Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 14th, 2019

I don’t demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don’t know what it is. Reality is not a quality you can test with litmus paper.

Stephen Hawking

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




We have established that in mid-auction you tend to bid no-trump if you have the opponent’s suit under control, but you can ask partner for help by cue-bidding that suit. But what if the opponents have bid or shown two suits? Does a call ask or state?

The general rule is that when there are two danger suits, you bid where you live. So on the auction shown today, South’s three-heart call shows a heart stop and, by inference he can’t have too much in spades or he would have bid no-trump himself.

North’s three-spade call suggests a half-stopper in spades or three small cards, since (once again) he would bid no-trump if he could, and would eschew no-trump with short spades.

When South bites the bullet and bids three no-trump, West leads out the top spades, suggesting to South that spades are 4-4; but whether they are breaking or not, South must find his best chance to bring in clubs for five tricks. If he loses a trick to the club queen, he will surely go down, since West has an entry to the spades in the heart ace.

With West having nine cards in the majors, it is correct to play East for the club queen. To do that, declarer crosses to the diamond king in dummy and runs the club jack.

This play picks up the 4-1 club breaks where East has the queen (of which there are four) while losing to the singleton club queen in West, a far less likely case.

If this were non-forcing, you would pass; but how can it be? Your partner would have raised two clubs to three clubs if that were so (since he isn’t looking to play four spades, apparently). If you have to bid now, showing your values in diamonds with a call of three diamonds is a fairly accurate description of your hand.


♠ Q 7
 10 6 2
 K Q 3
♣ A J 10 4 3
South West North East
1 ♣ 1 1 ♠ Pass
2 ♣ Pass 2 Pass
2 ♠ Pass 3 ♣ 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2March 28th, 2019 at 6:53 pm

Somehow Our Host has someone sending him hands that have bedeviled me.

In this one, I was East, and I knew my Lower Slobbovian opponents would never find the best line of play. I equally knew it would not matter.

Pard led out three spades, as in text. Declarer, however, as it was revealed later, had just that morning read a column article on arranging for extra chances while declarer.

All game, I was also told later, South had committed a vast variety of atrocities all in the name of “extra chances.”

Anyway, once in with the JS, declarer looked about owlishly for another opportunity to be brilliant, and spotted one!

Briskly cashing three diamonds to “see if they came in” – and they did – declarer pitched a club on the fourth, pard pitched a heart, but what should I (East) discard???)

If I threw a spade, pard could be thrown in with a heart and be forced to stay on lead with the fourth spade, and then what? If I threw a heart and won West’s fourth spade, I would have only clubs left!

In desperation, I threw a club.

South now led the KH just as I had feared. If West ducked, declarer remains on lead and now has a complete count. With one spade, one heart, and four diamonds, only three club tricks are needed. Declarer would lead to the AC knowing West was following with the only club possessed, the hook the 9C, with the KC the 9th trick.

But winning the AH went no better. West now got out with the small spade to my preserved 9S, and I exited with my even more carefully preserved 9H.

Declarer won this but now had the same count as above and proceeded to win three clubs.

I need another acronym!

bobbywolffMarch 28th, 2019 at 7:46 pm

Hi Jim2,

While I do have a copyright lien on the term “extra chances”, it fails to define specificity.

Like love, satisfaction is where one finds it, and your declarer confessed to me later, contrary to belief, that the suit which bears its name is not that hard and therefore usually breaks.

Besides bridge encyclopedias often cry out about playing an honor first in order to protect against a single queen and no he hasn’t gotten further than that in what to do in special cases.

Furthermore, aspirin works at least as well as another acronym and even the Bible quotes something like “eek, I will inherit the earth”, or something akin.

A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 29th, 2019 at 12:32 pm

Hi Jim 2
But since you knew partner had at least four spades , you could have kept on unblocking in spades and throw a heart on fourth diamond and west can duck first round of hearts
Saw the post belatedly

jim2March 29th, 2019 at 2:32 pm

If declarer adds a second major suit trick to the four diamonds, then that is six before clubs are touched.

Now, declarer needs only three club tricks, and can afford leading small to the Board instead a first round finesse, thus averting the risk that West is harboring a spinster QC.

jim2March 29th, 2019 at 2:41 pm

Keep in mind that I started off with the implication that it was not the best line, but one adopted by a player looking for extra chances at the cost of others.

Note that if the column declarer pitches a heart from the Board at trick three, 10 tricks are the result.

If I had been declarer, it would have been MPs if I adopted the alternate line ans I would have scored a bottom.

Of course, if it had been teams and I used the column line, the QC would have pounced for a negative swing.

It is simply the way the universe lines up for poor me. 🙂

bobbywolffMarch 29th, 2019 at 4:43 pm

Hi Jim2,

But some prefer to be smart, rich, good looking, entertaining and famous, instead of needing finesses onside and suits to break.

And if one is in doubt, just treat TOCM as the theory of cordon bleu magic instead of card migration.