Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me — The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
And Immortality.

Emily Dickinson

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


When West overcalled two clubs, North had a hand worth a drive to game, but he took it slowly in case there was slam in the offing. His three-club call showed a limit raise or better; over his partner’s discouraging three-heart call, he simply raised to game. South’s other options would have been to temporize with a three-diamond call — a “last-train” bid passing the buck to his partner, to jump to game or to make a slam try himself.

The defenders led three rounds of clubs, allowing declarer to ruff. Before he continued, South assessed the position and determined that unless trumps were incredibly hostile, he would have no further problems. He led a trump to the ace, expecting that if anyone were void in hearts, it would be West; that would leave him with a marked finesse in trumps. To South’s dismay, though, it was East who showed out. Can you identify declarer’s best plan from here on in?

He next eliminated diamonds by playing the king and ace and ruffing the third. When West followed suit to all three rounds, it was clear he could hold no more than two spades. So South cashed the ace and king of spades and exited with a trump.

In the two-card ending, West had only clubs left to lead. Declarer could ruff in one hand and throw the losing spade from the other.

Note that with this trump holding, it never costs to start with the ace; if West has the length, you can never pick it up, no matter what you do.

Should you worry about ace-asking here? No — the likelihood that your side is missing two aces is infinitesimal. Instead, focus on getting to the right slam, and the way to do that is to transfer to hearts then jump to five no-trump to offer a choice of slams. If your partner prefers either diamonds or spades, you won’t argue.


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


Iain ClimieApril 30th, 2019 at 10:49 am

Hi Bobby,

One tiny extra detail here. Declarer has to cash the HK before playing the top spades or at least play SA first then a spade towards the King. Otherwise West with 1-3-4-5 can ruff a top spade honour and exit safely with a trump. It doesn’t help to ruff in front of the SKJ as he’s using his trump trick on a spade loser.



Bobby WolffApril 30th, 2019 at 2:32 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, you like a perfect chef, preparing a gourmet dinner. will not forget the truffles.

And by not doing so, may avoid a lasting disaster, a very well played hand on the way, but instead broken by an unnecessary gaffe.

Of course, the second high trump needs to be cashed immediately and declarer’s ace of spades scored before leading to the king.

Otherwise and according to Emily Dickinson the carriage might not have held, causing a bridge death of sorts to occur and then, of course, lost bridge immortality or, at the very least, a very satisfying moment.

Thank you!

Joe1April 30th, 2019 at 11:12 pm

BWTA would jumping to 5 impede exploration for small versus grand? With right 2nt hand 7 could be a lay down. With wrong, could be a finesse short.

Joe1April 30th, 2019 at 11:17 pm

I sometimes miss grands, (except in the old days when we kept playing until someone bid and made one, when it didn’t hurt to take a chance, and if it took too long, dealer dealt 3 at a time…).

Bobby WolffMay 1st, 2019 at 1:45 am

Hi Joe1,

Contract bridge, even in the hands of the very best players, is not, nor ever will be, scientific enough for the bidding to enable a laydown or even a high percentage grand slam, particularly when the bidding is opened with a bid as high as 2NT.

Sure there are a number of ways to sometimes be odds on to score up all the tricks, but as far as determining such an optimistic ending, likely is anti-percentage to even consider.

Better to just take what looks normal (obviously there are thousands of what ifs) and a small slam with these cards is about right, with the art being choosing the right suit trump, which the suggested method will probably accomplish.

IOW, the best of the best would no doubt love to bid a percentage grand slam and be lucky enough to not get bad breaks and go set, but to chance it, will IMO be nothing short, in the long run, of losing bridge.

Finallly, suppose the 2NT bidder had s. Kxx, h. AQxxx, d. KQx, c. AK, and heard partner transfer into hearts and then bid 5NT, if he would then bite the bullet and venture a grand slam he would be very disappointed in the result.

Sure the above is a contrived hand, set up as a trap by me, but Dame Fortune is in control and often loves to play tricks on players who are just too optimistic.

Nothing great in my advice, but I do suggest just relaxing and take what is normally coming to you and not try and even begin to guess the entire layout.

And with that I will wish you good luck, to continue your optimistic view but bid soundly, play and defend well and thus alllow that powerful lady to take care of you.

BTW, a small slam is no cinch, my guess about 65+% if hands opposite the one given were randomly dealt and that would also include reasonable defensive suit breaks and playing against above average players who were trained good opening leaders.