rate, thanks for your heads up.

Michael BeyroutiDecember 26th, 2018 at 5:43 pm

Hi Marc.
What I loved about today’s BWTA (and which could possibly be an answer to your suggestion) is… “yours not to reason why”!

Bobby WolffDecember 26th, 2018 at 7:37 pm

Hi Michael,

Your candid response to the last phrase “yours not to reason why” is, at least to me, the correct answer to many impromptu bridge bidding decisions.

The complexity of the game as well as the sheer guessing during the bidding (do we fit, or don’t we? if they double, will we go for a number? and if I don’t bid, might my partner consider me a worthless wimp?), all are constant feelings during a normal session of tournament bridge.

And, as you suggest, the answer simply on average being, “yours not to reason why”!

Margaret B ScaglioneDecember 27th, 2018 at 6:23 am

How is it possible to get bridge clubs, tournaments or all kinds to stop harassing me? Someone entity (probably a former place of employment where I was an excellent worker and retired from there) but they still harass me. It’s like they think they have broken laws against me so follow me everywhere to try and cause an altercation or some response out of me I guess to help them if they were ever held accountable for several years of harassing me on job, with my kids, at restaurants, everywhere but especially BRIDE CLUBS. The mgrs. and directors listen to them and even cheat against me to be sure I do not make any pts. I know this sounds unreal, but just in case it’s true, what would you suggest I do. Thanks you.

Bobby WolffDecember 27th, 2018 at 9:45 am

Hi Margaret,

Just in case what you say is true, the only solution I can think of is: GET HELP!

I know not where, but you may start with either calling your harassers and asking what you should do or skip them and, if you feel in danger, call the police, but be ready to tell them the exact truth and let them determine what you should now do, including visiting a psychiatrist.

Good luck, although it doesn’t sound as dangerous as you might fear, I may be wrong.