Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

The liar’s punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.

George Bernard Shaw

South North
Neither ♠ 8 4 2
 K Q J
 K Q 10 9
♣ 8 5 3
West East
♠ A Q 10 6
 9 7 6
♣ J 9 7 6 2
♠ 7 5 3
 10 5 3
 7 5 2
♣ A Q 10 4
♠ K J 9
 A 8 4 2
 A J 8 6 3
♣ K
South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


The most difficult hands to lead from are those where the opponents have a blind auction to a no-trump contract, leaving you three or four possible suits to choose from. Without an attractive or safe sequence, I’ll attack from a five-card suit, and often look to go passive rather than lead from four to an honor, especially four to an ace. Where faced with an equal choice of a major or a minor, you might prefer to lead a major if the opponents have not explored for a major-suit fit.

In today’s deal both Souths elected to open one no-trump, treating their hand as balanced rather than making a light reverse into hearts. Whether you agree or not (I’m not sure I do) in one room against three no-trump West was a believer in leading majors against no-trump. South won in hand and cashed his nine red winners, to make ten tricks. In the other room West led the club six, taken by East with the ace. When declarer followed with the club king, the layout of the suit was known. East cashed the club queen and West dropped the jack, then followed with the nine under the 10 strongly suggesting a spade shift. East now played the spade seven through, covered with the jack and queen. West won and put East back on play by leading the club two to the four for a second spade through. The defense took five clubs and four spades – a six trick difference from the other room!

A call of two hearts may look obvious here, and so it is. But in making that call, be aware that you are suggesting not only a four-card heart suit with equal or probably longer diamonds, but also you are guaranteeing a hand that wants to force to game. Had you held a weaker hand, you would almost certainly have started by responding one heart.


♠ K J 9
 A 8 4 2
 A J 8 6 3
♣ K
South West North East
  Pass 1♣ Pass
1 Pass 1 NT 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


Bill CubleyApril 28th, 2015 at 11:11 am

In The Color of Money, Paul Newman tells Tom Cruise, “Money won is twice as good as money earned.” South seems to bid by that thought. Tricks won by misleading the opponents are twice as good as tricks earned. Will we need a new IMP scale and a new matchpoint scale?

jim2April 28th, 2015 at 2:06 pm

On BWTA, I must confess that I would bid 3N and, in fact, would give little consideration to any other bid.

We have no great suit fit, and pard has made a limit bid. As far as I’m concerned, the best way to force to game is to bid one, especially when I can do so with a limit bid of my own.

Bobby WolffApril 28th, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, in both The Color of Money and The Cincinnati Kid, I believe, also starring a late and great actor, Steve McQueen, the gambling and highly competitive game and sports playing world (Pool and such) is emphasized.

While both of the above included shady practices, requiring mental toughness, determination and above all extraordinary talent to rise and then stay on top that focus, no doubt, at least to me, concerned itself with big time money sometimes involved.

Playing bridge is quite different. While table ethics are strict, without the required amount, we have no game at all, that active ethics theme revolves around a player not knowing more about his partner’s hand than the opponents, consequently deviations from the norm (opening 1NT with a singleton) are entirely legal and not to be either condemned or even just criticized.

Yes, sometimes an evil trend develops wherein some pair is suspected of knowing more about
his partner’s hand(s) both in the bidding and play (often too many sensational leads, hitting partner’s best suit, when on reflection another lead from that player, with that hand, stands out) and, if so, suspicion rises, making both the specific times for doing such things, together with the reasons for, recorded until the powers who be are satisfied that coincidence, rather than stealthy cheating, is involved or, of course, the other result, which should be dealt with the same as MURDER I in real life, since those players are committing a like crime to an inanimate object, the game itself.

Very serious and difficult for all to deal with, but our worldwide tournament game MUST find the best way to handle these situations, but with all the fears out there regarding law suits and such, this subject remains quite primitive in practice.

Opening 1NT with a singleton must always be an option for any player, and to do so is in no way a violation. Only if partner is in a position to be privy to information which should be announced to their worthy opponents (or, for that matter, not so worthy) and my experience with that particular minor ruse has never uncovered anything worth discussing, since, after all, unless stealthy cheating (communicating with body signals) is also involved the 1NTers hand distribution, at least during the bidding, will remain a mystery.

The above difference in determining wrongdoing is critical in being able to participate in a fair bridge game and all bridge lovers need to address the above concepts and adjust to them, otherwise the unjust suspicions created, will always be an ugly slippery slope, only sometimes leading to unjustified hard feelings which remain with.

Bobby WolffApril 28th, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Hi Jim2,

Little to no quarrel with not only your bid, but also your reasons. When almost all roads lead to the same final contract with almost no reason to detour, simply bid it, which in effect, gives one’s worthy opponents the least information possible to select his best opening lead.

However, not all partnerships are as precise as probably your favorite one, in not occasionally overlooking a weakish 4 card major and instead merely rebidding 1NT to show minimum and balanced values.

Imagine partner having either s. Axx, h. QJ10x
d. Kx, c. Axxx (a decent 6 heart slam) or s. Axx, h. Kx, d. KQx, c. Qxxxx (6 diamonds is OK).

While I am not treating you fairly by merely even discussing specific holdings (which only very rarely occur) some highly aspiring partnerships want to excel in some signature situations causing them to explore, explore, and then explore some more, which merely is a fancy description of finding out later rather than sooner that, IMO (and certainly yours) it is just NOT WORTH IT!).

You would be surprised at what a high percentage of the world’s best partnerships believe differently than you and I, but to each his own.

jim2April 28th, 2015 at 4:02 pm

I do not think any of my partners would fail to bid one heart with your first hand. I agree that there are some “perfect” hands of a diamond slam but I doubt my partnerships could ever get to them and the risks in trying might over-match the few times there are gains.

Bobby WolffApril 28th, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Hi Jim2,

While again I agree completely to your overall summation, I only throw in the common practice of avoiding being stereotyped and sometimes, in the interest of simplicity and expediency to deal with the elephant which has walked in, of always rebidding the major instead of making use of the advantages of rebidding 1NT, while holding a 4 card major.

When stereotyped into always rebidding the major, a partnership becomes (perhaps unknowingly to them) easier to play against when both doing so or even instead occasionally bypassing it. Even on occasion the entire correct defense by good opponents are led astray and an extra trick sometimes appears as a reward. Add that to the many times it either occurs or doesn’t, and you can then understand the advantage, although or other (usually rare) occasions when not showing the major results in eventually, because of checkbacks available, still limping in with being where one wants to be.

All rather obscure, but nevertheless realistic in what now constitutes the high-level application of bridge bidding and its choices.

Which is right and which is not, would be, IMO a close vote, with very modern practice probably showing a plurality for obscurity.

Certainly your vote would be in favor of the melody of what you have played successfully for years, but I ask you to keep an open mind as to what now happens. By doing so, I think you will agree that the overall results, although different might still measure up to good enough and bite your tongue, perhaps even slightly better.

Thanks for keeping check of this sometimes emotional roller-coaster of a discussion.