Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 13th, 2018

We play with fire and take the consequences, because the alternative is cowardice in the face of the unknown.

Ronald Dworkin

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


When South opened his 11-count, nothing could stop North from driving to slam, and the final contract was a slightly optimistic six no-trump. Despite the fact that it was pairs, perhaps North-South might have managed to find a way to play six diamonds? Even after a trump lead, declarer has six side-suit winners and six trump tricks.

Although declarer noticed that at least one extra trick needed to come from the heart suit, or possibly the hearts in conjunction with a squeeze, he missed an extra chance that, as the cards lay, would have brought home his slam.

West led a diamond. With 10 tricks on top, South made an immediate start on hearts, winning the diamond with the ace in hand and finessing the queen. When this lost to East’s bare king, there was no further chance for the contract.

Even if the heart king had been onside, declarer would have lost a heart at some point. So suppose that, instead of coming to hand to take the finesse, he had won the lead in dummy and led a low heart away from his ace-queen. As the cards lie, East would be forced to win. (And, if East had originally held a doubleton king, it would have taken strong nerves to duck when the small heart was led.) Irrespective of what East returned, South would now be in business. South would play his spade and diamond winners, and West would be subjected to a squeeze in clubs and hearts, since on the last diamond he could not hold on to four clubs and three hearts.

Your first reaction may be to redouble, to show a good hand; but I’d encourage you to bid naturally over a double in situations like this. You should respond one spade, planning to invite or drive to game in diamonds later. But since a spade game may be easier to make, get the suit in before the opponents start leaping in hearts or clubs and pre-empt you out of showing what you have.


♠ K 9 7 6 5
 9 3
 A 10 9 7
♣ A 7
South West North East
    1 Dbl.

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 BeyroutiDecember 27th, 2018 at 6:43 pm

I admit I couldn’t solve today’s puzzle. So I learned something. In the end, the trick on this hand was to realize that the trick of ducking a trick would do the trick. That’s called rectifying the “trick” count.

Iain ClimieDecember 27th, 2018 at 8:26 pm

Hi Bobby,

There was a BOLS tip about using the power of the closed hand. I.agine S has (plausibly) HJx and East Kx. Even if East ducked smoothly, declarer can duck a heart on the way back and is laughing if East has Kx or Kxx. He/she whod hesitates is lost so an East with Kx or Kxx(x) has to decide asap what to do when the Hx is led from table. A smooth mistake may be more successful than agonised squirming then playing the right card in some cases at least.



Patrick CheuDecember 27th, 2018 at 9:02 pm

Hi Bobby,Friends of mine asked me what I would bid had the bidding gone(Acol) 1D-1S,2C-2H*,3D-4D? I said 5D(only seeing North’s hand). North 8 T98 AQ873 AQ86~South AKJT97 KQ KT5 K9.I suggested 1D-1S,2C-2H*,3D-3S(6S),4S-4N,5H-6D.North passed 4D cos of xxxHearts coupled with 2H* only forcing to 2N..I thought after 2H* South shows a better hand with 4D.Could you please suggest how we might improve on the bidding? Regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffDecember 27th, 2018 at 10:21 pm

Hi Michael & Iain,

Yes, the deceptive power of leading from dummy toward the closed hand is underrated.

Pity to those who need a defender to blunder in order to succeed, but sooner or later we will all face that situation. Better to think about it, both from the standpoint of declarer or as declarer’s RHO and then concentrate on the tempo involved and/of course the other perspecitve, declarer’s experience and ability.

Bobby WolffDecember 27th, 2018 at 10:46 pm

Hi Patrick,

The theme of this bidding problem has everything to do with a certain bridge discipline to which no partnership should violate.

Game forcing means exactly that and can never, under ANY circumstance not be observed.

When the responder bids the 4th suit (except of course with certain exceptions having to do with already limiting one’s hand eg. 1D P 1S P 1NT P 2C P 2H would not be forcing because of the initial 1NT rebid. However on the hand you presented once responder rebids 2H he is basically not saying anything about hearts but instead is taking the time to force to game so that neither partner needs to later jump in order to GF. Of course, the one system which does not honor that crucial caveat is Acol, a system you often play.

Thus once East raises to 4 diamonds, a simple 5 diamonds showing nothing extra in hcps or distribution (tied to the previous bidding). However the original responder should IMO gamble 6 diamonds hoping partner has either 6 diamonds or the queen, but staying away from a spade contract and hoping to establish that suit, if necessary in order to count to the 12 tricks having been bid.

Nothing spectacular nor guaranteed, just mature judgment with, and of course, a possible grand slam should be totally ruled out once partner biids only 5 diamonds.

However and to repeat, if this hand serves to let both partners know that 2H is GF no matter what happens later, then something vitally necessary is learned, without which, I do not think any two players, no matter their talent, can arrive anywhere near top class (or even close) without that fact firmly known and practiced.

Good luck and of course, the happiest of holidays to you and yours.

Bobby WolffDecember 27th, 2018 at 11:07 pm

Hi again Patrick,

Obviously if playing Acol, your forcing bids then become fewer and yes a jump to 4 diamonds might be in the cards. However, Acol would emphasize 4 card major openings as well which leads to many different type bidding exchanges, some good, others not.

Acol is better suited to practical lower level bidding, but definitely inferior for slams, directly attributed to hands like today, which needs to game force early almost always finding the right suit to be trump because of slower bidding at the lower levels. Also the guarantee of five with a major suit opening provides a similar advantage.

Does one like meat or chicken? Possibly the right answer is go fish!

Patrick CheuDecember 28th, 2018 at 7:36 am

Hi Bobby,Thanks again for your most helpful insight which I will pass on to my friends.Fish of course! Best of Health and Joyfulness to you and Judy.

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