Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 26th, 2016

But Lord! To see the absurd nature of Englishmen, that cannot forbear laughing and jeering at everything that looks strange.

Samuel Pepys

E North
None ♠ A J 9 8 4
 Q 10 7 6
 Q 5
♣ 6 5
West East
♠ K 2
 J 8 4 3
 K 9 8 7
♣ Q J 9
♠ Q 10 6 5
 A 5 2
 10 2
♣ A 7 4 3
♠ 7 3
 K 9
 A J 6 4 3
♣ K 10 8 2
South West North East
      1 ♣*
Pass 1 NT Pass Pass
2 Dbl. All pass  

*Balanced 10-13


The bidding on today’s hand from the Gold Coast may look bizarre, but the Australian authorities allow unusual systems in national events, and the players are quite relaxed about dealing with even the strangest of methods. And it is the play that counts, today.

This deal saw the eventual winners, sitting East-West, do very well. Magnus Moren, East, opened his uninspiring collection to show a balanced 10-13 points. That persuaded Neville Francis as West to double the opponents’ balancing overcall of two diamonds.

At double-dummy it takes a spade lead to beat two diamonds; but after West’s normal club queen lead to declarer’s king, South started well by playing the heart king from hand. East won and shifted to trump – his choice of the diamond two meant Francis saw no reason not to win his king to return a trump. When declarer quite rationally let the diamond queen hold the trick in dummy, he found he could no longer make the hand. He had four diamond tricks, but only one trick in each of the side-suits.

The winning line is to overtake the diamond queen with the ace and draw one more trump. Then run the heart nine – overtaking with the 10 if West ducks. When it holds, you cash the heart queen to pitch a spade, ruff a heart to hand, then play the spade ace and another spade, ruffing in hand for your eighth winner (two hearts, four trumps and one trick in each black suit). A lot easier to find with the sight of all four hands!

A gadget that many tournament players use occurs in this sequence. Mike Smolen proposed a jump to three of a major here shows four in the bid major, with five in the other major, and game-forcing values. This allows for transfers to remain in place effectively. So if playing this you would bid three hearts, if not, you’d bid three spades, I suppose.


♠ A J 9 8 4
 Q 10 7 6
 Q 5
♣ 6 5
South West North East
    1 NT Pass
2 ♣ 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2March 11th, 2016 at 1:23 pm

I confess that I would lead a small club after being allowed to win the opening lead.

Peter PengMarch 11th, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff

Yesterday I held Jxxx spades and nothing else worth anything.

Partner opened 2S, NV against V, and RHO passed.

Sensing a big hand on my left, I furthered the pre-empt by bidding 4S.

LHO doubled, partner bid 5S and we played there, doubled.

Opps can make a small slam in two suits, and 4 pairs out of 8 tables bid it, four stopped in game.

We got -5, so it was an average board.

However, partner did not agree with my bid.

I thought that he did not have to further the pre-empt, as the opps would possibly stop in 5.

I would appreciate your considerations on the matter.

Best always


Bobby WolffMarch 11th, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Hi Jim2,

And so would I, meaning only that it feels right, allows the opponents to now guess what to do and is somewhat constructive in perhaps enabling a club ruff in the short trump hand.

Besides I have been told by a confidential source, that confessions make one feel better about being guilty or at least, thought guilty, and not to mention, for the soul.

Bobby WolffMarch 11th, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Hi Peter,

Taking your advice and after due consideration, I think it prudent for you to redefine, for your partner’s edification that among other things, preempts are intended to begin obfuscation in the method of bidding something which takes away at least some early bidding space away from those possible worthy opponents and at the same time arm one’s partner with some specific information about your hand. This your partner did. You then picked up the gauntlet and raised the level to 4 spades. At this point your side has done all it can do by forcing the opponents to hopefully have to guess at that fairly high level as to their best counter measures.

Those opponents then entered the bidding with a double, whereupon your partner violated his promise to you when he made his opening bid. That, of course, was making you captain. Instead he now re-assumed control of this hand and rose to the level of King Kong when he now bid again.

In practice and for your partnership future he may, on this hand, be right or wrong, but one thing for sure, he committed a major violation of the partnership which, in turn, unless immediately corrected will put a rather low ceiling on how high you two can rise.

You may have bid 4 spades with very little or instead have had a punishing double awaiting the opponents if they took it out and if they didn’t you would surely make your contract. But no, your partner was bringing in his cavalry to make a decision that only you should be making.

Maybe he thought however that if so your side would then outnumber their side in numbers of decisions to be made with him then again rejoining the fray. Well he is right about that, but wrong about the bridge discipline which is absolutely necessary to succeed at this difficult game.

Strong letter to not follow, but up to you to relay my kind opinion to him, unless you still want to remain on a speaking level with him.

Iain ClimieMarch 11th, 2016 at 6:31 pm

Hi Bobbby, Jim2, Peter,

A couple of stray thoughts, starting with South’s curious decision not to bid 1D over 1C – surely this is safer? Also, is there any mileage in West exiting with the DK if South returns a club at T2 as Jim 2 suggests? It loses a trump trick which then returns if South ruffs a club whereas a small trump exit allows South to win with the Queen and the HQ off table could be a Morton’s fork on East. Perhaps worth further investigation here?

On Peter’s Partner’s Precipitous Plunge, can I suggest a case where it might be acceptable? Suppose you open a twisted weak 2S on (say) KJ9xxx xx None Q10xxx or similar. Pard bids 3 or 4S, the oppo plough on and, with this sort of hand, bidding on works well if pard has (say) CAKx(s) amongst his assets when the 2nd or even 1st club gets ruffed. If pard is mean enough to hold DAKxxx or perhaps KQJx then the exact opposite is true. Biddding on with off-shape hands can work or misfire horribly, and will be judged solely by results. So, if pard meets Napoleon’s dictum on generals (I don’t care if he is good, is he lucky?) perhaps the odd flight of fancy can be forgiven. Alternatively, he has to buy the beer.



Iain ClimieMarch 11th, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Sorry, should be Hx away from the Q…

Bobby WolffMarch 12th, 2016 at 1:44 am

Hi Iain,

First loose ends. Rising with the ace when declarer leads away from the Q10x(x) can rarely lose since declarer if holding the king will win and always (or almost) finesse the 10 coming back, so the problem is then isolated as to whether that defender feels a need to get in.

As for bidding again with distributional hands. Of course, there are times for such things, but my admonitions have to do with fairly normal hands where many stray off discipline and wind up playing a game of last bidder gets the zero. All I want aspiring players to learn is some sort of expert discipline together with the theory of captaincy. One can violate the code, but to do so and be wrong is what to avoid. That partnership then will lose that hand, which is only about 10% of the damage, the other 90% in partnership confidence.

Learning high level bridge is not exactly learning to crawl before one walks, but rather to learn the counter intuitive disciplines which are the calling cards of great partnerships.

That is until cheating comes along when all players know it is the cowards way out. Perhaps in the future, only if the present world wide outbreak is handled severely, will our beloved game win and perhaps needs it to be done in order to only just survive.

Peter PengMarch 12th, 2016 at 4:35 am

Hi Mr. Wolff

Thanks for the very complete answer to my question.

I have another question.

What is the response with a zero point hand to a double of 1 spade?

Suppose your hand is


and LHO opens 1S and partner doubles.

I agree that I have to bid. My old teachings were that the 1NT response to the X would be the weakest imaginable hand.

Is that still correct?

thanks again


Bobby WolffMarch 12th, 2016 at 5:37 am

Hi Peter,

No it isn’t, although chirping 1NT may be as weak as 5+ s. J10xxx, h. Qx, d. Qxx, c. xxx especially over 1S dbl. since with almost nothing and only 3 spades while in response to 1H dbled, then 1 spade is a possible proper response.

Of course these chamber of horror hands do not often emerge, but with your example hand, bid your powerful 4 card suit, clubs,
and hold your breath. There is nowhere close to a perfect solution, and the only advice I intend giving is when doubling give partner some leeway before you jump to game. Holding: s. Q, h. AJ10x, d. KQ10x, c. AKxx merely raise 2 clubs to 3 voluntarily and with the ace of diamonds instead of the king, first cue bid 2 spades, but then pass partner’s return to 3 clubs, but if partner now volunteered 2NT instead of 3 clubs I would probably raise him to game in NT.

Back many years ago when “fish eyed coups” were in vogue sometimes over 1 spade dbl P partner may volunteer 1 diamond and when the opponents call the director and you are read your rights, then bid 2 clubs and (according to bridge law) your partner is barred.

However I do not suggest doing that since you now will be subject to a C&E committee if the opponents pursue it. I am only kidding, please do not do such a thing!!!!