Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 21st, 2016

There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.

Stephen Covey

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


In today’s deal, North-South had only 23 points between them and no huge fit, so game would seem a long way away. However, the young Polish player Piotr Butryn had no trouble both bidding and scoring up his game.

When West led the spade jack, East needed to overtake with the ace and return a heart to set the game. At the table, though, the spade jack held the first trick. West continued with a second spade, ruffed by declarer. How would you play?

One possible line would have been to cross to dummy with the heart ace to run the club jack. However, once East has the spade ace, the odds surely favor West holding the club king for his overcall. Additionally, even if the club jack held, what would you do now? Would you take another trump finesse or switch your attack to a red suit, choosing between a diamond finesse or hoping to guess well in hearts?

Butryn went for a different line. He cashed the diamond ace and king. When this dropped the queen, he simply played clubs from the top and claimed his contract. Had the diamond queen not dropped, he would have played a third round of the suit, hoping that they broke 3-3. Then he would have won the return, crossed to dummy with the heart ace and finessed in clubs. Had the king been with East and the suit broken 2-2, he would then have made his game by discarding a heart on a diamond, then ruffing two hearts in the dummy.

When playing negative doubles, your inclination should always be to re-open in auctions of this sort, whether holding extra values or not, so long as you are short in the opponents’ suit. Here you have both extras and short spades, making your decision an easy one. Yes, you have only three cards in the unbid major – but that should not distract you from showing your basic hand type.


♠ 3
 Q 10 2
 A K J 4
♣ A Q 10 8 3
South West North East
1 ♣ 1 ♠ Pass 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


jim2May 5th, 2016 at 12:50 pm

In BWTA, I agree that South’s bid this round is straightforward. The real question is what to do if pard reopens.

In the column hand, pard bid 1N, East raised spades, and South stretched to 3D. So, what should South bid in an uncontested auction if North:

1) 1N? — pass, 2C, and 2D all have some merit — I think I would 2D
2) 2C — I think Pass is clear
3) 2D — 3D, 2S, and more D all have merit but agreement on what 2S would mean would be critical
4) 2H — South has a nice heart hand, but no 4th heart and pard’s failure to make a negative double suggests Pass
5) 3H — I think 4H would be irresistible

Dear Host? Your thoughts?

bobby wolffMay 5th, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Hi Jim2,

Making sure we are not going to be perpetrators of convention disruption I am assuming that I open 1 club as dealer, followed by a 1 spade overcall by LHO and your following bids by partner (North),followed by pass from RHO.

1NT-I would rebid 2 diamonds, no doubt a small overbid, but my 1-3-4-5 distribution is strong enough to bid naturally.
2C-I would definitely rebid 3 clubs to show extras but more so to let partner know to be ready to further compete if and when West then rebids. Both constructive and obstructive, meaning necessary.
3S-Splinter for diamonds with shortness and at least a game going hand
4H-not a splinter since I only hold 3 hearts, but certainly want to be in game which stands out to be 4 hearts and likely no other.
4H-since it is standard practice in most experienced partnerships to play preemptive jump shift responses in competition since strong ones almost never occur when an opponent overcalls. If strong I would head immediately to slam searching for the AK of hearts, the ace of spades and the king of clubs for a grand slam.

I hope we are on the same wave length. If not, please tell me what I have misinterpreted.


jim2May 5th, 2016 at 7:28 pm

Sadly, we are not on the same auction. 🙁

I agreed with BWTA that South should double. The auctions I suggested cover the SUBSEQUENT N-S bidding. That is:

1C – 1S – P – P
Dbl – P – ? — P

bobby wolffMay 6th, 2016 at 9:46 am

Hi Jim2,

Sorry for my misinterpretation.

First and sadly paramount. although North, with the hand he was dealt needs to bid 1NT immediately since, in its absence and a pass instead will only cause a labored future auction. Therefore, while attempting to answer your questions, please keep in mind that now South should not play North for as much as he holds.

If partner now bids 1NT, I would rebid 2 clubs, hoping to improve the part score contract. Partner will usually pass, but if he was dealt s. Qxxx, h. Kx, d. xxxxx, c. xx he should slide to 2 diamonds. Also, if holding instead s. Q10xx, h. Kxxx, d. xxx, c. xx 2 hearts rather than pass would be my choice after the 10 of spades influenced me to test 1NT instead of 2 hearts which would be many good player’s first choice.

However, the lower contract 1NT guards against partner not having 4 hearts, likely about a 50-50 chance, but of course the 2 heart choice does not offer a reciprocal opportunity.

However if partner bids either 2 diamonds or 2 hearts, South should be happy, but not nearly pleased enough to raise him.

And it is almost unthinkable for North to now jump to 3 hearts (why didn’t he double the first time?) but perhaps with s. Axxx, h. Jx, d. Qxxxxx, c. x he might now jump to 3 diamonds and if so, South might (should) now follow suit by also then leaping to 5 diamonds. Note the importance of North having the ace of spades instead of the king.
With only possessing the king of spades, 2 diamonds is enough because of the 11 tricks necessary for a diamond game with the possibility of 3NT not quite valid enough to warrant the big jump.

Perhaps I am playing results, but I hope not and to do such a thing is definitely not my style.