Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 6th, 2017

The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.

Johan von Goethe

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


In today’s deal, a straightforward strong no-trump auction leads you to three no-trump. North would need the diamond queen instead of the two to start contemplating higher contracts.

West leads the top of his heart sequence against the no-trump game, and it would be easy to relax and to fail to focus on what might go wrong. You will have plenty of tricks if diamonds behave and the suit breaks 3-2. Similarly, if West has diamond length, you should be able to negotiate the position easily enough. But what if East has long diamonds? You cannot do much about a 5-0 break, and some 4-1 breaks will prove too challenging. But if West has the bare queen, or if he has a singleton nine or 10, you can take steps to neutralize the defenders’ holdings.

Win the heart king at trick one to preserve dummy’s entries, then lead to the diamond ace and observe the fall of West’s nine. You can now guarantee your contract by leading a low diamond from dummy and covering East’s card. If East plays the 10 or queen, you can set up the suit easily. If he plays low, you put on the eight, knowing that if West wins the trick, the suit will break 3-2. And if West shows out on the second diamond, as here, you cash the king, go to the club ace and play a fourth diamond. You still have a heart entry to the board to cash the fifth diamond.

Of course, if West turns up with four diamonds, go up with the king and play a third diamond.

While it might be right to lead from one of your four-card suits (diamonds looks better than clubs since partner did not take the opportunity to double two clubs), my gut tells me desperate measures are called for — I should look for partner’s five-card major. Here, a respectable five-card heart suit might be enough, so I will lead a low heart and cross my fingers.


♠ K 5
 Q 9 2
 J 7 6 4
♣ J 9 7 4
South West North East
    Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 ♣ Pass 2
Pass 3 NT All 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


Mircea1November 20th, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

So let’s say North does have the DQ instead of the D2:

6 5 3
A 7
A Q J 7 6
A 7 4

How should you probe for slam with this hand? I’m open to any conventional methods.

With this flat pattern I cannot think of anything else but a quantitative 4NT but I have a feeling that it’s not ideal. Is there a better approach?

bobbywolffNovember 20th, 2017 at 5:13 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Like a good doctor when a patient comes to me with what he thinks is a problem, this time I will have the right answer.

However, by suggesting what I intend, you will have to mention and then convince your partner to make a significant change in what you probably are playing now, transfers over NT.

Change to 2-way Stayman, 2C being NF to game and 2D being GF, with 2H and 2S being natural to play and asking partner to pass.

TWO MAJOR ADVANTAGES and no significant disadvantages. First, playing from what is perceived as the “wrong side” IMO is very much overrated, but doing the opponents out of being able to pass the first round (when playing transfers) and then balancing when the bidding comes to a halt plus the advantage to them of being able to double an artificial transfer for a lead in addition is more than offset.

However the additional huge advantage is being able to bid a simple, but artificial 2D which merely forces to game, so that whatever partner bids, 2H, 2S, or 2NT (denying a 4 card major) merely then bid 3 diamonds which will begin to show this hand. If partner has a fit, he will either bid a major with a control (lowest A or K) or merely raise to 4 diamonds, wherein, and if so, I would not stop below a diamond slam. However if he instead bids only 3NT showing either no diamond fit or a minimum NT with only a partial fit I would simply let it go (14+-17 NT) and pass.

Finally 2 way Stayman is my favorite convention and, at least to me, try it and you’ll get the same feeling, especially after you get used to its advantages.

Again a two edged sword, 1. it gives less opportunity to compete when your worthy opponents have only one round to come in and 2. It is far better to initiate slams (for example, if holding the same 4 card major as partner now responds, merely raise to 3 and unless partner denies extras by merely just bidding game, you can pass without the usual fear of missing a good slam. Also if partner has a 4-3-3-3 hand he can bid 3NT over your raise and if your hand is also balanced you have the opportunity to contract for only 9 tricks for game instead of ten with little or no ruffing values (sometimes a critical advantage).

Yes, to repeat, I have gone all-in on 2 way Stayman and for more years than anyone can imagine, so there it is for you and others to change to it. BTW an immediate jump over 1NT to 3 of a minor should be to play, another way to not give both opponents to cracks at the opportunity to compete.

Another small advantage, quite often not worth mentioning, but when holding s. A10xx, h. K9xx, d. xx, c. A10x and having your partner opening a strong NT, bid 2 clubs not 2 diamonds since you plan on only bidding game in a fitting major or without one 3NT immediately, but you would prefer your LHO not being able to double 2 diamonds for a lead, so therefore do not give him a chance and instead respond 2 clubs to keep him from it.

While doing so it may or may not be a good idea to alert that possibility to one’s opponents since by doing so it would mean your partnership needs to do it every time you respond Stayman to 1NT and therefore some may think you are trying to coerce a poor lead from them by not following the exact meanings of your treatment.

No answer to the above, but I only wished to update you on your options to be decided by your partnership. In any case the immediate above is not to be worried about since the above is only good bridge and your opponents could figure that out themselves, but when novices are your opponents, it is very unlikely that either alerting or not will not help them understand that you are only trying to be both helpful as well as ethical.

slarNovember 20th, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Leaving two-way Stayman aside, how about simply transferring to diamonds and bidding 3NT over that? We play that as a balanced mild slam try. If you happen to get a superaccept, you can probably go straight to 6D and hope partner doesn’t have a mirror distribution.

bobbywolffNovember 20th, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Hi Slar,

No doubt by assigning that meaning to your bid, when deemed by you and your partner, as worthy of being included in various (usually artificial devices) bidding schemes, go for it.

However at the death of deciding, unless both of you love the concept of complicated, it is both preferable and less dangerous to be able to both remember, not only the convention, but think alike on the gradation of specific bids.

Keep in mind that in the heat of battle, or even when the mind gets a bit tired, may come the most important time in a match or even just a duplicate, where the “flag is up and waving” as to the details of meaning. Then becomes a “testing” time where neither partner should make even a tiny mistake, not only the meaning, but also the necessary specifics, otherwise a “bad” taste will almost always occur.

Also. when artificiality is used, it gives the defense the opportunity to both affirmatively or negatively request what may turn out to be a key opening lead, which helps them, even slightly, in determining the result. Meaning when everything else is almost equal, choose the fastest way to get the best result without arming “good” opponents to the teeth.

No doubt my choice of 2 way Stayman can also include artificiality, which enables “lead direction” so that my preference may also include the same disadvantage. The idea, is when given choices, there is much to consider while attempting to win while traveling on the Yellow Brick Road to Nirvana.

slarNovember 20th, 2017 at 10:06 pm

And that is why I push back on adopting various conventions until I am sure that both sides are comfortable with a) recognizing the scenario and b) understanding all of the possible continuations. It is a constant battle.

มิวเถื่อนมือถือNovember 25th, 2017 at 8:20 am

fantastic issues altogether, you just gained a new reader.
What would you suggest about your post that you just made some days ago?
Any sure?