Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 17th, 2017

I have come to the conclusion, after many years of sometimes sad experience, that you cannot come to any conclusion at all.

Vita Sackville-West

S North
None ♠ Q 5 3 2
 K 7 4 2
 9 4
♣ K J 4
West East
♠ J 10 9
 A J 10 8 3
 Q 7
♣ 10 6 5
♠ K 8 7 6
 Q 9 6
 K 10 2
♣ Q 3 2
♠ A 4
 A J 8 6 5 3
♣ A 9 8 7
South West North East
1 1 Dbl. 2
3 All pass    


The deals this week come from last year’s Spring NABC in Reno. Bart Bramley reported this deal to the Daily Bulletin, where his opponent in the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams round-of-16 match had made a very thoughtful play.

Both tables had played in three diamonds, but in one room (where East had simply raised to two hearts) declarer misguessed the location of the club queen and went one down.

On the auction shown, Lew Stansby as East had shown 10-11 points or so by his cuebid raise, and Bramley led the spade jack to the queen, king and ace. Declarer, Poon Hua, played a heart next, and Bramley took his ace to cash the spade 10, and continued with the spade nine ruffed by South.

Instead of playing for a miracle in diamonds, declarer elected to lead out ace and another diamond, putting West on play. Technically West should play his partner for the queen-nine of clubs by leading a club, but declarer’s line had suggested this would not work, and that leading a club would solve a guess for him. So Bramley exited with a heart instead.

Declarer won dummy’s king, pitching a club, then trumped a heart in hand, and guessed extremely well to play a club to the king and lead dummy’s last heart. East pitched his spade, so declarer ruffed and exited to East with his last trump.

In the two-card ending East had to lead a club round to dummy’s jack, for declarer’s ninth trick.

This auction might confuse the non-expert, since if the opponents had not bid, North’s jump shift would be game forcing. But this is not a jump shift; it is a jump in response to your major-showing double. North should have four spades in the 13-14 range (with extras and say a 4-1-3-5 pattern, he would perhaps bid three spades as a strong invite). Equally, with a game-forcing hand, he would have advanced with a cuebid. You have a minimum, so must pass now.


♠ Q 5 3 2
 K 7 4 2
 9 4
♣ K J 4
South West North East
    1 ♣ 1
Dbl. 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


SlarMarch 31st, 2017 at 2:03 pm

Regarding BWTA, I do not consider this hand to be a minimum for a 1-level negative double – I would make it with a K less. Given that, I think a courtesy raise would be in order. Can’t partner have a hand like aqxx/q/xxx/aqxxx?

slarMarch 31st, 2017 at 3:11 pm

obviously I duplicated the SQ but even with the SK I would think that a jump raise would be sufficient given the dubious value of the HQ….

slarMarch 31st, 2017 at 3:27 pm

…more thinking less typing…Since E is a favorite to have the HA, N doesn’t even need the HQ, just a prime 12-count…

Bobby WolffMarch 31st, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Hi Slar,

My guess is that most everything you say is true, even that the absence of the singleton queen of hearts is not necessary to produce a percentage game hand.

However, to refer to the original quote, your conclusion is highly optimistic, since all your cards are working, with no worthless honor cards, e.g. the queen of diamonds instead of the queen of clubs.

As you and I know, it does not take 26 points to make a major suit game, but, instead, perhaps 20-21 working ones, but normally (most hands) there are 5 or 6 hcps (often including distribution) which result in nothing more than waste paper.

While I admire your optimism, sometimes when both partners are just a bit too much so, we get slightly off kilter with our results.

No one is saying you are wrong, especially me, only that in the long run, with no doubt, your experience continuing to grow, you’ll (hopefully, together with a regular partner) get more and more exacting and then that consistency will stay with you, while you rise in the “up” elevator to becoming a big winner.

The only worthwhile advice I can give is to establish that consistency, even if it takes a few bumps in the road on the way.

BobliptonMarch 31st, 2017 at 11:50 pm

I think I would give a courtesy raise vulnerable, bur nor non-vulnerable. Of course, this could result in partner going to game vulnerable, but not non-vulnerable, winding up down 2 vulnerable, but the greater reward would seem to balance the risk.


Bobby WolffApril 1st, 2017 at 1:59 am

Hi Bob,

In a rather obscure manner you could be considered to be trying to trivialize exactness.

Rewards only appear from achieving a favorable result and, at least in my opinion, to get beyond two spades with the fictional hand in question, greatly endangers that effort.

Obviously, on any one hand, any judgment may work or not, but trying one’s best to be accurate, is all any player (or partnership) can do. The common denominator is success and my judgment merely suggests, with the hands given, to let it go at the two level.

Likely, there is not much more for me to say.

jim2April 1st, 2017 at 5:39 pm

I waited to comment on BWTA until I had a chance to put the Q to my partners. We would all bid 3S.

The absence of wasted diamond values and the fitting club honors were major factors.

bobby wolffApril 1st, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Hi Jim2,

Breaking it down, there may be three factors to consider:

1. The five of you, including vulnerability factors, are fundamentally correct with your choice of action.

2. Considering the variables, opening lead, later defense, declarer choices, exact holdings lending themselves to declarer or defender (mostly partnership) skill make it practically impossible to determine yea or nay on likelihood of success or failure.

3. My belief of how little it would take to jump to two spades rather than to respond just one spade to which I think the modern high-level player prefers.


s. A964
h. 97
d. QJ5
c. AQ98

one spade, minimum but a sound one spade bid. On certain similar sequences: 1 club, 1 heart, double, pass, ?, fairly often the opener will choose a 3 card spade suit when holding AQx or AJx, without a heart stop, or especially without even a half stop (Jxx).

Back to the hand under discussion:

s. A1064
h. QJ
d. J5
c. AQ987

two spades, because of the expected heart
fit, the extra distribution, plus the ten of spades, instead of the nine.

bobby wolffApril 1st, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Again hi to all those interested,

Hopefully this horse still needs tending to:

Strangely with our game, in addition to much frustration, there is also, at least, some congruence:

Reference is to the fact that the more distribution (wilder) one’s bidding partnership experiences become, the other one (opponents) also tend to go in the same direction. IOW, the better our fit, the better will our worthy opponents also be, assuming they are in a position to find out about it. Therefore when our fit is then established we would like to jump to our highest makeable contract, resulting in taking maximum advantage to legally intimidate them out of fiercely competing.

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