Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.

Friedrich Nietzsche

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


In this deal from a recent Gold Coast tournament in Australia, declarer observed that the opposnents do not always defend correctly; but it is up to you to make them pay. Michael Prescott was South, on an auction in which he sensibly came in over one no-trump, assuming that either he or his opponents would be very close to making their contract. In general one wants to respond to a takeout double if one can.

Equally, North should not have invited game by raising two hearts to three, thus risking giving up the plus score. One might compete to three hearts over three clubs, but a very different sort of calculation would be involved.

Against Prescott’s delicate contract, West led a top club and shifted to a top spade instead of playing a heart. Prescott ducked, won the next spade to ruff a spade, then trumped a club in dummy. Next, he played the fourth spade and pitched a diamond from hand, at which point West gave declarer his chance when he discarded a club rather than a diamond. East exited with a third club, and Prescott ruffed in dummy, then played the top diamonds and ruffed a diamond.

By now Prescott was fairly sure that West, who had a balanced hand, would have opened a strong no-trump with the heart king. So he led his last club and pitched dummy’s diamond when West produced the king. Success! East was forced to ruff his partner’s winner, then lead away from the heart king. Contract made.

With a dead minimum and only four hearts, it looks normal enough to pass your partner's invitational call of three hearts. But if your partner has both clubs and hearts, as you would expect — since the only other hand-type he might have is a balanced 18-count — maybe your fitting cards in clubs make you just worth a raise to game.


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


SlarOctober 22nd, 2014 at 2:40 pm

RE: BWTA I was taught to try to construct a minimum hand for partner that will produce a cold game. When I do this, I come up short. For example:
I think if partner was 5-4-3-1 then an opponent would have found a bid. Is that too pessimistic a view? Or is this part of the modern style of bidding any close game and relying on your superior card-playing skills (which I do not yet possess) and pressuring the opponents as much as possible?

Bobby WolffOctober 22nd, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Hi Slar,

A plaintiff wail which seems to be supported by at least some bridge logic.

Yes, if an opponent had a 4-3-5-1 hand he might have come into the bidding, but there are still many very good bridge players who still prefer the Roth-Stone long ago philosophy of waiting until their opponents are finished and only then to stick their toes into the water.

Your example is only a 2 1/2 heart bid (certainly only 2 from a Roth-Stoner) and one can add the queen of spades and only have what most would consider a 3 heart bid, but of course, with a 3-4-1-5 same honor hand it would raise itself to a 4 diamond shortness rebid, which, of course is a slam try.

While overall, your type of wondering about the dog who didn’t bark has a definite place in improving one’s bidding judgment, but too much thought in that direction will likely be counter productive. Bridge opponents are nothing, except unpredictable.

No more needs to be discussed with you about bridge being a bidder’s game. We all know that, and any more propaganda in that direction, may (will) cause it to rise to epidemic proportions.

SlarOctober 23rd, 2014 at 3:22 am

It seems my question is more systemic than judgmental – what does opener’s 3H response really mean? Since I underestimated what partner suggests with his bid it is no wonder I was off. This kind of thing is so fundamental yet it is easy to overlook when studying. Unless I’ve completely gone blind, Steve Robinson’s Washington Standard completely skips this topic!

bobby wolffOctober 23rd, 2014 at 5:50 am

Hi Slar,

While progressing up the bridge ladder of success, there will be pauses and sometimes a setback, but with above average determination all worthy somewhat talented players are very likely to make it. However there is no substitute for experience at the table and against good competition valuation problems become relatively second nature.

Yes, many of the world’s very best players have slightly different evaluation judgment, but after a number of sessions a partnership gets to know each other well enough to be able to predict what to do.

But without the repetitions a lesser experienced pair will suffer some until they gain enough consistency to march onward.

The playing of high-level bridge is indeed unique so that many subjects are not as rigid as one may expect, but coordination with partner is what counts.

If some people think alcohol and drugs can lead to addiction, they would learn that many determined bridge players think, eat, and respond completely to what happened at the table the last time they competed.

The above is my opinion, but my disclaimer only applies to some large numbers in the population who just don’t cotton to numeracy, games and mind competition. For that group, they would be better to stay away, just to avoid the frustration of being unable to coordinate the basics into the great challenge the game represents.

Good luck!

Bob HerremanNovember 11th, 2014 at 1:41 pm

a work of beauty !