Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 9th, 2019

For early today to my utter dismay, It had vanished away like the dew in the morn.— Michael Flanders and Donald

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

*Two aces and the trump queen


The modern style is to open a no-trump on in-range (and occasionally out-of-range!) hands when balanced or semi-balanced. So, hands may qualify that contain a five-card major, a six-card minor or even a 5-4-2-2 pattern with an awkward rebid or with its values concentrated in the short suits. The most inconvenient hands are those with a five-card minor and a higher suit, though hands with four spades are rarely a problem.

South was a purist, though, and opened one heart. When West pre-empted in spades, North cue-bid three spades to show at least a high-card raise to game. South cue-bid four clubs, letting North drive to slam via the obligatory use of Key-card Blackwood. Plan the play now.

Declarer takes the club queen lead in hand and, after drawing trumps in three rounds, eliminates the minors in preparation for an endplay. He can surely see that West has six spades headed by the king for his weak jump overcall — can you see the winning line?

South cashes the club king, ruffs a club and plays three rounds of diamonds. He then plays a low spade from both hands. If East is allowed to win, he must give declarer a ruff-and-discard, while if West wins, he has an equally unattractive option of leading around to declarer’s spade queen. Either way, the second spade loser vanishes.

Note that cashing the spade ace first, or leading a spade to the queen, would allow West to win and safely return a spade.

Your partner may not have much spade support, but your hand will surely play much better in spades than hearts. Imagine your partner with a singleton spade, and you can still score five tricks if that is the trump suit, whereas your hand will be worthless in hearts. So bid two spades now.


♠ K J 10 9 7 4
 8 3
♣ Q J 10 2
South West North East
  1 ♣ 1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 2 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


bobbywolffAugust 23rd, 2019 at 2:28 pm

Hi Everyone,

After taking West’s vulnerable 2 spade bid for granted and quickly finding out that trump (heart slam) are not 4-0, then showmanship which could either be properly named either genius, brashness, or just poor manners by stating, “drawing the opponent’s fangs aka trump, eliminating the clubs and the diamonds, and then simultaneously playing declarer’s three of spades and dummy’s deuce on the throw in trick and allow the defense to work it out from there.

Would the opponents consider such an event as 1. showing off, 2. rubbing it in, 3. or just a tribute to how confident play is worth learning?

Although all three of the above are in the running, I would vote for number 3, if only to encourage all who are interested how easy card reading can be, provided one possesses the simple numeracy to pulling it off. In fact it is as easy as counting to 13, but first learning to remember the bidding and, of course, being certain as to what to then expect.

PS: I understand that West could have on this once in a lifetime experience as only KJ1097 in spades and East the 8x, but wouldn’t it be still worth the magic, that grandstand might produce?

Bob LiptonAugust 23rd, 2019 at 3:00 pm

confidence is all well and good until you to the KJT.


Bob LiptonAugust 23rd, 2019 at 3:01 pm

…until you discover that west took his weak jump shift on 5 to the KJT.


bobbywolffAugust 23rd, 2019 at 3:27 pm

Hi Bob,

No doubt I was somewhat poking fun over the declarer showing off. However in retrospect if West being vulnerable and with all of the meaningful other high cards in the hands of NS, it is virtually inconceivable that West would have fewer than six spades, and likely all seven.

However, yes the right way to play the hand is after the other suit eliminations to wind up in dummy, just in case East did possibly have (as you project) the eight and one, forcing him to rise with the eight when a small spade is led from dummy.

No doubt you are right in both theory and practice, but my educational point is that the declarer should have no worries that he was coming home with this slam, a fact not often thought about by relatively newbies since visualizing the opponents hands (usually from the bidding) is usually not one of the first things learned when someone first learns our game.

bobbywolffAugust 23rd, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Hi again Bob,

As an extra spur to that bow, I might suggest that if declarer had the trump suit and two of the other three suits well under control (with no losers) but although having extra trumps in both hands ane either three or four small in hand with that fourth suit being Axx in dummy (apparently two losers) with declarer’s LHO bidding that suit. Declarer should then lead toward the Axx in dummy and if LHO had KJ10xx(x) he might need to go up king if his partner had been dealt the singleton queen.

This defensive play, of course is well known as the Crocodile coup, wherein the immediate defender needs to open his jaws wide (eg play the king) to keep his partner from getting end played with him then having to concede a sluff and a ruff for the contract trick. A clever move which occurs more often then one may expect, but of course a judgemental play by the defender holding KJ10.

Finally the bridge moral to be learned is that while holding A65 opposite 432 and the appropriate other cards, sometimes only one trick needs to be lost (if those worthy opponents guess wrong), but that clever legal scam, needs to be executed properly.

Iain ClimieAugust 23rd, 2019 at 6:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

There can be a psychological gain in such claims. We were playing a slightly weaker team in England’s Gold Cup one year and they were putting up a decent show, we were barely ahead. I played a 6N contract and after 4 or 5 tricks innocently said “You don’t really need me to play this do you?” They looked bemused so I put my cards down and talked through the line of play (a marked double squeeze) telling them I would be happy to play the hand through with everything exposed if they wanted. They seemed a bit discouraged after that, and we won comfortably in the end.

All perfectly legal of course, but was it a bit sharp or just inducing the same level of pressure as a fast confident player like Zia (whom I played against in the early 80s at one congress) manages without even trying. He was very charming about the way he played but we were trounced!



jim2August 23rd, 2019 at 9:33 pm

Also interesting to me is the play if there had been no opponent bidding.

Perhaps eliminate the minors as before, then AS and small towards QS. This would win if the KS was onside or singleton or doubleton offside.

Down one here, though.

Preempts, they work but can also be a double-edged blade that cuts the wielder!

bobbywolffAugust 23rd, 2019 at 10:35 pm

Hi Iain,

After reading what you thought might have been a psychological ploy to, at the very least, slightly intimidate your opponents, it might not have made a difference with you winning anyway, but conversely it would have, no doubt, been impressive for me to merely watch.

bobbywolffAugust 23rd, 2019 at 10:55 pm

Hi Jim2,

To only just agree to what you have just written is a significant underbid.

Probably taking bidding space away from cunning opponents is likely worth the tell, but high-level bridge, being as varied as you have suggested, seems to be vulnerable (if you’ll excuse that adjective), to often present different strokes to different folks.

Additionally, when and if, during a high-level game, if there is any chance cheating is going on, that advantage, and in the hands of reasonably good players, is as close to impossible to beat, equivalent to Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak in baseball, all those years ago (78) to which might be a record, never to be broken.