Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Oh don’t the days seem sad and long
When all goes right and nothing goes wrong?

W. S. Gilbert

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

*Zero or three keycards


In today’s auction, after spades were agreed, South’s four-heart call was a cue-bid. North inquired about key-cards, and his five-no-trump call confirmed possession of them all. South then showed the heart king by bidding that suit, but North could infer South’s hearts weren’t solid (or he would already have bid the grand slam), so he signed off in six spades.

West led the club queen, taken in dummy. Declarer cashed the heart ace, then the trump ace. After both opponents followed, declarer was on the point of playing the heart king when he foresaw the problems that might arise from a bad heart break. Revising his plan, he continued instead with a low heart. West took this with the jack and, in response to East’s discard, exited with a diamond, won by South’s ace.

Having registered East’s shortage in hearts, declarer asked himself what could be done if East had also started with four trumps headed by the 10. Demonstrating that this problem could be overcome, he called for dummy’s trump nine and overtook it with his jack. Next, after ruffing a heart with dummy’s trump queen, he led the spade five and simply covered East’s card. After drawing the last trump, South claimed the balance — making four trumps, four hearts, a heart ruff and three tricks in the minors.

Declarer’s line wasn’t fool-proof against 3-2 hearts with West having the length, plus a bad trump break, but it covered almost all the bases that could be covered.

You have shown diamonds and spades, a club stopper and no more than two hearts. Following that, your partner again suggested playing hearts; you should not only accept his suggestion, but bid four clubs. This is a cue-bid for hearts in case your partner has real slam interest, because your hand is about as suitable as possible for slam, in context.


♠ Q 9 5 2
 10 2
 A J 10 6 3
♣ A K
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 2 ♣ Pass
2 NT Pass 3 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


A.V.Ramana RaoMay 30th, 2019 at 11:58 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Yes, declarer’s line was not foolproof. He missed a finer detail. A refinement would be, win the lead , come to heart A in hand , cash spade A and lead club to dummy and lead a heart . If east follows, life becomes simple but when east shows out, west is allowed to win the trick transposing to column line but as might be observed, south circumvents the possibility of hearts being 2-3 by adopting this line ( and if east holds four hearts, perhaps the contract cannot be made)

A.V.Ramana RaoMay 30th, 2019 at 12:53 pm

On further analysis , once south cashes spade A and adopts the suggested line, it appears that west can mess up the communication between dummy and south by returning third club providing a useless ruff and sluff ( though partner wanted a diamond lead) However, south can simply prevail by not cashing spade A after winning the lead but cash heart A lead club to dummy and return ten of hearts

bobbywolffMay 30th, 2019 at 3:31 pm


Thanks for, as always, your accurate analysis, although as usual with complications, the perfectly correct playing of difficult contracts is not exactly a walk in the park.

It is upsetting to me for my proofreading mistake of winning the ace of diamonds in hand, when, of course it is won in dummy.

However and perhaps, the reader will then get the right take on often, while in sometimes touch and go contracts, (especially in not well breaking hands to which this hand belongs), the reader, like the declarer, should feel the tension of the necessity of getting it right.

Allowing getting to one’s rightful higher place in the ranking of players has much more to do with the quality of the player than, for example, the number of masterpoints he and then, of course, she, might possess.

PeteMay 30th, 2019 at 4:35 pm

Hi Bobby,
Could you and/or your regulars please tell me how you would (or not) open this hand in a match point club game. You are dealer Non-vul against Vul with:
S void
H Q,J,x,x,x
D K,Q,10,9,x,x,x
C x
Thank you.

bobbywolffMay 30th, 2019 at 7:56 pm

Hi Pete,

A standard answer would likely be to pass and await further bidding since my opening with some kind of diamond preempt, would at the same time keep you from bidding and scoring up seven hearts doubled, if partner only held:
s. xx
h. A10xxxxx
d. void
c, Axxx

Instead of listening (and acting) on my own propoganda I would open 4 diamonds with 5 diamonds (in this vulnerability) a fairly close 2nd choice.

Fie on science and fear of partner, but rather making bidding tough on those ugly opponents, appeal to me more.

PeteMay 30th, 2019 at 8:29 pm

Thank You, Bobby. I opened 4D, and partially because of the opponents’ timidity we got an excellent board. They are cold for 6S.

bobbywolffMay 30th, 2019 at 9:57 pm

Thanks Pete,

I’ve now seriously improved my theoretical results from 0 for 10 to 1 in 11.