Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Instruct them how the mind of man becomes A thousand times more beautiful than the earth On which he dwells.

William Wordsworth

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


In today’s deal, West has a full range opening bid with a chunky five-card major. When East raises one heart to two, South must come in now. This is a safe spot to overcall. With something close to an opening bid, plus a six-card suit, you have a little in hand for acting, especially when the opponents have found a fit.

North must now support spades. A few wild optimists might raise to game; but the cue-bid raise is a slightly more prudent action. It asks South if he has any extras; if not, as here, South can sign off in three spades. At this point North should trust his partner and pass. Will he be justified in his caution? Watch this space.

Against three spades, West will lead the heart king and follow up with the ace. But what should he do next? If he plays a spade, diamond or heart, declarer wraps up nine tricks. And a club… holds declarer to eight tricks. What is more, if West trusts East, he should know to play a club. Why? Because of the heart spots East follows with on the first two tricks, the second of which should be significant.

Specifically, East’s heart at trick two should be suit preference. If West thinks about his partner’s small hearts, he will read the first one as attitude, but at trick two the size of the ‘irrelevant’ small heart should be suit preference. When West sees his partner follow with the smallest heart, he should shift to clubs, and defeat the contract.

Facing a balancing double, you are well within the range for the response of one no-trump. You expect partner to move on with a balanced hand and extras, or to describe his hand by bidding his long suit if he has extra shape. Failing that, one no-trump looks as good a place to play as any.


♠ K Q 7
 Q 8
 K 8 3 2
♣ J 8 3 2
South West North East
      1 ♣
Pass Pass Dbl. 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 ClimieAugust 22nd, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Hi Bobby,

As East I suspect (OK hope) I’d play H9 for count first, then the H3 and hope partner picked up the inference. Just out of interest, what is your preferred lead from AK in these situations and what do you think of the general “Ace for Attitude, King for count” approach which seems quite popular now. When is it sensible and when just asking for trouble?

To what extent should West with (say) HAJxxxx shy away from leading a suit which has been bid and raised here? Leading the HA seems to set up the King with annoying regularity while trying something else sees a heart loser disappear at speed. Any thoughts here (apart from “Be Lucky” or “Get it right” which results merchant partners seem to prefer). Not that I’m grumbling from experience or get so petulant nowadays, of course.



bobby wolffAugust 22nd, 2017 at 1:33 pm

Hi Iain,

JG, short for justified grumbling, kind of explains it better than I could begin to.

Both subjects, leading the ace or king from AK, and/or just leading the ace from length, after many up and down results emanating from doing so or not. Add that to the choice of conventional count or attitude signals from partner, usually at trick one, and the frustration, while not always complete, but looms seemingly as often as the sun rising, and, safe to say, topically, more often than do solar eclipses.

At least to me, this subject, liked learned psychology, echoes Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) admonition, “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it”.

While I still lead the king from AK and choose attitude over count (except when obvious, eg, to one or more in the partnership, but when only one, always trouble, not to mention, result) therefore I prefer the sneaky (and sometimes unreadable five, instead of the nine
and then the suit preference three next for suit preference). Shakespeare might intervene to say “signifying nothing”, but for purposes of presenting bridge columns to the masses (I hope, meaning at least double digits) no harm, unless caught, of being at least sort of kind to
the few readers interested in allowing the medicine to interact with the bridge brain.

No doubt, dirty filthy cheating works best, with second place, at least slightly unethical in tempo and/or physical emphasis, with us only discussing third on down.

And, as far as leading the Ace from AJxxxx, the same 1-2-3 above, of course, applies even more, but being a born optimist and not being able to convince partners to cheat, these examples only illustrate what a great game we have to play, but perhaps instead and to others, having a butterfly longing to pull the fingernails off of humans, rather than the opposite of having them dispose of my wings.

Result, no wishy-washy legal solutions, and “to each his own” said the lady as she kissed the cow.

slarAugust 22nd, 2017 at 2:56 pm

In BWTA, if North bids 2NT over 1NT does that simply show 15-18 balanced?

bobby wolffAugust 22nd, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, in the absence of some other agreed conventional meaning, a raise of 1NT to 2NT is strictly invitational and would show around 15-18. but may of course vary to also include:

s. QJx
h. Axxx
d. A109xx
c. K


s. Jxxxx
h. AKxx
d, Q
c. AQx