Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 27th, 2017

The great majority of those who speak of perfectibility as a dream, do so because they feel that it is one which would afford them no pleasure if it were realized.

John Stuart Mill

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


Do you like South’s response of three no-trump to the opening one club bid? I cannot say I’m too enthusiastic about it, myself. The point is that your heart holding suggests that partner might be better off as declarer. And when your RHO passes over one club, wouldn’t you want him on lead rather than LHO – who might have a better idea of what to lead against a final contract of three no-trump? I’d prefer to respond one diamond here and let partner get no-trump in at his own convenience.

After a spade lead by West, declarer finds himself distressingly short of straw from which to put together some bricks. He plays the spade jack from dummy, and the first blow comes when East covers with the queen. South cannot afford to duck, for fear of losing four heart tricks on the go.

If clubs break 3-3 declarer needs only three diamond tricks, but if not, he will need some help in the diamond suit, both from a friendly lie of the cards, and friendly opponents.

When South leads the diamond queen from his hand at trick two, West must not cover with the king, for that would allow dummy to win the ace and for declarer then to successfully finesse the nine. If West ducks the diamond king, then although declarer can set up three diamond tricks, he cannot do so without losing a trick in the process. The defenders simply set up spades, and declarer has just eight tricks when clubs do not behave.

You could argue that a trump lead might be necessary to cut down a cross-ruff, but partner may be in a position to over-ruff dummy, and leading a trump might sacrifice our natural trick. (I wouldn’t feel that way with a doubleton heart 10, I think.) So with a choice of minors I would go aggressive and try to set up or cash diamond tricks before they go on dummy’s clubs or declarer’s spades.


♠ Q 10 8 7
 J 2
 K 7 3 2
♣ J 5 4
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♠
Pass 1 NT Pass 2
Pass 3 All 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 13th, 2017 at 10:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

I was going to suggest today’s hand would be good for a weak NT but I wouldn’t blame a cautious North for passing that mess in first position when vulnerable and then South opens a weak NT so 3NT (if reached, they might stop in 2NT) so the hand is still played tje wrong way around. A weaker North won’t be hidebound by such worries, though; he or she will just count the points and trot out a weak NT (this side of the pond anyway). Sometimes you just have to smile sweetly at system fixes and take whatever mental, physical or metaphorical medicine works best on controlling your blood pressure.



Judy Kay-WolffMarch 13th, 2017 at 11:34 pm

Hi Iain:

It is hard to improve on Bobby’s game, but one of my greatest achievements was converting Bobby from standard 15-17 NT openings to 12-14 and 15-17 (based of course on vulnerability). However, it got even better when he convinced me to play major responses natural. I never realized how difficult it made it for the opponents to bid hearts when already at the three level.
Try it .. you may like it!



Bobby WolffMarch 13th, 2017 at 11:50 pm

Hi Iain & Judy,

No doubt we are all subject to player’s luck when NT (especially at game or less likely slam) is played from one side or the other.

However, by playing 2 way Stayman, instead of the much more popular transfers, preferred by tournament players this side of the pond, the bidding side will be able to (on many hands) get to two of one major or the other without giving those all too worthy opponents two opportunities instead of just one lesser one to compete.

However, sometimes that advantage sometimes backfires (not often) but because of the nature of the hands, merely postpones the natural challenge of a competitive auction.

No doubt and on this hand, North will become the advantaged declarer, offering a better opportunity for the declaring side time to possibly even develop the 13th heart, for the contract fulfilling trick.

Mark it either luck, editorial license, or maybe even just system advertising, but and again no doubt, selecting the right side to declare is a winning habit, but most of the time just a product of dame fortune.

BobliptonMarch 14th, 2017 at 1:03 am

There’s little doubt this is a result merchant’s hand. If only clubs broke or if only the SQ was in west’s hand when south plays the hand or if only N-S were playing a weak NT and East would have a perfectly natural club lead then if only declarer had tried to establish hearts, this hand would come rolling home. It’s like bidding Churchill; even he could only figure out how to bid a hand after he had seen all four!

In reality, the rules that 12 points opposite 12 points makes 3 NT is a general rule and offers only the balance of probability. Shrug, curse Briggida and move on to the next hand.


Bobby WolffMarch 14th, 2017 at 1:10 am

Hi Bob,

Yes Bob, you preach a winning philosophy of shrugging off bad luck. However, practicing it in competitive competition, is the hard part, and gets way too many victims.

PeterMarch 14th, 2017 at 12:58 pm

hi Bobby

in case West covered the QD, is the finesse of the 10D on East hand mandatory?

Iain ClimieMarch 14th, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Hi Judy,

Thanks for the advice although I’m not playing much at the moment. I’ll still bear it in mind, though.