Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Wherever we go, across the Pacific or Atlantic, we meet, not similarity so much as the bizarre. Things astonish us, when we travel, that surprise nobody else.

Mary Ritter Beard

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


One of the most interesting play or defend problems from the summer nationals last July in Atlanta confronted Glenn Milgrim, who declared three spades doubled, after some optimistic bidding from both members of his partnership.

Milgrim won the club lead and ducked a diamond to East, Richard Oshlag, who resisted the temptation to play trumps when declarer would have set up the diamonds. Instead, he carefully reverted to clubs to kill the dummy entry.

Oshlag won the heart exit from dummy to play a trump, and declarer could take only two aces and six trump tricks when West, Paul Munafo, ducked his trump king.

Afterwards, Milgrim was kicking himself for missing a beautiful play. The way home at trick four is to play the diamond ace and ruff a diamond, after which you must ruff a club — but take care to ruff with the spade ace.

When dummy next leads a winning diamond, East must ruff in and declarer overruffs. If West discards, declarer will ruff a club in dummy for his ninth trick, so West must overruff and cash a heart. He must then exit with a trump to stop the crossruff, but thanks to that earlier high ruff, declarer can overtake dummy’s spade jack with his queen, draw trumps, and give up a club. He still has a trump to go with his fifth and master club. His nine tricks are four trumps in hand, the diamond ace, two clubs and two ruffs.

Your partner's two-club call is natural and nonforcing. Should you go back to spades here? I think so, though it is very close. Admittedly, your partner could rebid a chunky five-card spade suit, so he is as likely to have clubs equal to or longer than his spades. But you do have only three clubs, and he will be expecting more.


♠ K 5 4
 A Q 4 2
 7 6 2
♣ K 9 6
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1♠ Pass
1 NT 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuAugust 9th, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Hi Bobby,one spade by South over RHO’s one club if NV,but would you bid 1S here vul.?Two spades seems risky after 2H by opener opposite an unpassed hand. Playing pairs,pard and I could not agree on this hand-North AK8 K876 8 K10764~East Q643 AJ52 652 J5~South 109752 43 AK7 Q98~West J Q109 QJ10943 A32.Dealer N All v.North 1C East p South 1S West 2D~North DBL(support double) East 3D South 3S(x by me is penalties according to pard) West pass North 4S~pass out.I went -2 for 200 not a success,as most are in 2s or 3s making.Pard said his hand justified 4S,I did not agree observing that there’s a lot of bidding by all four players therefore the cards may not be ideally placed.Am I being wise after the event?Holding AQJ3 AJ9765 6 K10 after 1H(4 card majors)-2C(9+),2S-3H(4H perhaps better),4C-4H,do you think pard should try 4 slam?He did 4N-5D(0/3)West doubles n 5H went one off losing AD AC n king of hearts over AJ9xxx.4H went off as well,almost average.Was he right to bid on as I did not cue 4D?I held 104 Q82 KQ75 QJ97.East K986 K103 9832 42 West 752 4 AJ104 A8653.Pard reckons if King of hearts was onside he would have been ok.. there was the small matter of doubleton club lead and QH finesse for those in 4H..Your thoughts would be much appreciated.Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffAugust 9th, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Hi Patrick,

Sorry for the delay in answering.

At least to me, 4 card majors has died out, succumbing to the comfort which 5 card majors seemingly provides. While I accept that, what really does hurt is when one does luck into meeting a new 4 card majorite, he (or she) has not been properly indoctrinated in their use, particularly while applying its different value system.

With your hand, s. 104, h. Q82, d. KQ75, c. QJ97, and having partner open 1 heart, you should (IMO) only raise to 2 hearts, in spite, of course, of having support and 10 full blown HCPs. Obviously when partner may have only 4 hearts (often) this hand should be downgraded until proven otherwise.

Obviously your partner then should only just jump to game with nothing left to discuss. However, if someone doesn’t see things like I do and does respond 2C (I would probably choose 2D, but that is not worth delving deeper) and then, of course, prefer 3 hearts to partner’s strength showing reverse, the most partner should do is, as you have suggested, make a strong bid of 4 clubs and then quickly pass your return to 4 hearts (which would be made post haste (PH), although an ethical PH.

The post mortem between the players (your partner) afterward smacks of protecting the bidding decisions, but the actual sequence is enough off the mark to warrant serious introspection.

I hope I have made clear the different value system necessary to effectively play 4 card majors. It is truly a shame, (IMO) that 4 card majors are now a forgotten method and its preemptive (to the opponents) and its often getting to final correct contracts so much faster than while playing 5 card majors should never be underestimated. Both for making opponents not taking risks they now do not have to take (overcalling at the two level instead of only at the one and also not being able to have the chance to make lead directing overcalls to near the degree they can now.

The above, all mightily figure into the winning or losing which, after all, is basically why we play the game.

Patrick, just be glad this hand came up as it gives us the ability to sort certain fundamental concepts out.

Patrick CheuAugust 9th, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Hi Bobby,do you agree with the sequence on the first hand,should pard bid four spades with AKx K876 8 K10764,after 1C-pass-1S-(2D)/Dbl-(3D)-3S-pass/4S??Dbl by pard is support double.My hand being-109752 43 AK7 Q98.Double of 3D by me would be penalties and 3H game try if not doubling 3D,accordg to pard.

bobby wolffAugust 9th, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Hi Patrick,

If 3H by you would be a game try in spades, but instead you merely bid 3 spades, my inclination would be to pass with the 3-4-1-5 even though that hand has good potential.

The reason for the above becomes complicated, but certainly worth explaining , since you love the game and aspire to become as good as you can get.

Sometimes a 3 spade competitive bid is equivalent to a pass if his RHO would have passed and not raised his partner in diamonds.
It then follows that since everything in either IMPs or matchpoints is calculated to get the best score possible and sometimes -50 or even -100 (depending on the vulnerability, IMPs or matchpoints, and the assumed tendencies of the particular opponents) will beat the possible (or likely) -110 if 3 spades is not bid.

The FEEL at the table becomes critical to such activity and markedly affects competitive bidding. Are the opponent’s fiercely competitive which means bidding boldly and penalty doubling when thought appropriate?

When dissecting the above paragraph there needs always to be discipline among partnerships who are attempting to play every hand as if it is their last one. That discipline results in neither partner getting in each others way.

All the above is describing how and why when one of your partnership competes to 3 spades (using this example) he may doubt seriously his ability to make it or maybe even go set 2 tricks, but he doesn’t want to sit still for -110 and hopes to go down less or drive the opponents to the 4 level and even wind up plus.

Your hand was s. 109xxx, h. xx, d. AKx, c. Q98, but it could be Q10xxxx, Ax, xxx, xx and I would still bid 3 spades, but with KQJx, Axx, xx, xxxx I would pass, and if not and the opponents were both aggressive and vulnerable, I would double.

The above would likely be the tactics of all truly top players who, although neglecting to almost ever discuss such things with partner, would follow a similar path in actual play. Some do not mind aggressively doubling opponents who like to compete and others merely accept their plus score without risking running into an unlucky or more highly distributional hand than expected.

However, this whole topic accents the discipline required in order to be on firm ground with one’s partner. Captaincy is the subject and in competition, it is the most important aspect of it.

I DO NOT like support doubles, but rather do not mind raising partner’s bid major with only 3. The reason is that when the original major bidder, after getting a support double from partner, seeks out another suit (usually his partner’s minor) it serves to lionize even just average + opponents into always then making the right decision in competition and that fact alone, in spite of almost brilliant play with your own partnership, will usually deny you the ability to win the prize.

In order to claim the medal, one’s opponents MUST not play up to their potential and your partnership can make that happen by being tough opponents, not soft ones.

There is more to discuss here, but at this point, we need time to think and understand what is being said.

Patrick CheuAugust 10th, 2014 at 7:35 am

Hi Bobby,there is much food for thought in what you say here,and I have learned so much from this blog,it’s all thanks to you.Passion is what keeps us going in bridge and in Life.Best Regards~Patrick.