Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Philosophers are people who know less and less about more and more, until they know nothing about everything. Scientists are people who know more and more about less and less, until they know everything about nothing.

Konrad Lorenz

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



There is nothing I appreciate more than receiving a deal from friends and colleagues – especially one that shows the true experts falling from grace. And my readers should realize that if the top players can err, there is hope for everyone.

David Gurvich was watching a match in the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams match between Mahaffey and the Texan Aces last spring in Reno. At both tables, South declared four hearts on the lead of the diamond jack to dummy’s queen. East’s diamond five at trick one would be true count – but it is of course very hard to read.

Both declarers led ace and another heart, a line that would succeed unless hearts were 3-1 with no singleton high honor to the right, and the club finesse was failing. But today was that unlucky day.

A far better approach is to lead a heart from dummy at trick two, covering East’s five. While there are some unlucky lies of the cards where this would fail, in practice West will win the heart 10, and return a diamond. When East follows suit, you can guarantee the contract by leading a heart to the ace.

When West discards, you simply ruff a diamond in dummy. It does East no good to over-ruff, because you have entries back to hand to pitch clubs on the two good diamonds. But if East does not over-ruff, play a third trump yourself. You can win the club return, and again discard both of dummy’s club losers on your good diamonds.

The right minimum opener for your partner gives you excellent play for slam – if partner has the missing honors in the red suits for example. That means you should not jump to game; instead start by bidding a forcing three diamonds. If partner signs off in three hearts, give up on slam, but if he shows signs of life, I might risk the five level to explore for slam.


♠ K 7
 A 8 7 3
 A 8 6 4 3
♣ A 6
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2March 29th, 2017 at 10:44 pm

I found the BWTA troubling. My partner and I do not play 3D forcing in this auction, and a quick ask-around failed to find any others who played it as forcing.

ClarksburgMarch 29th, 2017 at 11:35 pm

Isn’t 3D forcing simply because they have agreed Hearts ?

bobby wolffMarch 29th, 2017 at 11:58 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, the type of sequence you mention has been hashed and rehashed for many moons.

Back a few years ago, the last time I remember it being discussed. a consensus concluded with, in a contested auction 3 of the minor is only competitive and NF, but if left to only those original bidders, a return by the responder to the opener’s suit, after being raised in his primary suit, is, at least, a one round force and would usually only show four of his original suit, but a good enough hand, to warrant at least a game try. In that way both strain and level are involved.

However, in competition it is prudent to play in a partnership’s longest combined suit, even if it is a minor suit, so therefore 3 of the minor only would tend to show only 4 of the original response, but also 4+ of partner’s minor.

An exception might be with:

s. Ax,
h. Qxxx
d. KQx
c. xxxx

and while sitting South with North dealer having the bidding go:

North East South West
1 D P 1H 1S
2 H 2S 3D*

*NF but usually 4+ diamonds

bobby wolffMarch 30th, 2017 at 2:10 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Hearts are not merely agreed because they have been responded and then raised. Might have only seven, not eight, and, of course, in competition it is almost always better (or, at least, just as good) to play a partnership’s longest combined suit.

Of course, when the opponents have not competed, then after being raised, a return to opener’s minor is forward going and therefore forcing, since it is often better to stay a level lower and play a 4-3 fit than to get higher with an extra trump.

Nothing spectacular involved, just better fits high level bridge logic.