Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 14th, 2014

I waited and waited, and when no message came, I knew it must have been from you.

Ashleigh Brilliant

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


The NEC tournament in Yokohama is now one of the strongest and best established invitational team events in the world. After an initial Swiss format, the top eight teams go through to a knockout phase. Today's deal (and indeed all this week's deals) comes from the later stages of last April's event.

Both Wests in our featured match led a club against three no-trump. David Bakhshi led the seven, and East won cheaply and continued the suit. Declarer won in dummy perforce (Bakhshi helpfully following with the eight to suggest spade values whereas his opposite number was not so generous). Both declarers now led a low diamond to the jack and a diamond back to the queen.

The unsuccessful defender — East — now shifted to a heart (perhaps playing partner for the spade ace and heart king) and declarer claimed 600, while Bakhshi’s partner ,David Gold, unblocked his club honor, on which his partner played his highest missing club spot, then shifted to spades for three down.

Gold’s defense was right in theory as well as in practice, but Bakhshi’s suit-preference signal at trick two had made his partner’s life far easier. The general rule is that when a defender has a choice of irrelevant small cards or when he knows that his partner knows exactly what his holding is, he should try to give his partner a suit-preference signal, as here. In virtually every deal the defenders have a chance to signal suit-preference — even if in practice they rarely do so.

Your hand does not suggest the opponents will have a source of tricks in a side suit, but there may well be some merit in stopping a crossruff, since that is surely the opponents' most likely source of tricks. Lead a trump, on the assumption that your partner is very unlikely to have a finessible trump honor.


♠ J 7 6 5
 Q 10 2
♣ Q 9 8 7 3
South West North East
Pass 3 Dbl. Pass
3♠ Pass Pass 4
All 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


David WarheitApril 28th, 2014 at 10:30 am

If North plays 3NT, he will make it, unless E makes a very unlikely opening spade lead. I think that South should have done something other than bid 2NT as his second bid, probably 2H. Whatever he does, North will then surely bid NT, and any doubts South might have about whether to bid game will easily be resolved by his highly valuing his DJ. What thinkest thou?

Iain ClimieApril 28th, 2014 at 11:01 am

Hi David, Bobby,

Whenever I try bidding 2H her, I find partner with 1642, no sense of humour and have to play 4H upside down. Still, oppo won’t lead a spade to get a force going which they might do if played by north.

On suit reference signals, though, can they be overdone? I can imagine situations where I don’t want to convey any message as declarer might tune in, only to see partner jumping to conclusions



Iain ClimieApril 28th, 2014 at 11:04 am

Sorry 1462 shape! Monday mangles the mind.

bobby wolffApril 28th, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Hi David,

While I do not necessarily not agree with you, it seems, since even after the first round of bidding, the high cards and distribution are more random than not, making the rightside up positioning of the declarer, subject to luck. This, in turn, often makes a NT rebid depend on the exact cards held, (here NS having 3 heart stops, and clubs only 1, if played by South, while 2, if played by North).

Because of the above, my choice, and for many years, is just to run to daylight (the game contract which might survive more often, especially since the opening bidder should raise with 3 (spades) in preference to rebidding his suit, even if he has the expected 6).

You, of course, are dead right on this hand, but it is hard to forecast on the bidding, not to mention making it easier for the defense to find the winning opening lead when a blueprint is advertized by the NT bidders.

IMO no one is right, no one is wrong, it just becomes a matter of style and the only time I would violate it is when the pair I am playing against is suspect, since they will rarely, if ever, get off to the wrong lead (probably not worth mentioning since there are not many worldwide pairs left to do such awful things).

bobby wolffApril 28th, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, sometimes (more often than many of us realize) suit preference signals help place cards for a very astute declarer, allowing him to play the hand perfectly which, in turn, bodes a poor result for the defense. The answer is subjective and in this example, while holding both the ace and the king of spades + knowing the club layout around the table at trick two (declarer refusing to win the king, and then following with the nine when partner leads it back obviously denying ever possessing the king. the high spade, eight, is called for and, damned be he who says enough.

Also, by suspecting partner may have 1-4-6-2, possibly leads me to suspect that Jim2’s TOCM tm may be contagious to which I say fie on such hard luck, if South decides to bid 2 hearts as his rebid, but that risk may, at least according to David, be taken.

Bill CubleyApril 29th, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I have played with David Bakhshi and he defends and signals very well. He is the senior bridge teacher at Andrew Robson’s club on his merits.

bobby wolffApril 30th, 2014 at 5:00 am

Hi Bill,

Some years ago, I think about 2006, Judy and I stopped in London on the way to the WC in Verona and had the immense pleasure of playing at Andy’s superior bridge club.

His special effects, analyzed hand records, together of course, with pre-dealt hands added spice to the evening.

Everything from the dress of the players. the courteous manners, and the general warmth and above average skill of the participants all contributed to a special event.

Thanks for reminding me of that wonderful evening and continued kudos to Andy and his staff for their many vital contributions to the game itself.