Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

If you’re anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line as a man of culture rare …

W.S. Gilbert

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


Barring a revoke, you cannot make a grand slam without the trump ace. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened — I have made 13 tricks when the opponents revoked before taking their trump ace, but that is not a course of events you should count on.

A similar feat also requires the opponents to cooperate: Making a small slam when missing three or more trumps that include the ace and king is technically possible but equally unlikely.

In the deal shown, if dummy’s trumps were weaker, with the jack in declarer’s hand, South could lead the queen, hoping that East would naively cover with a doubleton king, but that won’t work today.

On a slightly different deal, leading low from the closed hand might see West rise with his honor from a doubleton holding — but again, that doesn’t seem practical here.

A third possibility actually worked with the cards as they lie. Declarer Ken Barbour found himself in an apparently hopeless slam. Can you find the defensive error he managed to inspire?

Barbour ruffed the heart lead in dummy and led three rounds of clubs, trying to look like a man with diamond losers to discard. On the third round of clubs, East ruffed in with his small trump. South overruffed and led a trump; when the ace and king of spades both appeared, Barbour’s day was complete.

Yes, East should have seen that he had little to gain from this defense. But South gave him the chance to err, and he took it.

You have more than enough to join in with a call of two diamonds, which is natural and suggests not much in the way of support for your partner. This hand is worth one call but not two, and it certainly feels like it is more about diamonds than spade support.


♠ A 4
 K 6 5
 Q 10 9 8 7 2
♣ 4 2
South West North East
  1 ♣ 1 ♠ 1 NT

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 ClimieJuly 24th, 2019 at 12:17 pm

HI Bobby,

If only East had SKx when ruffing with the K might well be reasonable. Mind you, East’s error today (although expensive) wasn’t a patch on what I did last night when playing in 4S on a diamond lead I managed to play the DK from KJ alone opposite 10xx under RHO’s Ace. It had been a long and wearing day, I admit, but no the cards weren’t stuck together, the light wasn’t bad etc etc. I luckily got the trick back later for an average board, but what was I doing….



bobby wolffJuly 24th, 2019 at 5:22 pm

Hi Iain,

You touch (more like politely hammer) on the psychological side of playing winning bridge.

Not all the king’s horses, nor all the king’s men, but only solve that dilemma by a lonesome himself.

Sensational play and exquisite bidding judgment all have their place
in the eventual goal of being supreme in one’s endeavor, only to give it all back in a false whim. Seems ridiculous, but happens every week and often twice on Sunday.

So join the club, but at the same time, do what it takes to not be a repeat

Good luck and thanks for a very appropriate “heads up”.