Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.

Mark Twain

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


In the Yeh Bros Cup, this was the last board of a very close semi-final between the two undefeated teams.

Consider what you would expect to happen at a normal table. South will open one club, West will double, and East will happily respond one diamond. West now bids one spade, and there the matter rests; it will all be about overtricks. No need for drama.

Ah, but what if South opens a Precision one diamond ? Now after West’s double what do you do as East? You probably bid one heart now in fear and trembling; try and stop low now with the East-West cards. That was what happened to Joe Grue; he did bid one heart, and ended up in three hearts. Since he could never reach his hand to take a heart finesse the defenders scored their four plain tricks and could lead the 13th club to promote the heart nine.

In our featured room Meckstroth also opened one diamond and Bjorn Fallenius as West also doubled. Eric Rodwell passed as North, and Peter Fredin produced the sort of call that makes him such good reporting material. He passed one diamond doubled, gambling that Meckstroth would never sit for it even with moderate diamond length.

It worked like a charm. Meckstroth escaped from his best contract, and eventually declared two clubs, doubled and down 800. Even on best declarer play in one diamond Meckstroth would surely have gone down 200 – so Fredin’s pass was right in both theory and practice.

Your hand is obviously worth a drive to game, but is it possible that your side can make slam? Yes it is, though you will need some fairly specific cards opposite, which partner never seems to have. Maybe if you bid three hearts and get raised to four hearts (or hear a four club cuebid from your partner) you might consider going past game.


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


David WarheitApril 21st, 2015 at 9:16 am

Bidding challenge: switch the S & E hands. Now the best contract for EW is 6C. Do you see any way of getting there?

Bill CubleyApril 21st, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Back in town from Gatlinburg. I must be getting better, much better. In 2 days of play I outscored a team having over 200,000 masterpoints among the 6 players in 3 days of play. They were 1 KO win and 3 KO losses in the first 3 days.
Names omitted but you are a good guesser. 😉

Please don’t ask my total points won.

JeffApril 21st, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Not sure what I am missing in David’s question. Why isn’t 6S the best contract?

Jane AApril 21st, 2015 at 2:33 pm

I don’t play precision but I would open the south hand one diamond also. Partner would pass over the double and now it is up to east. I agree with bidding one heart. If I hold the south hand I pass as I have nothing extra and west can bid one spade. Now north has a decision to make, but his hand has little of value except four diamonds, which are not going to break well more than likely. Let the opps play their partial. If they make it, good for them. I have to wonder why Joe’s partner put him in three hearts. Joe promised nothing when he bid one heart, and nothing is about what he had, right?

Bobby WolffApril 21st, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Hi David,

How about: (only EW bidding) W. 1 spade, E. 2 clubs, W. 2 hearts, E. 2NT, W. 3 Clubs, E. 3 Spades, W. (ace asking, probably 4NT), E. (answer depending on agreement), W. 6 Clubs, E. Pass?

EW system: 2 over 1 GF with 1NT response over a major limited to 12 HCPs, allowing partner to pass 1NT with a 5-any 3-3-2 minimum 12-13.

West takes the bit in his teeth, knowing at least that declarer will be able to ruff one or 2 (maybe even 3) cards in the short trump hand and expecting partner to have a good suit (although this time only 4 cards).

That is why I have always suggested that the major difference among the very best world wide players is superior imagination, usually taking the form of visualization of how the two hands will mesh (West realizing that East, although basically restricted to only a doubleton spade on the above suggested bidding MUST have Kx or else he would have preferred either 3NT or accepting clubs with more length. with only Jx or less in spades).

Obviously partnership experience comes much into play, but you get what I am trying to say when a partnership gets there.

A possible amusing sidelight would recount my many years of experience in which my recollection would be that a so-called partnership mesh might and seems to occur often between two people who have very little else in common except seeing the ultra important qualities of bridge judgment the same way, but most all other aspects of life differently.

We live and hopefully learn.

Bobby WolffApril 21st, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Hi Bill,

Well, congratulations for what you won in Gatlinburgh. The pride you gain for doing better during a phase of the week than such a well endowed masterpoint team will make up for any not as high moments also present (only if there were a few).

All any of us can do is what was dealt to us and that encompasses how we played, how good our partner and teammates were, how little experience we had with this group and a host of many other variables. The above usually adds up to more than we can handle, at least in the consistent winning of events, but all of that needs to be taken in stride.

Good luck and please continue shocking the world (at least, how the world applies to Gatlinburg).

Bobby WolffApril 21st, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Hi Jeff,

Six spades requires either 3-3 spades or the jack dropping while six clubs only basically requires no worse than 4-2 clubs.

I think you will agree that stretches from around (slightly below) a 50% contract to perhaps a 75+% one, a rather large difference in success probability.

Yes, we are taught early in bridge to search out our longest trump fit, but the above discusses an exception, not a very rare case which applies often enough to take notice.

Bobby WolffApril 21st, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Hi Jane,

Thanks for the accurate assessment of what might result in the entire bidding. The sticking points is whether North should ever raise diamonds (certainly not opposite a Precision 1 diamond opening) and just how high West should take Joe’s response of 1 heart?

Remember West should have the right to expect that Joe possessed at least 4 hearts
for his response and if somehow he had as many as 5 and maybe 1 HCP (jack of spades) EW might have a heart game.

The above is only to set your keen sense of bridge imagination working and helping us all realize what a far reaching, yet unpredictable game we all love to play, where a predictable jack can be of immense value and other knaves totally worthless, depending on the match-ups.

Why is average to high-level bridge an immense challenge? Just the type of imagination which befell West as the partner of a player who turned out to have the worst possible hand for his bid, contributing to making this partnership looking foolish for getting too high.

Thank you, Jane A, for your always excellent contributions to our discussions.

David WarheitApril 22nd, 2015 at 8:58 am

Jeff: In addition to the spade distributions listed by our host, N could drop the 9 or J when declarer would start to draw S, and he would have to guess whether it was a singleton or doubleton J9 or even J9x.

bobby wolffApril 22nd, 2015 at 11:02 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for the added discussion on guessing cards, since clever defensive players are good at creating enticing alternatives to trap a this time, gullible declarer.

I remember in perhaps the early 1950’s and playing in a Regional in Houston against one of the better players in Texas, John Mothershed by name, when as a defender and looking at the dummy on my right holding AQ108x when declarer led the king from his hand and I, holding J9x dropped the jack. Since I looked innocent, (so young) the ruse worked when declarer then finessed the 8 on the next round of that suit. It was a super thrill for me, but the bad news is that now, some 60 years later, I do not remember either falling, not falling or defending that way since, signifying, not much.

Fun is fleeting, but exciting bridge experiences live on for a lifetime, at least in the mind of that one time winner.