Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

1 Corinthians

W North
Both ♠ A 10 8 5
 A J 8 6
♣ A 8 7 5
West East
♠ K 9 4
 Q J 7 6 3
 7 3
♣ Q J 3
♠ Q 3
 K 5 2
 K 9 2
♣ K 10 6 4 2
♠ J 7 6 2
 10 9 8 4
 Q 10 5 4
♣ 9
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
Pass 1 Dbl. 2 ♣*
2 Pass Pass 2
2 ♠ Pass Pass 3 ♣
3 Pass 4 ♠ All pass

*Heart raise


The US trials are currently taking place in Denver, to select the open team to represent the US in the Olympiad in Wroclaw, Poland, later this summer.

All the deals this week come from the trials last May, and today’s deal saw something of a peculiarity. We have all been forced to bid with really bad hands, but when was the last time you saw a three-count take two free calls in a non-forcing auction?

Barry Rigal as North opened one diamond, showing five diamonds or an unbalanced hand. Jeff Aker, South, passed initially, but when he knew he was facing short hearts he decided to compete first in diamonds, then in spades. By his third turn, North knew that even though South had a really weak hand, with no more than four spades, he also surely had four diamonds. Since the auction had implied that South had heart length, he must have a singleton club. So North drove to game.

After a top heart lead Aker won the ace, played the club ace and took a club ruff, then took the losing finesse in diamonds. Back came a third club and Aker ruffed, crossed to the spade ace and ruffed the fourth club with the spade jack. West could overruff for the defenders’ second trick, but now the remaining trumps fell in one round and Aker had 10 tricks. That was worth a game swing, when the other table played partscore after North had opened one club and the double fit did not come to light.

Pessimistic as this might seem, I think you are not supposed to do more than raise to two spades. This is a serious game try; if your RHO had competed you would need to do more, since your call would not guarantee real extra values. As it is, though, if your partner has any sort of extras, he should bid on here. For the record, a cuebid here suggests three trump and 17-19 or so.


♠ A 10 8 5
 A J 8 6
♣ A 8 7 5
South West North East
Dbl. Pass 1 ♠ 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


Patrick CheuMay 24th, 2016 at 10:13 am

Hi Bobby,East 3C bid implies three card heart support and West has not jump 2H(if their system allows) has given the inference of club singleton in South’s hand..even on a trump lead from West,declarer is ok as trumps 3-2.Wonder if North would still bid 4S without East’s 3C bid,had East merely bid 3H? regards~Patrick.

Iain ClimieMay 24th, 2016 at 11:14 am

Hi Bobby,
East was perhaps a little unlucky, although at least EW didn't double 4S. Should his SQx have been enough to make him stop, think and take the cautious approach? He had 2 chances to leave NS in a partscore but didn't take either; was this unlucky or "loose lips sink ships", especially as West rates to have a minimum reopening overcall and not much more?

Patrick CheuMay 24th, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Hi Bobby, Do you think Iain’s comment merit the same question-‘Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men’?The reply ‘The Shadow knows’…? regards~Patrick.

bryanMay 24th, 2016 at 3:04 pm

After all the bidding, what happens if east ducks the first diamond?

bobby wolffMay 24th, 2016 at 3:35 pm

Hi Patrick & Iain,

Perhaps it is time, if proper analysis is in order, to break down this hand to reality.

1. Both sides had 20 high card points between them but NS had all four aces.

2. NS had no five card suits, but EW had two.

3. The only straight finesse, diamonds, was with NS and it was offside.

4. The other suit which may have required finessing was in spades and also by NS, and it may have needed to be guessed which way to go about it (since the critical nine was held by EW).

5. Both directions had good fits with EW possessing key jacks as fillers, but NS having two suits with aces opposite singletons and absolutely no “waste paper” in either suit, not to mention two potentially critical tens in the otherwise needy pointed suits.

6. However. NS held the spade length, affectionately called the master suit, and for realistic reasons, which then with very high-level reasoning, although passed out earlier (understandably) rose from the ashes to earn an excellent result when bid and played to best advantage.

At least to me, the above, although perhaps useful, perhaps not, are the underpinnings of what our game is about. While not nearly as complicated as rocket science or many other worthy endeavors it still regularly presents a mental challenge, if for no other reason than to just not make incorrect plays (both offense and defense) nor lose concentration during either the bidding nor the play.

Yes Patrick, far back in the early 1940’s (radio not TV) Lamont Cranston (with detective instincts), aka as the Shadow, had the power to make himself invisible, somewhat similar to other super heroes developed at that time, and was then, of course, then solving crime adventures. No doubt his powers were similar to playing good bridge (and sometimes, while on defense, setting them) by intelligently determining where all the important cards are located and then applying that magic to advantage.

And Iain, it is not necessarily incorrect or even slightly wrong, to reopening which then allows the opponents to change their minds and bid a game they otherwise would not have bid.

When these bids go set, nothing much is thought or said, but nevertheless allowing the opponents to “change” their minds is, in no way, always incorrect.

One, while at the table, just has to be ready for that unusual eventuality and therefore up to the task of proving their adventurous attitude being the wrong move, or, at the least, giving it your best effort while defending.

“The battle”? You are now joined, an attitude to which no doubt both of you, with your superlative spirits, more often than not, succeed.

bobby wolffMay 24th, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Hi Bryan,

Nothing much, as long as declarer does not repeat the diamond finesse, subjecting himself to a ruff on the third round.

It would be somewhat unusual for West to not cover the queen of diamonds, hoping his partner, not the declarer held the ten. And since he didn’t cover it, the declarer has a right to get suspicious as to why, and thus then disdain the second diamond finesse in respect to fear of what may happen if he didn’t.

All representing the back and forth of in play psychology, to which the very best players have the highest percentages of “guessing them right”.

However, you raise an important point to which there is no 100% answer and for that I thank you.

Patrick CheuMay 24th, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Hi Bobby, At the point when declarer runs the QD and no King came from West,is there a case for overtaking with the Ace(as the diamond pips are good enough to cater for 4-1)and continue ruffing clubs?Singleton King of diamonds though unlikely..

bobby wolffMay 25th, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Hi Patrick,

Your discussion has entered the realm of analyzing your specific opponents, and for that we should almost always use the word, “maybe”.

No doubt your suggested case is innovative, but whether it is percentage or not, I would have to be at the table to decide, and then only hope that the winning choice is made.

However thanks for your provocative suggestion, without which, we would be less better off.