Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

What a word is truth. Slippery, tricky, unreliable. I tried in these books to tell the truth.

Lilian Hellman

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


In today’s deal North tries for a grand slam but signs off in six hearts when South cannot bid more than six diamonds over the five no-trump enquiry. (South would have done more with the diamond queen instead of the jack).

When West leads the club jack, South wins the ace and takes one top diamond. If no large diamond appears on his right or left, declarer might well simply draw all the trumps and play a second diamond to the jack. This line would succeed unless East had begun with a singleton diamond.

However, when the diamond 10 appears from East, South decides to take it at face value. He draws two rounds of trump ending in dummy, cashes two spades to pitch his club loser, then leads a diamond toward his own hand, while leaving one trump outstanding.

If East discards on the second diamond, South will win with the king, and give up a diamond. This leaves him in position to ruff a fourth diamond with dummy’s high trump.

However, since nothing can be gained by discarding, East ruffs the second round of diamonds and plays back a spade. South trumps, and can cash the diamond king, then ruff a diamond for his contract.

As an aside, maybe West could persuade you to go wrong if he started life with Q-10-9-3 by dropping the 10 on the first round? You might then draw all the trump before playing a second diamond, and be left with two diamond losers.

You may be tempted to pass, and I might indeed break partnership discipline to do that if slightly weaker. However, this auction is technically forcing. On this sequence, it is modern practice to play the call of two spades as natural but not promising or denying extra values, forcing for one round. So your plan would be to bid two spades, and pass any non-forcing continuation partner produces.


♠ Q J 10 4 2
 8 7 4
♣ K 8 6 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 ♠ 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 ClimieOctober 25th, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, is there any case for bidding 2NT. at least if partner treats it as 6-7 points with a club stop? I know some people now treat it as a puppet allowwing responder to bail out below game but, in the absence of that agreement, is it worth a try? I’d sooner have K108x of clubs or similar, of course.



Bobby WolffOctober 25th, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Hi Iain,

Your post deserves special handling.

Reverse bidding by the opening bidder, has become (and for many years) a source of innovative higher-level partnership agreement.

Most of the change from the ordinary has to do with, when doing, with this sequence a good example, the opening bidder wanting to know the length of partner’s (in this case) spade suit. IOW, a hand such as 3-3-1-6, s. K9x, h. AKx, d. AQJxxx, c. x would bid as North did with the BWTA.

The reason for this is sort of self-explanatory, finding the strain to play, without undue pressure on the original responder and ASAP in order to only later be concerned with level.

The immediate above is why most experienced partnerships play a reverse to be a one-round force, in order to insure not playing in a suit to which the opponents have more trumps than the declaring side.

However, as you alluded to, with instead and while holding: s. 9xxxx, h. Jxx, d. 10, c. KQ10x, same distribution but much different type strengths you would be 100% correct, at least IMO, to respond 2NT instead of rebidding that mangy spade holding.

However be prepared for partner to think that you have forgotten what that partnership has learned, but by doing so, you are likely justifying common bridge judgment to rule.

Playing bridge with a demanding partner is no easy task, but even that, again IMO, is better than the other extreme, one who only wants to have relaxed fun, and for a finish, likely sleeping in the street.

There is, of course, more to discuss and learn but, to do so, would certainly require delving into myriad other distributions.

In any event, thanks for bringing this difficult “reverse bidding” subject to being front and center.

Mircea1October 25th, 2017 at 8:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

In today’s column problem, should the declarer play the same way if a small diamond shows up on the play of the ace (i.e. not the 10)? What should declarer do if East follows suit on the second round of diamonds? Is it a guess now?

Mircea1October 25th, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Hi again,

Just a quick question following Iain’s comment on BWTA. What is your opinion on the usefulness of Lebenshol over reverses?

Bobby WolffOctober 26th, 2017 at 1:19 am

Hi Mircea1,

Probably yes, although close, but the alternative would be to draw all the trumps, after cashing the ace of diamonds first, and then safety playing them, by finessing, when East followed to the second one.

This type of hand causes me to place great value for declarer (at least in this case) to be an excellent psychologist and “feel” by his opponent’s break in tempo (if any) whether the opening leader was considering leading a would-be singleton diamond or not. At least to me, this feel (one way or the other) is ever so slightly superior to a small percentage in favor of doing something else. And, of course, the experience of the opponents comes into play, especially at the very high levels.

Against lesser competition if the opponents appear smug (whatever exactly that means) it is often caused by them having a bad break working for them and thus against you.

To be clear, if there is still a trump at large, then by all means, do not finesse the diamond as that is a far inferior play.

As to your final question, it depends on how they are playing Lebensohl over reverses, before I could possibly analyze its value. However, the question of responding to a partner who has reversed at the two level, when the partnership is playing a standard system has many twists with that situation one of the most troublesome and controversial to decide how to go about it.

Nothing is perfect or anywhere near it, so naturally most of the top pairs have their own pet theories.

Finally you need to be careful before following what somebody or other is playing, since there are many factors involved in that area, making the chances for relatively new players to prefer their own “home brew” and by not considering the whole view.