Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, this was a man.

William Shakespeare

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


The death of my good friend Ernesto d’Orsi three months ago came as a terrible shock. Ernesto had been president of the World Bridge Federation directly before my term in the job. I valued him as an adviser and a friend, and when my late wife, Debbie became seriously ill in the early 1990’s, he traveled to our home, with many hours of music, and presented her with a selection of songs he had put together from the current Broadway shows. He also performed as an unpaid disk jockey in Sao Paulo on Saturday mornings at a popular local radio station playing exclusively, Broadway Show musicals.

On this deal from the round of 32 match between the Campos and Cayne teams in the Vanderbilt, West started with the club queen, taken by d’Orsi with the king. At trick two, he played the diamond jack, then the diamond queen, overtaken by the king as East ducked twice to prevent declarer running the diamonds.

Given a second chance, d’Orsi ran the heart jack, then led the heart 10, covered by East. After cashing his third heart winner, d’Orsi exited with a club, and West ran the suit. Dummy discarded a diamond and a heart, East two spades, and d’Orsi a diamond, a spade then a heart.

At trick 10 West could do no better than exit with a low spade, and d’Orsi put up the jack and claimed the rest when it held. Had West exited with the spade queen, d’Orsi’s nine would have won trick 13.

I tend to respond one no-trump for both strategic and tactical reasons with hands like this. We will occasionally get too high, but I feel the necessity to keep the opponents from getting their act together is well worth the occasional investment. Using a forcing no-trump is helpful here, since when followed with a heart preference it is entirely consistent with these values.


♠ J 8
 J 10 3
 K 10 5 4 2
♣ 9 8 7
South West North East
    1 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


AviApril 15th, 2015 at 10:19 am

Bobby hi

On BWTA, why not bid 2H straight off?
Both cases basically deny spades, so those bids won’t stop the opponents from balancing.
precisely because of my weak hand, I would rather show partner support and a weakish hand, then let the opponents find a club fit or lead direct.
And should partner make a game try, or leap on his own, then he better play it well.

Bobby WolffApril 15th, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Hi Avi,

Regarding the BWTA, I have absolutely no quarrel with instead raising hearts immediately and accepting your strategy for the reasons you carefully explained.

However, for those who play a forcing 1NT response, the column explanation is what many good players prefer. By so doing, the wily opponents may be led astray in assessing the overall distribution, since usually 1NT denies 3 of the major, and as many play, could also have 4 spades.

This deception, although common, sometimes strategically creates a working smoke screen which, in turn, allows the original bidders to buy the hand at a low level.

As you suggest, bidding two hearts is very straight forward and although very weak, is still within reason, and may keep your partnership from exclaiming later, “We have found the enemy and the answer is us”.

JeffApril 15th, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Hi Bobbi,

The way the column plays out, I think South didn’t cash his 3rd heart winner before exiting with the club as the rest of the column (including West exiting at trick 10, not trick 11) seems to read that way.

Great play in any case in some ways showing the intimidating power of a 2NT opening. East had no reason not to believe South was not holding the AC and if West had dreamed that South only had Kx, not Kxx in clubs, he would have no doubt made things clear by playing the A before the Q. It is always fun to watch a master bring in an “impossible” contract.

ClarksburgApril 15th, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Mr. Wolff,
In an earlier discussion, you indicated that on-balance with all aspects considered, you prefer to play the 1NT as semi-forcing (or “intended forcing” as JKW subsequently referred to it, and as I now announce it).
One benefit you mentioned is that LHO will be under some pressure to act, not knowing whether you have started a weak three-trump raise, or whether you may be in 11/12 strength range; and thus LHO has an opportunity to make an error.
So with today’s BWTA hand, bidding 1NT intended forcing, you might end up in 1NT when 2M might well be better. Presumably over the long run this trade off will work in favour of the 1NT intended-forcing approach. Is that the right interpretation?

JeffApril 15th, 2015 at 2:22 pm

er, Bobby, not Bobbi. Way too early here.

Bobby WolffApril 15th, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Hi Jeff,

I think the column description was correct in reporting that declarer first tried for the heart break before exiting with a club. East gets squeezed, while West was cashing his club tricks, between guarding the spade ten and the ace of diamonds.

Yes, scintillating declarer’s play (sometimes described as double dummy play, symbolizing playing as if an opponent’s hand is crystal clear for all to see) is what all aspiring players like to envision for themselves.

It can happen to anyone who is young at heart, numerate, and is disciplined to learn how to envision hands with accurate detective work. For example, how about you?

Bobby WolffApril 15th, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

You sometimes, especially in bridge bidding, have to give to get.

In return for likely stealing the hand in 1NT (with a 5 count opposite a 12-14 point balanced opening bid) you will then be forced to play an usually inferior contract in return for keeping the opponents from making a certain part score (or even a possible game) contract.

Such trade-offs are usually profitable, but, of course, especially if vulnerable, are sometimes not.

However it will always be wise for an aspiring partnership to discuss such antics as both practical and, more importantly, a learning experience.

Yes, you are, as seemingly always, right on.

Jane AApril 15th, 2015 at 10:19 pm

I must be missing something. With the queen of clubs as a lead, south takes the first club trick and starts on diamonds. Isn’t south always down one? Four clubs and the diamond ace? I can understand why east held up for one round but I don’t understand why he does not take the second diamond and then lead a club back to west who has four good clubs waiting to cash. If south has the club ace, then he is more than likely making the contract anyway. It seems pretty obvious that south needs an entry to the board and may only need two diamonds to make his contract. And yes, I also know that east does not know for sure that west has five clubs, but he led clubs for a reason. This time it was a really good reason.

But then you would not have put this hand in the paper either, right?

Bobby WolffApril 15th, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Hi Jane,

All my answers to you are YES (maybe I am lucky I was not born a female), however my partner has definitely shown East (by giving count) that declarer has precisely three diamonds, making it possible to deny declarer making more than two diamond tricks, by ducking the first two.

The bidding has not indicated anything spectacular (why can’t West have QJ10x(x) in clubs?), so all East can do is apparently in front of his nose, which means duck and hope, but alas, his prayers are not answered and your defense would have defeated that enemy, but not this talented opponent who sorts out the only winning solution to this difficult bridge problem.

If I were one of the two defenders I would immediately order transparent cards to keep this evil spell from happening again or, at the very least, a very stern look from West once East ducked the first time (horrors, only kidding).

Furthermore for all bridge analysts who might suggest for West to give East a false count of how many diamonds he had (so that he would take the second one and fire back a club), what if declarer instead had:
s. AKxx, h. AK, d. QJx, c. K654 and East took an early diamond?

BTW: if so, East would have held: s. 10xx, h. Q9xxxx, d. Axx, c. x and since I set up these hands that defense would have failed.

However, I will give you yet another yes, since I was taught very early in life, “Let the WINNER explain”.

David WarheitApril 15th, 2015 at 11:02 pm

After W leads the CQ and sees S win the K and lead DQ, it seems to me he knows two things: a) E almost certainly has the DA, and b) partner does not know that he (W) has the CA. He should therefore play low-high (3-8). E would then be forced to win the DA on the second lead of that suit, and he would then, of course, have no choice but to return a club. Down one.

Bobby WolffApril 15th, 2015 at 11:45 pm

Hi David,

After all this time, crossing in Cyberspace might have paid off, both on your supposition and my attempted retort

These types of conundrums happen and, in truth no one is right, no one is wrong, but what a tangled web one mounts, when first he practices to give false counts.