Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory.

Miguel Cervantes

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


In one of the qualifying sessions of the European Open Mixed Teams in San Remo, there were several exciting contracts on this deal.

At one table North overcalled three no-trumps at her first turn, and East chose to lead the heart queen rather than her partner’s suit. Declarer Marion Michielsen won in hand and made the great play of the diamond jack from her hand. West won and switched to a top club, but Marion ducked, won the club continuation and could choose between setting up her ninth trick in hearts or diamonds. Had West ducked the diamond jack, then ace and another heart would have established the ninth trick.

At our featured table, where Huub Bertens was declarer, North raised to four hearts, and East made an aggressive penalty double. Warned of the bad break, the Dutch declarer found a way home. He won the club lead but cashed only one trump before playing a spade to his queen. This was followed by a diamond to the jack and ace, East returning another diamond. Declarer won, played a spade to his jack and ran the diamond nine. Next came two more spades, discarding a club, which brought declarer’s total to eight. When he played a club from the dummy he was sure to make two more trump tricks, for +790.

Incidentally I would follow Bob Hamman’s rule when considering North’s rebid: if you are considering several options and one of them is three no-trumps, that is what you should choose.

Your partner's three heart call is a transfer, showing five plus spades. Despite the fact that you have a minimum, your four-card spade suit plus excellent controls means that you should bid four spades. Imagine facing a Yarborough with five small spades and a doubleton club; you still have decent play for game, don't you?


♠ A K 7 4
 A K 4
 K J
♣ A 8 6 4
South West North East
2♣ Pass 2 Pass
2 NT 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


Iain ClimieDecember 6th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA today, the hand is so suitable that is it worth bidding 4C on the way to 4S? I recall some advice to make a game / slam try if a perfect minimum from partner will make the contract a laydown. Suppose pard has QJxxxx Hxx DQxxx Cx or 6 small spades and DAxxx; it is unlikely that he’ll move over 4S (especially in the first case) but the hand is so suitable that it may be worth a slight try.

There is a flip side, of course. Terence Reese pointed out that no partnership can bid all the marginal slams available while you quoted Bob Hamman as saying “Don’t assume I have exact cards, I probably haven’t”. 4C also might get doubled and this might be the best lead if pard retreats to 4S, although 4S is still likely to make.

Any thoughts or guidelines here? I accept that DKJ could be a mixed blessing, of course.



Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Hi Iain,

My thoughts and/or guidelines are, as usual, well covered by you.

Obviously, the calibrations necessary in determining just how good (or not so) one’s hand appears to be is always in the eyes, brain and control of the beholder.

Breaking it down, yes, once a strong sequence begins, there are three different gradations in responding to a three level transfer to 2NT. The minimum response is simply three of the asked for suit (in this case, spades). The middle rank is reserved for simply a jump to four, which, while always showing a decent fit for partner’s chosen trump suit (assuming the strong hand would rebid 4 of the major over a 3NT rebid offer by the responder) it still, to a degree, limits the upside potential.

When we then arrive at a super acceptance, a cue bid at the 4 level (4 clubs, diamonds or hearts) showing a good fit, controls (certainly at least the ace of the chosen suit) and not a minimum high card hand.

Cutting to the question, I think the opener should have a little bit more to bid 4 clubs (as you implied e.g. KQ of diamonds, instead of KJ). A possibly small improvement, but still IMO, necessary, in order to justify such an upgrade.

As has been said so many times, bridge is not a perfect science (and never will be) but rather
a scintillating exercise in mature judgment, with the meeting of the minds of the partnership usually determining their success.

Finally, as you also alluded to, the enemy is listening, and as the bidding develops, yes that partnership is seriously advantaged by accurate bidding along the way, but also never forget, so is the opponent’s opening lead and often even the early and overall defense.

However, truth between partners usually trumps that disadvantage, but be prepared, especially against the world’s best, to not be gifted during the play.

The better the bidding, play and defense, the better our off-the-charts game becomes. Everyone is invited to that party, but only the strongest survive to bask in the glory of winning.

MirceaDecember 6th, 2014 at 2:07 pm


Do you recommend this super acceptance of bidding a new suit if the opening has been 1NT, as well? If yes, the suit bid should be a long suit as opposed to a suit with a first round control, right?

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Hi Mircea,

No, one, in bridge, should never mix his metaphors unless it is demanded.

If one, over a transfer jumps to 3 of that major he will always have 4+ of that suit and likely more than a minimum. However, if he bids a new suit, it would be similar to what is described above with the ace of that suit, not length, very good trump support and a maximum hand.

The idea is never to suggest another suit as trump, but merely respond as if the partner of the 1NT bidder has already determined the strain (or perhaps NT) and is only then interested in the level.

Obviously, there could be longer trump fits out there, but one inviolate principle should always prevail. We cannot have very similar bidding have different overtones, otherwise chaos will likely occur.

Do not seek perfection, because by so doing, an otherwise hopeful bridge partnership will often fall by the wayside. Maintain consistency and practicality in all partnership discussions.

Always, thanks for your continued interest since other silent readers may also benefit from the sometimes controversial back and forth.

Patrick CheuDecember 6th, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Hi Bobby,Is this hand an automatic double(pairs),after N 2S(weak) E pass S 2N(askg) W 3C~N 3D(no alert)W pass S 3S ..West AJ1084 Void 105 AKQ875?Double by West will presumably be penalties..N KQ9763 94 J62 93- E 5 876532 Q973 64- S 2 AKQJ10 AK84 J102. Is there a case for West passing? Regards~Patrick.

Patrick CheuDecember 6th, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Sorry,after 3D by North,East pass.

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2014 at 11:11 pm

Hi Patrick,

In normal high level bridge, especially in competition, there are very few situations where automatic applies.

In fact, the poker element of subjectivity rules and doing the right thing to get a winning score is definitely the action we all want to take.

The factors involved are of course, careful attention to the bidding, with tempo and judgment on the alert. Also the type of game played, IMPs, rubber bridge or matchpoints becomes vital as well as the type players who are at your table.

Yes, you should always double a misfitting hand of the opponents when you know they will not run from it to a better contract, and no you should never double them, giving them the chance to find greener pastures, yes if they fear you are trying to get them out of their best contract you should double, but if they have a great deal of respect for your honesty in always having your bid, then you should not double.

I could go on and on, but I think you understand what I am suggesting. Be one step ahead of the opponents but not 2 steps since then, they will do the right thing for them, by sheer accident.

Some do not like this feature of our wonderful game and is simply not there at chess where everything is transparent and right in front of everyone’s nose.

However some love the mental competition with winning and losing, not having much to do with numerate skill, but rather only with fantasies of the mind.

Yes, with the subject hand in question, I would always double 3 spades in the pass out chair, except for the times when I wouldn’t.

In other words, go fish and BTW I wish you good luck.

Patrick CheuDecember 7th, 2014 at 10:47 am

Hi Bobby, My sincere thanks and all the best to you and Judy.