Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 16th, 2015

If you’re going to do something wrong, at least enjoy it.

Leo Rosten

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

*Typically 0-8 HCP


At the 1996 trials the encounter between the teams captained by Edgar Kaplan and Howard Weinstein went down to the wire. With 32 boards to go Kaplan led by 19, but they lost the last two sets, and with them the match.

This board featured an unlikely game coming home with nine tricks. Weinstein doubled a weak two spade opening, and heard his partner bid two notrump — which the partnership played conventionally as a negative. This is an extension of the Lebensohl convention. Weinstein now guessed to raise to three notrump, giving his partner Ralph Katz the delight of playing the contract.

Katz won the opening spade lead in dummy, and immediately led a low heart to his hand, as East (Bart Bramley) ducked, to pass the diamond nine. Bramley won the diamond queen, and returned the club nine; Katz took his club queen, and played a heart to the ace and another heart.

Bramley took his king and got out with a low club, but Katz could win in dummy and throw Bramley in with his club winners. Bramley had two clubs to cash, but at trick 11 he was obliged to lead a diamond into dummy’s tenace for the contract, and a 10 IMP pick-up to Weinstein.

The trials were eventually won by the Robbins team, who defeated my squad in the semi-finals. They say you only remember your losses, not your victories. In this case, that is certainly true!

Your partner’s three heart bid cannot show four, given that he bypassed one heart at his second turn. It suggests he has a fragment in hearts and is looking for three no-trump. Despite your singleton spade your soft honors in all the side-suits suggest notrump might be an easier game than clubs, so do as you are asked and bid three no-trump.


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


Joe1May 30th, 2015 at 10:48 am

On BWTA, when is fourth suit forcing (as we often see) and when does it ask for something else, such as a stopper as we see here. If N is 5-4 in C-S, then has a singleton or two doubletons in H-D; that with S own singleton could be precarious distribution forNT. With excellent C support, why not 5C? At least that was my thought.

Jane AMay 30th, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

Since the north/south pair played that their 2NT call could be 0-8, seems quite risky to me to put partner in three NT when he could be holding the zero or two point hand. Yes, I know, super flight A pairs play a different game than the rest of us mortals! But for those of us in the peanut gallery, what would be best on this hand? Should south bid that awful four card club suit, or take a chance of passing the double and hope partner has a decent enough hand to set the contract a couple, which this time he does? My partners never do however, and the opps would make three! Is this what would happen in Lower Slabovia, Jim?

jim2May 30th, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Jane A –

In LS, a few would have passed, hoping for +200 against no game, but the vast majority would have bid 3C. They revere Kaplan there, and one of his mantras was, “Take out partner’s take-out doubles.” Since I only have a Tourist VISA there, they would have sneered at my Pass, but not thrown me in jail.

As for Weinstein and Katz, I suspect that nuances might be there for his failure to bid 3C or Pass, but I do not know what they were.

bobby wolffMay 30th, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Hi Joe1,

First, to be directly dealing with your concerns we must take the solution in stages.

4th suit forcing to game only applies to the original responder (partner of the opening bidder) eg. 1D P 1H P 1S P 1NT P 2C only shows 12 or 13 cards in the opener’s three suits and asks for a preference, including pass, which almost certainly will end the bidding.

The 3H bid with the BWTA is merely a forward going bid by the opening bidder (he could have passed 3C) and asks his partner to DSI (do something intelligent). What we know from the 3H bid is what the opener didn’t do: Pass (self explanatory), 3NT (had enough hand and of course a heart stop, usually a secondary value such as the QJx or the K, impossible here, or likely the ace and wants you to be the declarer in case you hold the Qx (or such). However sometimes when his hand could be strong: s. AKxx, h. xx, d. Ax, C. AQxxx or s. AKxx. h. xxx, d. A, c. AQxxx without anything in hearts he would also tend (with 2 or 3 hearts) to seek out the 9 trick game instead of flying to have to take 11. If the opener was dealt short hearts (usually a singleton) he would hardly ever bid hearts, but once partner jumps to 3 clubs, head for a club contract somewhere between 3 and 7 with passing 3 clubs as little as s. Kxxx, h. x d. Kxx, c. AJxxx and heading for much higher with s. Axxx, h. void, d. Kxx, c. AQxxxx. (Don’t literally believe everything I say) because my hands are carefully selected to learn, rather than dealt by Dame Fortune who doesn’t always have the partnership’s interest in mind.

While hoping to not destroy the illusion of bridge being even close to a perfect science instead of what it really is, stocked high with judgment, you now need to take it from here, understand the necessity for making these nebulous bids (3H) and then jump to make do with what every other aspiring bridge genius has had to do, adjust to what is real.

You will only be judged from here in your performance, once you begin to fathom the restrictions imposed, all because of the limited code language (bidding) which is available.

I, for one, appreciate your enthusiastic interest and good luck with your “up” elevator.

bobby wolffMay 30th, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Hi Jane A,

Many very good partnerships play at least a form of Lebensohl over partner’s TO double of a weak two bid. The idea is to distinguish an outright bid of 3 of a new suit by the responder to show 7 or so+ points and not be a total Yarborough and then, of course, to bid 2NT to be artificial and to show 6 or fewer.

Decent enough in theory, but I do not like it and simply think that on results it is more minus than plus. True, it is played with the hope of being more exacting in results, but that hope is indeed questionable in practice (in other words, I do not agree), plus the unseen factor of, when arriving at a too aggressive final contract (it will happen often whether Lebensohl is played or not) the playing of this convention and others of the same ilk, makes for more enlightening defense which is never a good thing, except for that defense.

However some may play it so, like current fashion, they will be thought to be with it by playing a modern convention. Some like chocolate, some like vanilla, but IMO too many like to be thought of as thoroughly modern.

Believe whatever Jim2 offers about Lower Slobbovia. He has been there, done that, and emerged with many slush victories, but whatever one chooses, please do not pass any TO doubles into game without being assured (or almost) of at least a one trick set.

Incidentally the prizes for winning an event in LS are an extension of one free week after at their tournament hotel and two free weeks for the 2nd place finishers.

If however, you finish last you win the right to go home. slush or no slush.

bobby wolffMay 30th, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since you are, and by a significant margin, the highest ranked player from the USA to consistently attend their tournaments, I feel sure that whatever they would do, it would never result in you being thrown in jail.

However, that may not be an advantage since I hear they keep the jails warmer than their hotels. Add to that, the likelihood of the bars keeping Lena the Hyena from getting too close and it appears a slam dunk that fate might be one’s choice.