Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Courtesy is fundamental: Sometimes it keeps at bay even snarling people.

Fausto Cercignani

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


In today’s tortuous auction, two diamonds was an artificial game force. After you cue-bid the club ace then rather sportingly showed your heart control (not mandatory with dead minimum high cards and shape for the auction thus far), North drove to the grand slam via Roman Key-card Blackwood.

When West leads the trump five, plan the play and reward your partnership’s optimism.

Clearly, you will need to establish the hearts if you want to succeed. So, after winning the first trick on the table with the trump nine, cash the heart ace and ruff a heart with the king. Both opponents follow — phew! After crossing to dummy with a club, you ruff a heart with the ace. If hearts have broken, you are home free. But if the hearts are 4-2, you need trumps 3-2, as here.

You next throw dummy’s diamond five on the club ace, then cross to dummy with a diamond to the ace to ruff a third heart, thereby establishing two heart winners on the table. At this point, after ruffing a diamond in dummy with the 10, you draw the outstanding trumps with the queen and jack, and dummy is again high.

On this layout, you make four trumps in dummy, three heart tricks and three heart ruffs, plus the diamond ace and two clubs for a total of 13 tricks.

If hearts had been 3-3, you would have thrown a diamond on the club ace, then drawn the outstanding trumps without needing them to break.

It looks easy enough to bid three diamonds here, but sometimes your partner will have extras with four hearts and five clubs, and you will have gone past your best strain. Wouldn’t it be better to offer partner a choice of minors? You can do that with a call of two no-trump. Your failure to bid one no-trump at your first turn means that the call now suggests this sort of pattern in the minors.


♠ 7 3 2
 10 2
 K J 8 7 2
♣ Q 10 4
South West North East
    1 ♣ 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ Dbl. 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


Joe1July 24th, 2019 at 1:17 am

Solid bidding, solid plays, congrats to the partnership, optimally used their assets. But, how many partnerships would do the same? Thinking about every step in the analysis, it seems straightforward. But of course that isn’t bridge. In a typical gathering, what percentage makes the grand?

PaulJuly 24th, 2019 at 2:36 am

Imo the cue of 4h was instrumental in the partnership reaching the GS. Is it normal practice to cue shortage in partners suit?
Regards Paul

bobby wolffJuly 24th, 2019 at 7:37 pm

Hi Joe 1 and Paul,

With only tending to answer the questions the grand slam is probably around 60% but only guessing even though one normal break often allows for other normal breaks. In real life my guess is that fewer than 5% of a decent field will attempt a grand slam, if only because of the lack of high cards. The fit was excellent and most importantly that partnership took advantage of that.

No it is not necessarily normal practice to cue bid a singleton in partner’s suit, However when the trumps are very good it will often be the key in taking many tricks (as evidenced above) on any one hand.

Bridge has many surprises, with the above hand representing what the right high cards and distribution can bring home. While I am not trying to influence any class of players into doing anything spectacular, I am only
trying to report how strange the results can be if a particular hand lands

Good luck to both of you with your bridge careers. All you can do is keep your eyes open and by doing so you will soon see how magnificent our game becomes.