Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Put all your eggs in one basket and WATCH THAT BASKET.

Mark Twain

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



Some contracts may appear to be so straightforward that declarer takes his eye off the ball. Today’s hand was one such, and quite a few folk who should have known better ended with egg on their faces.

When South opened a strong no-trump at matchpoint pairs North might simply have shot out three no-trump. Instead he bid two spades, as a transfer to clubs. If South had simply bid two no-trump rejecting the invitation, North would have settled in three clubs. But when South bid three clubs, suggesting he would accept an invitation, North was happy to convert to three no-trump. For the record, a new suit by North would have shown a singleton now.

When West led the spade king, declarer was so delighted with his side’s combined assets that he took his eye off the ball. He called for the spade ace, then led a low club. When East pitched a diamond, the club suit was suddenly blocked, and nine top tricks had morphed into seven; and there were not enough entries for more than one red-suit finesse.

Even though this was matchpointed pairs, taking a red-suit finesse for a possible overtrick was far too risky. So there was no hurry to rush in with the spade ace. The cautious players ducked twice, then discarded a club on the spade ace, and had nine winner without a finesse. It doesn’t help the defensive cause if West switches to a red suit at trick three; that leads to an overtrick, since dummy still has an entry for the clubs.

Your hand is certainly worth a try for game. I cannot bring myself to invite in notrump (my partner could have an opening bid and we could still be off the first nine tricks) so my next call has to be in spades or diamonds. A simple raise to three diamonds looks safest, but I prefer a call of two spades since this seems the most likely game.


♠ K Q J 10 3
 9 6 2
 K 6
♣ J 10 8
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 ♠ Dbl. 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


slarJune 22nd, 2016 at 3:21 pm

RE: BWTA is 2S really a game try? Are you not allowed to drop dead in spades with no diamond tolerance?

bobbywolffJune 22nd, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Hi Slar,

No, 2 spades is not a game try, although if partner is void in spades he will probably rebid either 3 diamonds or possibly 3 clubs depending on what he holds.

Of course, he might if holding: s. Ax, h. x, d. AQJxxx, c. Kxxx chance a raise to 3 spades, showing a max holding for spades while only previously rebidding 2 diamonds.

Most everything in bridge bidding is related to the previous round or two and only trying to complete the description.

Rebidding the spades only is because of the solidity of the suit and the vague possibility of needing one less trick in a major than a minor to bid and make a game, should a miracle strike.

bruce karlsonJune 22nd, 2016 at 4:48 pm

Re: plays too fast. If declarer decides at trick one that he or she will eschew both finesses, there is no reason to not duck the first two spade tricks. While seeing the potential block is substantially above my pay grade, West might decide to lead a red suit as he or she must see that declarer looks to have 9 top tricks. Further, with 4 expected losers, the flavor does not matter. One hopes that after ducking I would have the sense to pitch a club…has the jury reached a verdict??

bobbywolffJune 22nd, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Hi Bruce,

Yes, both the play and sometimes even the analysis happen too fast. However with both experience and the concentration which goes with, we progress by bounds and leaps.

Obviously with any 2-1 club break, no blockage will occur so the hand of today does not happen often, but the knowledge learned should stay with the best and brightest, allowing them to reach their ceilings.

As a sidelight the above may cause others to understand what high-level players “hate” about ordinary duplicate bridge. The importance of overtricks at matchpoints cannot be underemphasized, making that game, not at all, what the greatest game of rubber or IMPs represents. That pursuit of overtricks is just too difficult a game (not unlike contract bridge’s grandfather, Whist) where sheer luck rather than skill dominates.

Of course, the great unwashed out there prefer duplicate, claiming it to be more exciting, but in reality there is much too much of a gambling element rather than just skill.

You tend to underestimate yourself, which turns out to be more socially acceptable, but in truth and no doubt, you can be a good student, and, if so, learning to play excellent bridge is a good investment of your time.

ClarksburgJune 22nd, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Further to SLAR’s question about BWTA…the 2S call.
Is there some nuance here?
Assuming NS are playing weak-jump-shifts not-in-competion, if South had a weakish hand suitable for signing off in Spades, that could have been conveyed with a 2S call at first turn.
So presumably the 2S call at second turn would show not only the nice Spades, but some better values.
So, if EW should decide to stick their nose in again at the three level, should a Penalty Double be considered?

bobbywolffJune 22nd, 2016 at 7:53 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Please forgive my digression.

IMO, and always just assume, that your subject is exactly why some exceptionally bright people, bordering on genius, have a terribly difficult time becoming very proficient at bridge, sometimes even attempting to rise above novice level.

Breaking it down, the best I can do is use the word “feel”, meaning, of course for the game.

If playing weak jump shifts by partner after opening bids, different, of course, than with playing weak jump shifts in competition which is much more often chosen by top partnerships (because of frequency and greater necessity due to competition already manifest), the suit then chosen for the preemptive jump should be at least six (sometimes seven) and look something like either KJ108xx(x) or QJ109xx(x).

Also, not as much as the Kx in partner’s opening suit, but perhaps a few scattered values such as a side 4 card suit, contributing to the playing strength (on the average) of that hand with the responder’s suit as trump.

IOW, showing some additional value for playing with that suit as trump, since with a combined misfit from partner (fairly often) that suit will only take multiple tricks when trump as opposed to KQJ10x, especially when there is a key king for entry, meaning that if partner has the ace of either suit, the tricks taken will be thought to almost be guaranteed at whatever suit winds up trump.

It is not so much a determination of value, but more the idea of the above BWTA being much more likely to have transferable value than my example hands explained above.

This discussion is somewhere between a starting point, but more likely to be categorized as an intermediate position in understanding the glories of bridge learning.

Up close and personal most players, experienced or not, are very unlikely to think about bridge the way it is being described here, so unless it is of interest, please do not waste time forcing it upon oneself until it becomes logical to do so, intending to have it eventually become crystal clear.

The caveats to be learned are simply that jumping around to show preempts not only show weakness, take away bidding space from those worthy opponents (sometimes too worthy) but suggest to partner that he, himself (or herself) are likely to be better off declaring the trump suit than would be the stronger hand.

Again not always, but only to be kept in mind, especially when no particular fit appears in the offing.

The idea of penalty doubles entering this discussion is only valid if the conditions (bidding) occurs which allows one partner or another (usually the stronger hand, but again not always) to do the visualization, keeping in mind that caution needs to be sought before the penalty double is offered since it is so declarative that partner after showing his hand, should not usually interfere with his partner’s judgment, otherwise chaos is likely to occur, often making that partnership to be very short lived.

bryanJune 23rd, 2016 at 2:39 pm

I have seen BWTA several times in the blog comments.
What does it stand for or mean?

bobbywolffJune 23rd, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Hi Bryan,

BWTA means “bid with the Aces” and is meant to allow the reader to select a bid, before reading the suggested answer by the Aces and then, of course, compare it with alternatives, keeping in mind the hoped for logic of our answer.

Thanks for your question.