Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.

William Learned Marcy

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


Against four spades West's opening lead is the club jack. Sitting East, plan the defense.

You can build up a fairly good picture of the deal: declarer surely has five spades and either king-third or king-fourth of clubs. One possibility is to win the club ace and return a top club, playing partner for a singleton club. Now a diamond return will scuttle the contract, assuming declarer has two or more diamonds and one heart or more. If you are wrong about partner having a singleton club, though, declarer rates to be able to win the club king, draw trump, then set up hearts to pitch his diamond loser.

An alternative approach — one that is rather more likely to succeed — is to assume declarer has just three clubs. If so, the main threat on the deal from your perspective is those heart winners in dummy.

It is imperative that you dislodge dummy’s diamond ace before declarer knocks out your heart ace. At trick two, instead of playing for the club ruff, you must switch to the diamond king. If declarer ducks, then you must revert to clubs (rather than continuing with diamonds) and set up a second club trick. If declarer wins the diamond ace and plays a top heart, you will have to guess to duck.

Note that as the cards lie, a low-diamond shift at trick two is not sufficient. Declarer wins the queen in hand and draws trump, then establishes hearts for 11 tricks.

If you play this response as forcing and balanced, bid three no-trump. If you play the Jacoby two no-trump to show a game-forcing spade raise, then you are too good to sign off in four spades. Since new suits show shortage at the three-level, while four-level actions promise a 5-5 pattern, rebid three no-trump to show some extras with no shortage. Three spades would show a really good balanced hand.


♠ A K Q 9 3
 6 5
 Q 6 3
♣ K 9 6
South West North East
1♠ Pass 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuMarch 4th, 2014 at 9:36 am

Hi Bobby,if declarer wins the KD with the Ace in dummy,and plays the King of hearts,East surely has no choice but to duck,and get a count on the hearts from pard,and the only reason declarer plays this way,with no likely entry to dummy unless he has six spades and play for spades to be 22 with the 7s as an entry..but the 2NT bid makes it unlikely that declarer has singleton heart?If declarer is singleton heart and six spades,then ducking is wrong given West has three spades(31break),no certain entry to dummy. regards~Patrick.(declarer might have bid 2S over 1C,with 6s).

ClarksburgMarch 4th, 2014 at 12:40 pm

In BWTA, playing Jacoby 2NT, some intermediate-level books / teachers show the opposite approach to Opener’s rebids with no shortage but having extras. Repeating the suit shows a suit with quality top, but not necessarily six-long; the 3NT call shows extras, but with a lower-quality trump suit.
Could you kindly comment on why the approach shown here should be preferred, and the marginal difference between “some extras” and “really good”.

AviMarch 4th, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Mr. Wolff
I would like to understand a little more about your hand evaluation in the BWTA.
Facing J2NT response, I value this hand as only a 12 count, since chances are the Qs is just as useful as the 2s facing a 9+ card fit.
The rest of the hand is balanced with scattered values, and no good intermediates.
Why do you rate this hand as extras?

Jane AMarch 4th, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Hi Bobby,

I stopped playing Jacoby two NT responses to partner’s opening major years ago and reverted back to the old style use of two NT exactly as you described. After all, I am old style, or at least, old. I have a different gadget to show a strong forcing raise of a major opener and it has served me well. I call the BWTA hand a “tweener”. Good spades, but balanced, an unprotected diamond queen, and nothing in hearts. Of course, it would depend on partnership agreement as to what a Jacoby response shows.

I would be interested to hear how you feel about the use of Jacoby. What do you think it should show?I have seen players use Jacoby with passed hands, over the opponents double of their partner’s opening bids, etc. What does partner really have?

Systems are our communication tool, so it seems logical to speak the same language. I hate to see the “deer in the headlights” look on my partner’s face, so I try keep the “bridge devil” away.

Thanks, as always.

Patrick CheuMarch 4th, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Hi Bobby,re BWTA,over 2NT,new suit shows shortage,would that be singleton,kx,Ace,in the way you play?Is there a case for long suit trial bid over 2NT?regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffMarch 4th, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Hi Patrick,

You cover the bases well regarding defensive judgment on defending 4 spades from the East position.

Your key evidence, as it should be, is South’s 2NT rebid. With it, both the possibility of 6 spades with South, instead of only 5 (and even, on occasion 4) is almost nil. Add to that, the absolute telltale of 2NT denying a small singleton heart, (confirmed with West’s count signal in hearts after East has ducked the first one) and presto, changeo, everything points to what works defensively.

The high-level defense shown in this hand is merely applied bridge logic, with East at bat. He, then follows up, after winning the club ace, with what would be admired by all bridge lovers, the play of the diamond king, instead of the jack, denying South access to the good hearts until it is too late for them to save his contract, (he will never see dummy once the ace of diamonds is knocked out and, of course, the first heart is ducked).

A particularly astute student of our wonderful game will applaud East for both his imagination and his execution, but also keep in mind, but surely understand, that South’s rebid (2NT) was on target, but the wily opponents were also listening and gratefully used that information to defeat this close game.

This above fact is often the reason why bashers (like a possible immediate jump to 4 spades, after North’s cue bid, by South, but I think, in this case, a low percentage choice, but sometimes discovering gold, first turning out successful, and above all, taking away evidence left on the scene for the opponents to use effectively.

Bridge is such a multifaceted game which continues to teach youngsters (and other ages) to think, and then, after due consideration, go after what is in front of their nose, using the skills gleaned from their experience to play cards in the proper order.

Is it then strange that the many countries in Europe and all of China are now getting rave notices about their teaching bridge in primary and secondary schools? I do not think so. When will we in the USA, led by initiative from the ACBL, follow suit and sell this product to our country’s educational department? We can only hope it is done soon before our high-level game dies and we are left with only “high card wins”.

I can assure you that the caring bridge geniuses who started the ACBL in 1936 would not approve of our present attitude of abandoning interest in the high-level game in order to better serve the ones who are only trying to pastime without any future direction.

bobby wolffMarch 4th, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Hi Clarksburg, Avi, Jane A & Patrick,

I heartily agree to what everyone is implying and basically saying that Jacoby 2NT should be a 4 trump raise with singletons (and voids) shown by bidding that suit at the 3 level (regardless of strength of hand) leaving a jump to 4 of another suit showing a good 5-5 in the second suit shown (obviously having a singleton somewhere) but preferring to inform partner of a source of tricks in the second suit. (originally Jacoby 2NT used the 4 level to show a void and the 3 level to show a singleton but it is usually preferred by most Jacoby partnerships to play the 5-5 style at the 4 level instead.

Then, for balanced hands (no singletons or voids) there are 3 gradations of strength with 4 of the major the minimum and 3 of the major the strongest, leaving 3NT as a “tweener” about a good 14-a bad 17). The 6th card in trumps has a big positive influence and almost always with at least a total of 13 HCP’s will raise a minimum to a choice of 3NT. However, this problem is an individual partnership problem and should be thoroughly discussed before reaching a final decision. I do agree that the hand in the BWTA is close between a 3NT bid and what seems to be the choice of most of you only a minimum response of a jump to 4 of the agreed suit (spades in this case).

My only additional discussion centers around the topical choice of what constitutes an opening bid today. With the restrictions in opening the bidding heading downward to more liberal decisions in favor of opening the bidding, it will have some effect on this Jacoby conundrum of deciding strength of hand. If one does open 1 spade with s. AKJ10x, h. xxx, d. Kxx, c. xx then some allowance needs to be considered for distinguishing between 4 of the suit and 3NT, e.g. s. AKJ10xx, h. Kxx, QJ, xx.

We are lucky, at least I think we are, to have the room to discuss such things in our forum, which with the newspaper restrictions of space, simply would not allow it.

To Patrick,

Your suggestion may or may not be better, but all I can do is discuss Jacoby and yes, a singleton K or A should probably be treated like other singletons, but if your partnership decides otherwise than good luck to you as your decision may well be right as well as you adding other ways to go about managing your favorite interpretation of an immediate trump raise.

Doug MayfieldMarch 4th, 2014 at 9:04 pm

regarding your column in the LA Daily news today, Tuesday, March 4, in which South opens 2 clubs and West overcalls 2 spades, looking retrospectively, N-S will beat 2 spades for a significant penalty but end up in 4 hearts which, as you indicate, can be beaten.
Would it be reasonable for South to double 2 spades? If so, how would North interpret that bid and what action should North take?

jim2March 5th, 2014 at 12:58 am

Doug Mayfield –

I am not Our Host, but the on-line hands here lag the printed ones by two weeks. Remember to ask then!

bobby wolffMarch 5th, 2014 at 1:32 am

To Doug & Jim2,

Thanks Jim2 for informing Doug of our procedure.

All reasonable questions are welcomed, but the answers and likely discussion should be for all commentators to read, thus Jim2’s request for waiting till the current March 4th AOB appears on this site March 18th to receive answers and, usually more important, why.

We will all look forward to the discussion.

Where the AOB appears two weeks earlier, like it does for you in the LA Daily News, is shared by all of our comrades with access. I hope you will re ask your question(s) then.

Thanks for checking in. Meanwhile if you have current questions on what you might have already read in the last few weeks, let us hear from you as often as you wish.