Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.

Arthur Koestler

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


In today’s deal, facing a one diamond opener, North sensibly decided to drive his hand to game, thus responded two clubs. If his side wanted to play hearts it rated to play better from his partner’s side, and the fit could still come to light later. If you respond one heart you can never really describe your assets properly after that.

Now switch to declarer’s seat in three no-trump on a spade lead. After the spade queen holds at trick one, you have seven fast tricks. Where will you find two more? The right thing to do is to try the heart finesse first. When the heart queen holds, you might change your original plan of playing clubs from the top.

The heart finesse is a discovery play, to determine the goal from the club suit, (in other words whether to play for 3-3 clubs or to protect against 4-2 clubs). By taking the heart finesse, you learn how to play clubs. When the finesse wins, you can afford to duck a round of clubs as your safest route to four tricks in the suit, given that dummy is entryless outside the clubs. If the heart finesse had failed, you would have relied on a 3-3 club split.

Incidentally if the hearts in dummy had been 10-9-6-3 you might have led a heart to the queen, then cashed the ace before tackling clubs, since if either the king or jack fell under the ace, you would have had a guaranteed route to nine tricks by setting up a third heart winner for your side.

A call of four clubs is forcing, showing five or more clubs and four hearts, asking your partner for cooperation in a possible slam. You don’t have quite enough to drive to slam, but by letting partner know what you have, you can try to engage his cooperation. Incidentally four no-trump by him at his next turn would be discouraging, not Blackwood.


♠ Q 9
 8 6 4 3
 9 8
♣ A K Q 6 2
South West North East
    2 NT Pass
3 ♣ Pass 3 ♠ 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


Michael BeyroutiApril 18th, 2017 at 10:16 am

Dear Mr Wolff,
there was a discussion on Bridge Winners two days ago about the following auction.
Your RHO opens one club, you overcall one heart and after a pass by your LHO your partner advances with one spade. It is agreed that one spade shows five cards and is forcing for one round. Now you bid two clubs.
What is this two club bid? Natural or a cue-bid showing a spade raise or merely an undefined general force? (or other)
I would very much appreciate your input on this as the discussion on BW left me more puzzled than informed.

Thank you,
and my apologies for distracting away from today’s AOB hand.

Bobby WolffApril 18th, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Hi Michael,

First of all, no apology is necessary for posting with a general bridge question, whether or not it pertains to today’s column hand or not.

Ours is primarily a general bridge site, mainly interested in discussing all phases of bridge, when and if important questions arise and, of course, not in any way, only restricted to what today’s problem represents.

Since I am not now privy to what was discussed on Bridgewinners I will merely give you my thinking on their problem.

First, I believe that a change of suit by the partner of the overcaller should not be forcing and thus only be invitational to proceed.

Suppose the bidding goes as they suggest, one club on your right and one heart then by you, followed by pass by your LHO and one spade by partner followed by a pass by the opening bidder. Since I strongly believe that while holding s. xx, h. AKJxx, d. Jxx, c. xxx and being not vulnerable it is clearly right to overcall one heart, and to not do so is nothing less than a serious mistake. Change the jack of diamonds to the king and then likewise would I overcall one heart whether vulnerable or not.

To me, to do (or even just think otherwise) is simply losing bridge, not suggesting to partner immediate competition from him, with a fit or even semi-fit as well as an all important opening lead suggestion which, as we all know, or, at the very least, soon realize, not to be helping partner choose a lead should we meekly pass and allow LHO to now bid, as he or she would normally, forever, in most cases shutting us out of perhaps the most distinguishing reason players win or lose at our beautiful game by either getting off to or not the right opening lead (final contract being either a suit or NT). Even when holding, s. x, h. AKJx, d. Jxxxx, c. xxx and hearing RHO opening 1 club and being NV I would simply chirp one heart and optimistically await results, confident that I have done the most I can to direct the right opening lead when LHO now bids spades (or whatever else) and winds up playing either a spade or NT contract. Sometimes, usually when Dame Fortune is smiling from up above, with the only making game contract the other way being 3NT, but needing hearts to be 4-4, but hearing an opponent bid the suit takes them out of their winning option.

Therefore I am not in favor of making my then partner’s change of suit contract forcing, only suggestive of some values and, of course allowing him to jump in my suit with 4+ of them with his hand calibrated to weaker overcalls than some and with a strong dose of common bridge sense.

Yes, the above is somewhat represented by a minority of top players, but a growing group who have found the secret of winning at higher levels, by not allowing worthy opponents to have a free run to their best contract without at least the specter present of the random opening leader, knowing what suit to lead.

It then follows that bidding the opponents suit by the partner of the overcaller is the only real strong bid, other than a big time raise of partner’s suit or a jump in another unbid suit which even then is NF when a cue bid is available to take care of first alerting partner that this hand is likely ours and then both partner’s can go in search of the right strain together, in cases of immediate doubt.

Also if the overcaller does, on the second round, bid an opponents minor suit opening it would only be natural if the opponents contested the auction and that auction took on the appearance of your side being outmoded strength wise with your hand then searching for the most convenient final resting stop:

Example: while holding. s. void, h. AQxxx, d. xxx, c. KQ9xx and having RHO open 1 club, you overcalling 1 heart, LHO making a negative double and partner responding 1 spade and having RHO making a penalty double. Then, of course, logically and every other way a bid of 2 clubs by you should not be any mystery of what it means, natural!

All the above turns on not playing simple changes of suit by the partner of the overcaller
forcing, but attempting to get in the auction early with a dual purpose, fist competing for the contract, and even more importantly helping partner with the often critical opening lead, should we not win the battle for declaring.

To specifically answer your remaining question, if the bidding went 1 club by South (opponenrt) 1 heart by West (you) pass by North 1 spade by East (NF) pass by South, then 2 clubs by you should be natural and surely 5+ clubs since both you and your partner have made non forcing bids, so that the only strong bids would be a jump rebid in hearts or mighty support in spades as well as (likely) a bid of 1 or jump to 2 NT by you. IOW you will not be dealt a problem hand you cannot handle and all because your bids are NF to start with, the hand that defensive partnership are far more likely to hold rather than the fantasy of having very sound overcalls, never being doubled for any kind of number, and eventually if not sooner, most telling of all, beginning to wonder why your partnership almost never wins.

Finally, sometimes with strong hands, hopefully with spades, if one is dealt s. AKJxxx, h. xx, D. AQx, C. Ax and RHO opens 1 club, then, of course, double is my preferred choice and then spades rather than attempting to overcall 1 spade and hope as Al Roth use to say, overcall 1 spade and if it doesn’t go all pass I’ll be in great position to know what to do next round.
To chance that is not my choice and very simply has a terrible side product, making partner very shy about passing partner’s first overcall, a choice which should often be taken, when the overcaller’s partner has very little strength and no particular support eg. s. Qx, h. Jxxx, d. Kxxx, c. xxx.