Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Though syllogisms hang not on my tongue,
I am not always in the wrong!

William Cowper

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

*Extras and a source of tricks in spades


North has a tough decision over his partner’s call of three no-trump, suggesting powerful spades. Today it would be right to pass, but correcting to spades is understandable.

Although a heart lead defeats the spade game, because the defense can play three rounds of hearts, removing declarer’s only entry to be able to cash the 13th heart, West has a normal opening lead of the diamond queen. How can declarer take advantage of this reprieve?

Declarer wins the lead with his ace, draws three rounds of trump and ducks a heart. His plan will be to duck a second heart and play for 3-3 hearts, or perhaps a somewhat unlikely squeeze on West.

As the hearts are 3-3, the defense should be able to predict the sequence of events. If they passively exit in diamonds, declarer has time to go about his business and come to 10 tricks. What can East do on winning the first heart? Answer: he should boldly shift to the club king! He knows that this is safe if his partner has the club ace, and if West has the club queen without the 10 the defense never had a chance. But on today’s lie of the cards South has a real problem when the club king hits the deck. He must duck this card if East has all the top clubs and West the heart entry; but today that play would be fatal. East would continue with a second club, and another impregnable contract would bite the dust.

When playing a forcing no-trump you are often faced with the decision of whether to raise a major directly or go through one no-trump, when looking at good sevencounts, or bad eight-counts. Here your bad trumps are to some extent compensated for by the paired heart honors. So I would bid two spades — but if the heart queen were the diamond queen, I might choose the low road.


♠ 6 5 4
 K Q 9
 6 5 3
♣ K 8 6 3
South West North East
  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


Jane ANovember 16th, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Seems like a shift of a low club from the east hand works better, doesn’t it? West can take the trick and quietly lead back a low club. Two clubs and two hearts defeats the contract. If the club king is led and south takes the ace, then he can still work on hearts and salvage his bid since the club honors are split and south has to hope this is the case. East has to be careful and not put the club king in unless it is to cover the jack however. Got to be sneaky on this hand. The key is to not lead back the diamond so finding the club lead back is essential.

I would have opened the south hand two NT but still find myself if the spade game. Looks to me like the diamond lead would still be the same however.

Jane ANovember 16th, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Made a mistake on the club holding. I can see what could happen since west only has three clubs. Oh well. Looked like a plan at first unless south makes a mistake and puts in the jack on the club return. Hard to decide however who holds what. Jim2’s illness of the TOCM would not doubt sink his ship this time!

jim2November 16th, 2016 at 3:46 pm

On BWTA, what would you recommend should North reply 2N after the 2S raise?

Bobby WolffNovember 16th, 2016 at 3:51 pm

Hi Jane A,

Yes, as usual, you rush to where the declarer may be vulnerable, losing two club tricks before the 13th heart is established by him for a club discard.

However, the discussion then reverts to the best way to possibly trick a good declarer into guessing that club suit incorrectly, by masquerading holding the king queen ten of clubs. stealthily causing the declarer to duck when the king is led.

IOW, when all legitimate avenues result in dead ends, look for illegitimate (but certainly legal and ethical) chances to succeed.

Yes, poor Jim2 with his TOCM illness, seems to be forever restricted to only contributing his considerable talent to theory rather than practice.

BTW, I think your 2NT choice of opening bid will get you to the great contract of 3NT, not the very iffy one of 4 spades. Power to the NT crowd, to which you are a charter member.

Bobby WolffNovember 16th, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Hi Jim2,

At least to me, I would not play 2NT as forcing, thus it would become the final contract.

However, and considering the above method, there is nothing wrong with just jumping to 3NT and (assuming partner does not correct to 4 spades), as well he wouldn’t, just take a chance the opponent’s either could not nor would not, run the first five heart tricks.

Bridge is not a game for players who are afraid to take chances since, like in the shooting range, the flag is up and waving, and being bold has its advantages.

However it is also a game for quick and believable excuses to be created when partner is the type who demands accountability for defeat. However in your newly created role of strategist (see above) instead of combatant you need to perfect your bedside manner of toning down winners and consoling losers as well, of course, as your hiring and firing techniques.

ClarksburgNovember 16th, 2016 at 11:34 pm

@ Jim 2 and Mr Wolff
What do you think of the approach where, after 1M>2M, Opener can employ three flavours of game try, to help Responder better evaluate / decide.
1) Bid of a suit shows shortage there.
2) 2NT is looking for a general max in Responder’s raise
3) Reraise to 3M flags weak top to Opener’s trump suit. Needs good trump support.
On the face of it at least, seems useful and easy to remember.
Comment? Advice? Downside?

bobby wolffNovember 17th, 2016 at 12:02 am

Hi Jim2,

That is an easy decision for me, 3NT and expect to make it.

The hand depicted is, at least in my judgment, so very much stronger with the queen accompanying a king, rather than a queen without a royal escort.

In effect and if I had to choose, while both Culbertson’s honor tricks and Goren’s high card points were first simplified and then released to the public, but of the two, Ely, not Charley, was closer to being accurate.

bobby wolffNovember 17th, 2016 at 12:22 am

Hi Clarksburg,

1. Good for evaluation, but significantly helpful to the opponents, since the eventual declarer will present an open book to those wily opponents, plus the possibility for a free double to allow the enemy to possibly drive your side one too high.
Opinion, No
2. Good for evaluation and especially partner to be able to choose 3NT instead of 4 of the major. Some value to the opponents, but usually not critical except to expect the opening leader to remain passive in his opening lead whatever the final contract.
3. Not a useful meaning and I prefer the reraise to be preemptive showing a minimum with likely a 6 card trump suit and definitely not invitational.
Opinion: No
I prefer a somewhat random choice of game try since I have always thought that it is next to impossible for partner to base his opinion on such random type knowledge, and when one considers that the enemy is listening, to have specific type hands will help them defend more than it will help partner bid.
IMO, my judgment of what our game is about reflects my above opinion and is not the cup of tea others prefer.

jim2November 17th, 2016 at 2:56 am

Dear Host –

Did you answer me twice with two opposite answers?

jim2November 17th, 2016 at 3:05 am

Clarksburg –

I am aware of several different bidding structures after 1M – 2M. IIRC, at least one is even different depending on the major.

One uses 2N as an invitation choice of games. Another uses it as an ask for shortness, and another puppets to 3C after which opener will bid something. The “something” will indicate shortness or second suit depending on the agreement.

One system uses 1M- 2M; 3X to show shortness in X, while another asks for help in X (help suit game try).

Some systems use the 2N rebid and the 3X bid together, so that one means shortness and the other means help suit.

In other words, it can be as complicated as you want.

Bobby WolffNovember 17th, 2016 at 5:15 am

Hi Jim2,

Or as uncomplicated as one wants. How about a 5-3-3-2 17-18+ hand to bid 2NT as invitational to either 3NT or either 3 or 4 of the major with also being able to pass and, of course a return to 3 of the major being a declination.

In order to qualify my overall approach, yes some of the better thought out game invitations are X% better for the use of the bridge science available.

However, (although no doubt in the minority among a certain group of players) my steadfast belief is that those scientific attempts at better bridge lionize the opponents in information more than the hit and miss blasts (called punts in the UK).

Very close in overall effectiveness, but in my heyday with my best partners, my opponents did not seem to play as well against my partnership than they did otherwise. However, that fact may be illusory and not true, but all these years since I still believe it.

Yes, the cheats in those days beat me consistently, but it was always more than difficult to try and outfox someone who resembled Marconi in imagination and inventiveness.

I certainly didn’t attend to contradict myself and am not sure that I did, but please explain.

jim2November 17th, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Dear Host –

My original Q:

“On BWTA, what would you recommend should North reply 2N after the 2S raise?”

Your first answer:

Bobby Wolff
November 16th, 2016 at 4:06 pm
Hi Jim2,

At least to me, I would not play 2NT as forcing, thus it would become the final contract.

Then your second answer:

bobby wolff
November 17th, 2016 at 12:02 am
Hi Jim2,

That is an easy decision for me, 3NT and expect to make it.

My question now was if you had changed your mind, or if the all-lower-case “bobby wolff” was a different person than the capitalized “Bobby Wolff.”

Iain ClimieNovember 17th, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

I went looking for and got very surprised. You may be onto something…


Bobby WolffNovember 17th, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

I meant with the strong hand I would have leaped to 3NT over my partner’s single raise.

Who and what do you think I am? Please, you do not have to answer that.

And in regard to the upper and lower case subject, I, being very modest, do prefer the lower case to keep myself from realizing how great I really am.

Of course my last bridge partner may think otherwise, but what does she know, since she is only married to me.