Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Had I said that, had I done this,
So might I gain, so might I miss.

Robert Browning

North North
Neither ♠ K Q 7 5
 6 4
 A Q 10 8 3
♣ 8 2
West East
♠ 9 8 4
 J 9 7 3 2
♣ 10 7 6 5 4
♠ 10 6 3 2
 K Q 10 8
 K 5
♣ K 9 3
♠ A J
 A 5
 J 9 7 6 4 2
♣ A Q J
South West North East
1 Dbl.
Rdbl. 1 Pass Pass
2 Pass 2♠ Pass
3 NT All pass    


Kit Woolsey reported this deal to the Daily Bulletin as a missed opportunity from the Grand National Teams event at the Atlanta Nationals last summer.

When North opens a Precision diamond, showing diamonds or a minimum balanced hand, East doubles and you,as South, end up not in the laydown six diamonds but in three no-trump. When West leads a fourth-highest heart three, you have your work cut out to avoid turning your bad board into a catastrophe.

There are two plausible lines that spring to mind. The first is to win the heart ace, unblock spades, lead a diamond to the ace, cash the spades, and play a club to your jack. Now, with no entries to dummy, you will need to find East with a doubleton club king. Not impossible, but unlikely.

The second line is to take the heart ace, play the spade ace, then overtake your spade jack to take the club finesse. Then you can try to guess diamonds. The problem here is that you have only gained your extra entry to dummy at the cost of a spade trick. Both of these lines fail. However, you may feel you should have spotted the winning line when I show it to you.

Win the heart ace, cash the spade ace and jack, then cut loose with a heart. After four rounds of hearts, the opponents will have to lead a spade or a club (West being void in diamonds) and give you the extra dummy entry you need.

I'm fairly conservative on the subject of opening 11-counts, but this is a hand that cries out to be opened. With an easy rebid over partner's likely one-heart response, and all my values in my long suits (with a couple of strategically placed 10s), I would deem this to be a far better hand than a balanced 12-count.


♠ K Q 7 5
 6 4
 A Q 10 8 3
♣ 8 2
South West North East

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 WarheitAugust 7th, 2014 at 9:13 am

On BWTA, I completely agree with opening the S hand (2½ quick tricks and only 6 losers), but I’m having a little trouble spotting the second “strategically placed 10” (giggle, giggle).

ClarksburgAugust 7th, 2014 at 11:30 am

Actually according to Elbonian / Slobbovian hand evaluation methods there are two additional tens.
The 6 4 of Hearts and the 8 2 of Clubs.

jim2August 7th, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Clarksburg! Have you oft visited that fair land? With its stunning vistas of endless ice/slush/mud/slush??

On a somewhat more serious note, the declarer for the column hand would have had a tough decision on the play if it had been at MPs and not IMPs.

bobby wolffAugust 7th, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Hi David,

That 2nd strategically placed ten is, of course, in your partner’s hand when one makes the good choice of opening the bidding with this hand.

It is the automatic reward which Dame Fortune grants for wise decisions. My partners have often said through the years, that I look at my hand through rose colored glasses and am forever the optimist, but not always successful. I guess this column proves it.

bobby wolffAugust 7th, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

And when one adds the 75 of spades and the 83 of clubs a proverbial twelve and an eleven, the opening of only one becomes an underbid.

Thanks for your brilliant support (I need it).

bobby wolffAugust 7th, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Hi Jim2,

Is LS prettier and more alluring in the summer when its ice sometimes (once every ten days) becomes slush or in the winter when romantic Lena appears in her evening gowns?

The choice in matchpoints would have the declarer playing the TO doubler for either a void restricting him to only eight or nine HCP’s or the singleton king, causing most to save that TO dbl for only a beautiful day in LS (one, which to this day, has never been recorded).

I know that I am either grasping for straws or possibly for Lena, but that is what usually happens when one fails at the desk or worse, at the bridge table.

bobby wolffAugust 7th, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Hi to all my soon to be friends in the old folks home,

And when I say the 83 of clubs, not diamonds, I become speechless. Please, spare me applause.

It is lucky I used to enjoy playing gin rummy.

ClarksburgAugust 7th, 2014 at 9:59 pm

When I wrote this:
” The 6 4 of Hearts and the 8 2 of Clubs”, I was playing straight man. Thought somebody might jump on that and chime in that the 10+10 means the hand meets the “rule of 20” so even more reason to open it.
No takers. Oh well.

MirceaAugust 8th, 2014 at 3:06 am

Hello all from the Old World where we are vacationing for another two weeks.

I’m currios about your way to 6D after 1D – Dbl (playing with your favorite partner). I’m getting stuck at the second round of bidding, especially if West comes in with an obstructive heart bid.

bobby wolffAugust 8th, 2014 at 5:29 am

Hi Mircea,

Welcome back to the future of the Old World.

How about:

North East South West
1 D Dbl Redbl 2H
P P 3H (names D trump, otherwise he would change suit which would also be forcing) P
Shows 1 KC missing 6D All Pass

This bidding diagram may jumble, but I trust you can figure it out. Very simply South is only interested in the 5 aces as any king missing will be easily finessed.

BTW, the king of trumps is not as good as almost any ace, especially when the defensive bidding has basically established its location, but here, since it is behind the ace, better beware.

Other longer sequences will still get to the 6 diamond promised land. While West could possibly preempt higher if he had a slightly longer trump suit, being void in diamonds, but if South had one bid to make it would be 6 diamonds. Some NS’s may be in 7 but that is their problem, not ours.

Good luck with your family and happy trails. We miss your warmth.

MirceaAugust 9th, 2014 at 4:56 am

Thanks for the wishes, Bobby. Do you really agree with South’s Rdbl, or is it a matter of style?

bobby wolffAugust 9th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Hi Mircea,

Yes, I certainly agree with an immediate redouble, if for no other reason but to tell partner, and in no uncertain terms, this is OUR hand.

Delving deeper and into trends, it has become a modern style (among the elite) to only redouble when interested in defending and to show trump fits (and sometimes unlimited hands) by making some other trump fit bids (often artificial) to differentiate offense from defense. However, when doing so, partner sometimes remains in the dark as to strength and when the opponents distribution (especially at unfavorable vulnerability for the strong hands) allows immediate high preemption by the partner of the overcaller, that doubt as to strength takes on a dangerous lack of communication.

The cliche of “The more things change, the more they stay the same” applies here and at least my experience has clearly shown to me, that in the very early stages of bidding, it benefits the opening bidder to unequivocally state to him (and as early as possible), what both partners need to know so that judgment later on moves up (at least to me) the necessary notches for consistent success.

The above advice does not necessarily apply while playing some ultra modern artificial relay system where one person asks and his partner tells, but then that method becomes severely handicapped when their NV opponents can up the bidding immediately taking away most, if not all, of that system’s advantage.

I hope that the above is helpful since it is heartfelt, but perhaps controversial.