Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

I never metaphor I didn’t like.

Mardy Grothe

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


Today’s deal comes from one of my readers, Jeff Aker of Briarcliff Manor, New York. It cropped up in the Open U.S. Trials this spring.

The auction at the table was different from what is shown here. In real life, North had opened a precision diamond and had shown a three-card club raise with a singleton major, but the final contract was as indicated. Plan the play after a low spade lead from West goes to dummy’s ace.

The contract will be easy to make if clubs break 3-2. What is the best way to protect yourself against the 10 possible 4-1 breaks? (East can have one of any five singletons, or West can have one of any five singletons.)

If you finesse the club jack, then, as the cards lie, West will win and play back a spade, and you will go down. Leading the club queen from dummy covers some of the bases, but not enough, and it will not succeed today.

The key to the play is that the hand is about more than the club suit. If you can score two club tricks without losing the lead, you can switch your attack to hearts and come to three heart tricks and two in each of the other suits. Realizing this, Aker played a club to his ace followed by a club to the queen, and could then shift his attention to hearts when clubs failed to behave.

This line takes care of all 4-1 clubs except the singleton four or five with West.

It was very nice of your RHO to take you off the hook here. Had he passed, you would have been forced to rebid one no-trump, since this is the closest approximation — or least lie — to describe what you have. But now you can pass and await developments without having to distort your hand. Redouble here would show a better hand than this, by the way (or three trumps if playing support doubles).


♠ A
 J 10 4 2
 A K 9 6 2
♣ Q 6 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.

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


ClarksburgNovember 29th, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Local Club game, Matchpoints
K4 AK94 K8 Q9864, opposite
void Q10873 A54 AK1072 (Dealer)
Rather awkward with the useful void in suit ranking above either trump suit. Most playing 2/1, Jacoby 2NT, and 1430. Nobody got to 7C or 7H.
Have quickly explored a bit to find various complex void-showing schemes dependent on number of key cards (or odd / even number) and rank of the void suit. None seemed to cover this case; maybe so rare not even worth learning for Matchpoints?
Any comments / suggestions?

BobliptonNovember 29th, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Clarksburg, don’t you play that after a Jacoby 2NT response, bidding a new suit on the 4 level shows a second 5-card suit? After that, responder, who may have been brooder over the possibility of a slam if only he can get it played his way, should become ecstatic.

Barring that, responder might try an initial strong jump shift, planning to show his heart support later, shocked to hear a raise.


Iain ClimieNovember 29th, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

A flippant thought: if they’re all only making 1430 or 1370, do you want to be in 7H or 7C? If it starts 1H 2C (intending the old fashioned Delayed Game Raise) and opener splinters in spades agreeing clubs you might get there, even with the SK wasted. Even 1H – 2C – 4C gives chances although the hands are near perfect fits.

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, if there were no double, how would you rate (if at all) 2D or even 2C relative to 1NT? I’ve often found that with (say) 4-1-5-3 shape after 1D-1N then 2C can work nicely, finding partner at home in one of the minors and not losing a pile of heart tricks.

Bobby WolffNovember 29th, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

No doubt your illustrative hand requires careful handling to bid to the laydown grand slam (discounting an opening ruff on opening lead, which never could nor necessarily should be seriously considered).

Dealer, 1H, Respoder 2NT (Jacoby), 4C (5-5), 4NT (RKCB), 5NT (2 aces and a working void), 6D (Interested in grand), 7C (K of clubs enormous, and missing it, no way partner can be this interested in bidding for all the tricks without), 7H (should be thought to be a laydown or almost depending on the responder having the 9 of hearts with the queen a foregone conclusion and, of course, the possible jack but with nine between, not to worry (the advantage of promising 4+ not 3, with Jacoby 2NT).

However at IMPs perhaps passing 7 clubs with the known 5-5 fit may be best since an opening lead hitting a void is less likely with 4 out than with 3. Finally at IMPs or rubber bridge the small loss of playing a club grand slam rather than hearts is only either 2 IMPs or 70 points at rubber bridge, but much more at matchpoints since many pairs should be getting to a heart grand slam making it wise to try to not lose those matchpoints.

The above represents a combination scientific bidding sequence, but not without higher level judgment required of both partners being able to realize what a necessary card represents (CK). IMHO, when one realizes the above is the beginning of that player having the capacity to rise above the herd and soon being able to compete consistently with the best, causing him to then concentrate on the declaring and the defending, rather than the bidding.

Bobby WolffNovember 29th, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Hi Bob,

Agree with you about having a bid (with Jacoby 2NT) to show a 5-5 especially restricting the second 5 card suit to a decent one, not five to the queen or worse).

Many good players prefer showing a strong jump shift in another suit before primary support in partner’s major, but I firmly believe that the absolute priority is to show a trump fit in a major suit ASAP. Reason being is when opener (therefore both partners) know what suit is trump, the concentration then only goes to controls and sources of tricks, rather than wasting even one round of bidding without that knowledge. Of course there are exceptions, one of them being when holding only three of your partner’s major (when, of course, playing 5 card majors) chances are that partnership will wind up with that suit as trump, but sometimes a nine card fit elsewhere becomes preferable and, if so, needs to be explored.

Thanks for your opinions and taking the time to comment.

Bobby WolffNovember 29th, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, especially in bridge, almost any method may somehow allow the correct final contract to be easier to find. However, and to what I have addressed above, the sooner the Prince Albert fit is disclosed the sooner that partnership can concentrate on the all important decision of level, even though sometimes (such as the subject hand) an alternate contract, just by accident, can emerge. Such is the built-in nature of our wondrous game.

As to today’s BWTA: In the absence of an opponent’s TO double or (any bid but pass) I would restrict the two choices to 1NT (a distortion because of the 1-4-5-3 distribution) or 2 diamonds, IMO, most player’s choice.

Two clubs runs the risk of playing a 3-3 fit when partner has a mediocre or lesser hand and 5-3-2-3 distribution, a fairly common occurrence. Also partner, while holding 3 diamonds and 4 clubs will raise clubs, with or without competition which may ensue.

Neither 1NT nor 2 diamonds is a rebid panacea, but, at least, it makes some sense. BTW, and for what it is worth, I would rebid 1NT at matchpoints and 2 diamonds at IMPs, if only for running to daylight while playing duplicate (risking partner playing me for at least 2 spades), but trying not to distort while playing IMPs and partner not yet having limited his strength.

ClarksburgNovember 29th, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Thanks. Most enlightening.
What I had missed initially was that once the two-suiter is identified, via proper response to Jacoby 2NT, Responder knows the useful void will be indeed useful, whether it’s Spades or Diamonds doesn’t matter.

Supplementary: When Responder makes a “Grand” try with the 6D call, does Opener need not only the CK to accept, but also the HQ (thus validating Responder’s view that the “Queen a foregone conclusion”) ?

David WarheitNovember 29th, 2017 at 7:37 pm

Ah, all this delicate bidding to get to the virtually unbeatable grand slam. Meanwhile, back in the real world, after dealer opened 1H, his lefthand opponent bid 4S. Now what?

ClarksburgNovember 29th, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Good question David!
Please answer it yourself.
What would you do, and where would you and your ideal Partner likely end up?

Iain ClimieNovember 29th, 2017 at 10:19 pm

Sorry Clarksburg,

That was 4130 RKC BW wasn’t it, not the score! In reply to David’s query obviously at least 5H but is all too easy to imagine SA and the second round being ruffed with 4S going for a fair number. I’m either bidding 5H like a wuss or 4NT if (to quote Clint Eastwood) I feel lucky. In the latter case, I’ll get the extra 10 pts in 6N at pairs. Isn;t this one reason we play this wonderful but maddening game – to complain about the horrendous outcome and try to get support from anyone who will listen for our impeccably reasoned bid after it has just imploded disastrously. Meanwhile partner is doing a simialr thing on the other side of the room while complaining about our lemming like tendencies and believing that no sane player would have bid like that….

Apparently Zia Mahmood recently got named Percy after a post-mortem comment “If you can find a decent player wwho’d bid that, you can call me Percy!” Such a player was found by his teammates, Zia conceded he was a decent player and the question was dutifully asked. Mr. P. Mahmood is now an asset to various teams.



TedNovember 30th, 2017 at 1:07 am


Unless partner tends to open very light, over 4S, I’d just bid 6H. On the auction partner likely has a good play for it, it may be cold, or I may talk them into 6S even if it wasn’t making. Besides, partner has to play it!

Bobby WolffNovember 30th, 2017 at 1:26 am

Hi David & Clarksburg,

If, after the 2d seat player intervention of 4 spades and only a 5 heart raise by the responder, I do think the opener should risk 5 spades, which by definition a stronger bid than just 6 hearts.

Responder IMO should keep suspense in the air with a manufactured either 5NT or 6 diamonds (K) which throws the ball back to opener and if so, while missing the AK of trumps I probably would decline and merely return to 6 hearts.

At least then, and under the contrived circumstances, what can anyone say except nice try and “please keep your 4 spade preempt away from my table in the future”.

No doubt, it is MUCH tougher to play against active opponents who take chances in order to keep worthy opponents from using their talents and worthwhile bidding system to scientifically arrive at top spots.

Thanks Clarksburg for reporting a hand of great interest, exciting, educational and controversial.

Bobby WolffNovember 30th, 2017 at 1:37 am

Hi Iain,

When faced with a fairly close choice (and David’s 4 spade preempt caused it to happen) I always, or almost with both high cards (tricks) and support choose to show support (at least 5H here) since it is usually what partner prefers (unless you are, of course, wrong), but by bidding out instead of stopping to take the profit by doubling, the bidding is not over by sometimes either side, differing from a double which normally will end it.

Only the Shadow knows (going back75+ years to radio) but still my preference, if only to search for higher ground to do battle.

Much love,