Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

O! What authority and show of truth Can cunning sin cover itself withal.

William Shakespeare

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


South’s opening bid of one no-trump makes it easy for North to bid game. If North’s five-card suit were a major, he might transfer, but since it is a minor, he should raise to game in no-trump.

South is relieved to see a heart opening lead, since the defense has not gone after his weak point, spades. Nonetheless, declarer has to plan what might happen if the defenders get on lead early in the deal. South will win just four club tricks if the club finesse loses; if that is the case, he will need to make something out of the diamonds to bring home his contract.

If South tackles clubs at once, East may work out to win and shift to spades. Then when South goes after diamonds, East will win and cash out the spades.

One possible way to avoid this revolting development is for declarer to win the first trick in dummy and go after diamonds immediately. If East has the diamond ace, he may well play low on the first round of the suit – even if he shouldn’t.

What is more, if East does fly up with the diamond ace, he may continue the attack on hearts, since the play so far is entirely consistent with declarer having king-third of hearts.

As it happens, when East ducks the first diamond, South can safely switch to clubs. The rest is easy. The general principle is that it pays to steal the ninth trick early. The opponents are less likely to let you get away with it later on, when they have had a chance to work out what is going on.

Though your honors are strong, I would advocate responding two diamonds rather than three clubs here. The problem is that you have only a five- card suit, and you run the risk of pre-empting partner out of his natural sequence if you bid three clubs. You should be able to show your hand later (though club suits are problematic because three clubs often serves as a second negative).


♠ 7 3 2
 Q 7
 5 3 2
♣ A Q J 6 3
South West North East
  Pass 2 ♣ Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieAugust 15th, 2017 at 10:54 am

Hi Bobby,

As East has the clubs stopped, surely he should jump in with the DA (I accept I would probably doze off) and West should then give a Smith Peter (this side of the pond, although the late, great Helen Sobel may have beaten Mr. Smith to the idea) based on whether he wants another heart or not? Effective, just as long as EW have agreed whether a high card is encouraging or discouraging for the suit led….

Also, a query from last night. At Pairs, Vul vs NV, I held AK9 x KJ109xxx Kx and opened 1D, 1H on my left, 2C from pard (not playing 2 over 1), 4H on your right. Would you take the push and bid 5D or wield the axe?



Bruce karlsonAugust 15th, 2017 at 12:26 pm

If an x demanded a D lead, I would likely bid the game. If not, probably crack it and hope the gods governing the TOCM are off duty and partner haS the CA and of course leads it. Surely cannot sit for it…

Bobby WolffAugust 15th, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, your discourse calls to mind the necessity for aspiring partnerships to discuss and thus be prepared for transmitting legal defensive information when their opponent, upon first winning the opening lead, then lead their suit (usually trying to build trick(s)).

My advice, in order to keep it both simple but still effective is for the the opening leader to signal high when he wants his partner to not succumb to the natural thing of continuing the opening led suit (sort of a wake-up call to be acutely aware). Here, of course, represents a near perfect example when the queen of hearts wins in dummy with the opening leader now sure that declarer has both the ace and the king of hearts, a fact the original 3rd seat defender would have no way to legally ascertain.

Therefore a spade switch will be made and presto, magico, success follows when the spades are cleared with East waiting for the kill when his king of clubs later scores.

And yes, Helen Sobel was indeed one of the best, if not the absolute one herself (of course, she thrived before high-level bidding was anywhere near as effective as it is today, but having played against her many times almost 60 years ago, and while she was playing with Howard Schenken (a great player himself) she was the master of the briidge table, with Howard constantly asking her an opinion on how she viewed his defensive play and bidding.

No doubt she commanded as much respect while playing as anyone I have ever played against and that included some of the best players in the world, at least, at that time.

At least to my way of thinking, when the women proceeded to get their own World Championship event (Venice Cup, first one held in Venice, Italy, 1974) it, unfortunately forever (at least up to now) put a glass ceiling on just how good the best women’s players could achieve, since their exposure to men’s high level bridge, naturally took a resounding hit.

The above is only my opinion, but to quote the late and great Edgar Kaplan when I was standing next to him during the initial presentation of that moment in Venice (1974) before the first card was played, “The women just got what they have tried hard to get, their own World Championship, but they will eventually, no doubt, rue this eventful day when they succeeded”.

Bobby WolffAugust 15th, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Hi again Iain and Bruce,

Sorry for not answering your bidding question. Since you were not playing 2 over 1 GF, a pass by you would not be forcing, although conceivably some partnerships, with this vulnerability, may play it so.

In any event, I would throw caution to the wind and indeed bid 5 diamonds, since it certainly would feel at that table that those wily opponents are trying to do our side out of what we can make (which certainly may include a minor suit slam). By doing so, although the diamond holding needs either a fitting card or else some big bidder’s luck, every player worth his salt needs at times to just put it all out there and hope for the best, TOCM be damned!

When faced with a choice, my experience through many years, bellows to me, “no doubt, high-level bridge is a bidder’s game” with luck strongly attracted to those who take occasional but not foolish chances,

And Bruce, I do not think double has anything to do with lead a diamond or not, only that my hand is such that I think a penalty double is the best action at this time.

Of course, my judgment tells me to bid on, at least on this present collection of cards that I hold and the bidding I’ve heard up to now.

Finally and again quoting Edgar Kaplan, “If it turns out right to bid, one who does, becomes “daring”, but if it doesn’t, only “foolhardy”.

jim2August 15th, 2017 at 1:18 pm

TOCM ™ !!

Love it!

(Oh, and I also would bid 5D and hope for the best)

slarAugust 15th, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Regarding BTWA, how do you continue over 2C-2D;2NT? Do you jump to 4C? Make a quantitative raise to 4NT? The reason I like to show my strength over 2C with 3C or even 2NT (a bid that, strangely to me, has fallen completely out of favor) is that you have good support for either major so you can keycard over 3H or 3S. Even if the bidding goes 2C-2D;2M partner will have a hard time believing you are that strong.

Bobby WolffAugust 15th, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, my sources tell me that while our new government and its politics and “fake news” is still the #1 item of national concern, TOCM TM has maintained its #2 slot.

Bobby WolffAugust 15th, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Hi Slar,

No doubt, you may be right, unless the strong hand is short in clubs, then not so much.

After bidding only 2 diamonds and then hearing partner rebid 2NT (22-24) then, because of the ambiguity of Gerber and its ramifications, perhaps a slight distortion of a quantitative 4NT should be considered, as would just a blast to 6NT or even 6 clubs (limited in club strength by the first 2 diamonds and not 3 clubs, which should likely show 6, but at least to you and me, that suit looks like 6.

However, after first bidding 2 diamonds, I would not bid KCBW immediately over 2 of a major but rather 3 clubs and then raise the major, allowing partner’s strong hand to take control.

You have convinced me that 3 clubs should be the first response.

Iain ClimieAugust 15th, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Hi Bobby, Jim2,

I bid 5D and found partner’s bid had been stretched as if on a rack – 10x 109x 8x AQJ10xx. 5D still has fair play but DAQ alone were on my left although RHO had QJ8xxx AK87 xx x and 4H can make according to Deep Finesse, although it usually went off. Partner had a grumble about the 5D bid (still 31%, although LHO should maybe dbl) until I innocently asked where the rest of the high cards were.

Agree with slar about 2NT being worth a look even though this is not an ideal hand for it. Bid 2D on this sort of hand and it is almost impossible to catch up except via an undignified bash later.


Iain ClimieAugust 15th, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Also, was it Helen Sobel or Dorothy Truscott who came up with the “First unimportant card shows attitude to opening lead” idea? I may have got this wrong…

Bill CubleyAugust 15th, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Paul Newman as Fast Eddy told Tom Cruise, “Money won is twice as good as money earned.” Forget technical skill, bridge players love stealing tricks and contracts the best. Being +1660 off 3 aces is always a great tale and a great memory.

Today’s declarer did well!

Bobby WolffAugust 15th, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Hi Iain,

I dunno who came up with that caveat, but strongly suspect it was not Helen. She was never
known as a bidding nor signalling innovator, only as an immaculate player and a consistent winner.

Bobby WolffAugust 15th, 2017 at 6:40 pm

And BTW everyone,

For those very numerate bridge players who are interested:

#3 in popularity interested in the USA are those who are in favor of global warming, closely followed by #4, those who hate minorities, just a small notch ahead of those, #5, who hate everybody.