Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 16th, 2017

If you kept the small rules you could break the big ones.

George Orwell

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


Third hand high is all very well, but sometimes you need to know when not to follow the rules. This board came at the end of a round-robin match in the 2016 European championships last year, and saw both English pairs doing extremely well. This hand cemented their victory the match.

In one room Andrew Robson, North, reached three no-trump. West decided he had enough to double this, since his partner had doubled one club. Robson ended with an overtrick after East unluckily decided that it would be a good moment for the lead of the spade queen. (He wasn’t entirely mistaken: had declarer held the bare jack of spades, or two small spades, instead of the doubleton spade jack, he might have been proved right.)

In the other room the auction was as shown in the diagram. The Hackett brothers were on defense, and Justin Hackett, having shown a shapely but limited take-out hand with his two club call, led a low spade. I think Jason Hackett did very well to refrain from playing the queen, but instead to put in the eight, forcing the 10. When declarer ran the clubs and led a heart toward his hand, the defenders had arranged to keep their red aces and each of them had retained three spades.

Jason could win his heart ace and shift to the spade queen, pinning dummy’s jack, allowing the suit to run on defense. So they defeated the contract by one trick, for a 14 IMP swing.

The three heart call may be natural, with 5-4 shape, or bidding out values, indirectly looking for no-trump, but without half a stopper in diamonds. If North had jack-third or queendoubleton in diamonds, he might have bid three diamonds here. Since no-trump is not in the picture now, I would jump to five clubs to suggest a hand that has been improved by the action, indirectly suggesting short diamonds.


♠ J 2
 K J 6
♣ A K Q 9 5 4 3
South West North East
1 ♣ 1 1 ♠ 2
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


Iain ClimieJune 30th, 2017 at 9:14 pm

Hi Bobby,

ON BWTA, is there any case for 3S or even 4H? Partner could be 5-5 here while 4S might be better than 5C, especially at pairs? AS opener has (presumably) limited his hand with 3C (albeit showing some extras relative to pass but X and 3D were options) could 4D be used as pick a game? I’m horrribly aware that partner could take this in completely the wrong way.



Patrick CheuJune 30th, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Hi Iain and Bobby,I like 3S over 3H as it gives North one last chance to bid 3N with some sort of diamond holding perhaps.Don’t ask me what that might be…:) regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffJune 30th, 2017 at 11:46 pm

Hi Iain & Patrrick,

My guess as to a very high level bidding panel deciding on the BWTA would be close between 3 spades and 5 clubs with 3 spades winning at the wire.

Three spades would tend to be a bridge educational choice, with the idea that if partner is 5-5 he would rebid 4 hearts, but if fewer than 5 hearts the 5-2 fit is likely to play better than a 4-3 heart fit.

However a 5 club jump (particularly at rubber bridge or IMPs) is a practical manifestation of running for daylight with the singleton diamond a wondrous asset in being able to not lose three or more tricks.

No doubt if partner though has either 5 hearts or 6 spades with, of course then very short in clubs we well could have a major suit slam even if the responder has a void in clubs, since if they don’t break evenly we might have an extra entry with either major suit jack for that ruff or even the defense being foiled in hoping to take two diamond tricks immediately.

No doubt, 5 clubs is a practical attempt to ward off the bogey man, often an important consideration when partner is not quite up to world class (or even somewhat far away).

However, I do not hold much hope for 3NT after that popular contract has not been earlier bid, causing me to have an extra reason for keeping the level below 3NT. It does, and it could happen, but I do not think it wise to cater to such an occurrence.

IOWs partner has not limited his hand so that it is still possible for slam to be cold in one or more in three suits.