Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 16th, 2015

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works ye mighty, and despair!

Percy Shelley

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


At the Dyspeptics Club, the post mortems are often more fun than watching the bridge. As a spectator remarked, what North’s comments lack in accuracy, they more than make up for in vitriol.

Against three no-trump West led the diamond queen and East scored his diamond ace, and returned the suit. Declarer won, tested hearts, then took the club finesse for his ninth trick. West won his king and cashed out for down one.

When South complained that every card was wrong, North snarled that it was his bad luck that every one of his partners was wrong-headed. That was true up to a point, but he then went on to say that the contract could always be made. He was only partly right.

When South wins the diamond king, he must strip West of his major suit cards, ending in dummy. Next he leads a diamond, and West can cash his diamonds but then has to lead into declarer’s club tenace. Equally, if East returns a club at trick two, declarer plays low and West wins the jack and exits with a diamond. The six major-suit winners reduce everyone to four cards, and so West cannot keep three winning diamonds and the club king.

There is a winning defense, but it is not one to be found at the table. East must play low at trick one, and now the defenders are a step ahead. West has two entries in clubs and that gives him an escape from the endplays.

If you play that you can use Stayman and then sign off in two spades over a two diamond response, you should do that. If that sequence would mean something else for you, your choice is to transfer into spades and risk missing a better heart contract or bid Stayman and follow up with two hearts, when you might play a 4-3 heart fit instead of a superior contract in spades. You pay your money…


♠ 10 8 7 5 2
 J 10 7 4
 A 5
♣ 9 3
South West North East
  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


ClarksburgApril 30th, 2015 at 11:17 am

About BWTA:
Seems Stayman followed by 2S over 2D can be played as either a sign off, or showing invitational strength with 5 Spades and 4 or 5 Hearts.
Is the choice a coin toss (“you pay your money”) or would you prefer one over the other?

Bobby WolffApril 30th, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Spoken by a very learned aspiring student of the game who is doing his very best to quickly hasten up the bridge ladder of success.

While the choice may be preferred differently by various types of players, mine (as you surely know) is to play 2 way Stayman (2C=NFG and 2D=GF) allowing the 2 spade rebid to be a virtual sign-off after an earlier 2C response e.g s. QJxxx, h. J10xx, d. xx, c. xx while a jump to 3S, nothing but an invitation, e.g s. QJxxx, h. J10xx, d. Ax, c. Jx.

What I mean by virtual instead of not is if the NTer held: s. xx, h. AQ, d. Kxx, c. KQJ10xx he would not, IMO, be wrong to now bid a final 3 clubs (although it could turn out that way).

Going back to Rapee (the real inventor of what is now called Stayman, George’s regular partner of that day) the meaning of a secondary response of 2 spades was meant to show 5+ spades and invitational values (7-9 hcps) called NF Stayman while some played that secondary bid as F Stayman, meaning unlimited and asking for continued description.

To that I used to prefer NF, primarily based on frequency of occurrence, now of course, superseded strongly by 2 way Stayman from the get go. Presently though, Jacoby Transfers have become the most popular convention related to original NT bidding and by a large number of top players, but to me, I do not and by a significant margin.

Some prefer American history, others English history, still others World history, but I am stuck on bridge history.