Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 15th, 2017

You can find in a text whatever you bring, if you will stand between it and the mirror of your imagination. You may not see your ears, but they will be there.

Mark Twain

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


In today’s deal from the Wildwoods Club, each of the Three Bears tried, but only one succeeded, in bringing home a contract of three no-trump. When they came home, Goldilocks got to hear the full story from each of them.

On the lead of the spade jack, all the Souths ducked in dummy. Each East took their king and returned a spade, won by South, but now the play diverged.

Papa Bear opted for simplicity when he played the ace and another club. When the suit failed to break, he cleared the clubs, but he did not have nine winners before the defenders could get in with their red aces and cash the spades.

Mama Bear saw a little more into the hand when she tested clubs. When they didn’t break, she tried diamonds, leading the king from dummy. West correctly ducked the king, then won the queen and thoughtfully shifted to the heart jack, which was ducked around to declarer. Declarer was now locked in hand and had to lose two hearts, two diamonds and a spade.

Baby Bear combined his chances effectively. He led a diamond to dummy at trick three, then a club to hand and a second diamond, unblocking dummy’s honor under the ace. West cleared spades, and only now did declarer test clubs. When they failed to behave, he led a heart to his hand and played his diamond winner. Then he endplayed East with a diamond to give him a second heart trick. That was declarer’s ninth winner.

This auction is forcing: You may have a minimum (or even subminimum) hand, but you have spade support. So raise to three spades without a qualm. I could imagine producing a splinter raise to four clubs if my heart four were the ace, or even perhaps the king.


♠ K 5 3
 Q 10 9 8 6 4
 J 10 9
♣ 5
South West North East
2 Pass 2 ♠ 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


Bruce karlsonDecember 29th, 2017 at 1:13 pm

I routinely avoid preemptive “two” openings with a four card major. It seems to me that I can usually back into the auction later while preserving the possibility that partner has my outside suit. Thoughts??

bobbywolffDecember 29th, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Hi Bruce,

Yours is a common conception and a caveat which is widely held and thus practiced.

Since my thoughts run along different lines, and think and “feel” the real tangible advantage of both taking advantage of removing valuable space from the opponent’s being able to bid “scientifically from the lowest levels” and, at the same time show a weak two bid suit, usually 6 but sometimes a good five or even a mediocre 7 and below normal opening bid overall values, I believe in starting at that 2 level as often as is practical.

Therefore, to me, that advantage, which I consider significant, is worth testing as often as possible, particularly as the dealer and, even more so, in third position after 2 passes or even in 4th position, when, because of my limited high card values, the opponents may well now back in the auction, particularly if I start at the one level.

Keeping in mind, what I consider my own experience, as I got older, my opinion has only gotten stronger, not weaker, and although certainly not risking occasional glitches, in reality, do not even consider changing back to what others think are “slam dunks” never to irritate partner with having either a weaker suit than expected or even a side major suit which happens to not only have a major fit with partner but also him having significant values to go with.

In at least some cases, it is not too late, after opening a weak 2 bid, to still change course, and find that fit, but even when we do not, at least to me, it seems fortune favors those who are not too rigid in using that underestimated great weapon of starting the bidding at the two level (especially in a major) and allow the opponents to then grope around to basically “guess” what to do, rather than politely get out of their way and merely succumb to “tradition”.

Bruce karlsonDecember 29th, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Thnx for your thoughtful explanation. One very good player here (Clearwater DBC) will open any 6 0r 7 carder with a pre-empt to make life difficult for the opps. Making life difficult for partner is of lesser value. Seems to work mostly…

bobbywolffDecember 30th, 2017 at 2:07 am

Hi Bruce,

Bidding more preempts than your opponents is not undisciplined. Especially when there are only minor variances in what your weak hand holds.

The problem only occurs when the preemptor has a stronger hand (fewer losers) than his bid advertises. Having extra, especially more defense, is the lack of discipline which will hurt more than it helps.

And to understand that whatever is risked will not go away. There are no safe avenues anywhere in high-level bridge but rather just man to man challenges, both partners need to follow rigid discipline, the most important caveat being especially with preempts, of bidding the full extent at the first opportunity with the idea of then passing the captaincy to partner.

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