Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

The act of thinking logically cannot possibly be natural to the human mind. If it were, then mathematics would be everybody’s easiest course at school, and our species would not have taken several millennia to figure out the scientific method.

Neil de Grasse Tyson

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


The deals this week all come from the 1998 Nationals in Chicago. This deal was played in the semifinals of the Spingold knockout event.

Both Souths opened one diamond and rebid one no-trump, but were taken to two no-trump by their partners.

Put yourself in the West seat, and if you want to make it a fair challenge, cover up the East and South hands. Would you have spotted the point of the defense here?

Both Wests led a low heart rather than an honor; this seems like the right thing to do, since if dummy has four hearts, you cannot afford to waste a high card at the first trick. As it turned out, the low heart lead went to East’s queen and declarer’s king.

At trick two, South returned the heart eight. Both Wests split their honors and were allowed to hold the trick. Back came a club to dummy’s queen and discouragement from both Easts. Now declarer led a spade to the king and West’s ace.

Have you decided what you would do now? Both defenders promptly laid down the diamond king and played a second diamond, to let their partner win and continue with a third diamond through declarer’s 9-7 for one down. Nicely done, but it was clearly the indicated play, since declarer had rejected an invitation to game but had the spade and heart kings plus the club ace. So East surely had the diamond ace.

For the record, in the other match, one North passed the one no-trump rebid, and one drove to game.

It is tempting to drive this hand to game, since you are under such pressure to raise hearts with less, but the diamond queen is probably worthless, so all you really have is a nine-count. That being so, maybe a bid of three hearts is sufficient here. Switch the diamonds and spades, and I might bid four hearts.


♠ 9 7 4
 A 9 6 4
 Q 10
♣ K Q 5 3
South West North East
Pass 1 1 3

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


Peter PengJanuary 3rd, 2018 at 2:51 am

hi Bobby

It seems to me that once S already limited his hand,
N either has enough to go to game on his/her own or must pass. Invitation not applicable in my repertoire.

Please comment.

bobbywolffJanuary 3rd, 2018 at 5:16 am

Hi Peter,

Assuming you are talking about the BWTA and not the actual hand, no doubt South had a sound raise to 3 hearts, but while these situations do occur, all the responder to the overcall can do is just raise to 3 hearts and let what happens, just happen.

Most times partner will pass and sometime we will miss game, but if so, give credit to the opponents for taking away enough bidding space, to make their opponents merely guess what to do.

However the good news is that these hands usually hang on thin threads whether they make game or come up short. Do not worry, since it is only a guess as to what to do, and often will only depend on the location of a key card or two to determine.

The only important caveat to both remember and then to put into effect, is that whatever the advancer decides to do should not be criticized, since to do so is effectively only playing results, and the partnership itself will be better off not to complain, accept whatever happens, and go on from there.

You are right, 3 hearts is not an invitation, but with certain extras, the original overcaller can then bid an aggressive game and hope to make it.