Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 5th, 2019

The world, dear Agnes, is a strange affair.


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



Bridge history records all too many slam bids missing two aces, or two top tricks. Some of these contracts have come home, but surely one of the odder entries into the record books is today’s hand, from the 1997 Vanderbilt Trophy quarterfinals in Dallas.

West led the diamond ace in an attempt to force out declarer’s trumps, and declarer made the odd-looking play of discarding a spade from dummy. Meanwhile East played the diamond nine, a discouraging card that, according to the partnership methods, suggested to West that he should switch to a high suit rather than a low one. What was going on here? West could see no future in trying to cash the club ace, since it was surely never going to get away, so he led a spade, which seemed passive enough.

Declarer Paul Soloway won the king, drew four rounds of trumps and took the rest of the tricks with his seven-card spade suit and his diamond king, discarding all of dummy’s clubs in the process!

So what was going on? Soloway had thought his partner, Bobby Goldman, was showing the two lower unbid suits when he bid five no-trump. His hearts were better than his clubs, so he decided to bid hearts to protect his diamond king. Didn’t he play it well?

This turned out to be a flat board, since the opponents played in six spades in the other room, but Soloway’s squad was clearly the team of destiny, since they squeaked through in this match by 1 IMP and went on to win the trophy after that.

There is nothing wrong with a jump to four diamonds, a splinter-raise showing a hand of this general strength with heart support and diamond shortage. An alternative route is to jump to two spades, planning a call of four hearts next. That gets the three-suiter across very nicely and keeps all three in play as possible trump suits, since hearts may turn out not to be the best.


♠ K Q J 9
 A K J 7
♣ K Q 9 5 4
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


TedApril 19th, 2019 at 5:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

In BWTA since 2D would be a reverse, wouldn’t 3D also be a splinter, or would that bid have a different use?


bobbywolffApril 19th, 2019 at 8:00 pm

Hi Ted,

In the absence of a specific discussion, yes, I would regard 3 diamonds as a splinter since 2 diamonds, as you suggest would be a virtual force to game. However, if there was any doubt that 3 diamonds may be misunderstood, I think South owes it to partner to instead bid 4 diamonds which, of course removes all doubt.

This hand is so powerful with three key cards necessary for a grand slam, ace of spades, queen of hearts and the ace of clubs. Of course six small hearts will also be enough (except for Jim2), but 4 diamonds instead of 3 should not hinder the exploration.