Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 17th, 2018

No single theory ever agrees with all the facts in its domain.

Paul Karl Feyerabend

S North
None ♠ A 8 3
 Q 8 6 4 3
 K 7 3
♣ J 7
West East
♠ K Q 10 7 2
 A 5
 10 9 8
♣ Q 9 4
♠ 9
 J 10 9 2
 Q J 6 4 2
♣ 10 6 2
♠ J 6 5 4
 K 7
 A 5
♣ A K 8 5 3
South West North East
1 ♣ * 1 ♠ Dbl. Pass
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass

*15-plus HCP


In the semifinals of the NEC trophy last February, both tables reached three no-trump after each declarer had shown some extras in the contexts of their opening bid styles. Both Wests led a top spade against three no-trump.

In one room, declarer Inon Liran won dummy’s spade ace and played a heart to the king and ace. Barry Myers, West, won to shift to the diamond 10. Declarer won in hand and ducked a heart, won the next diamond and played the heart queen to find the bad news. Then he ran the club jack to Myers, who led a diamond to his partner. She could cash her red-suit winners for down three.

In the other room, Karen McCallum did much better; she ducked the opening lead, won the diamond shift in hand and led a club. West won his queen and pressed on with diamonds. (Wouldn’t we all?) McCallum ducked in dummy, letting East overtake to play the heart jack, ducked around to the queen.

Now McCallum overtook the club jack and ran four club winners, then threw West in with a heart to lead spades for the ninth trick. A well-deserved game swing for McCallum’s team.

After declarer ducks the first spade, either a spade continuation or a diamond shift still beats the game. But if declarer ducks the diamond switch, West must then go back to spades to set three no-trump. And if (as at the table) declarer wins the diamond ace and leads clubs, West must win and continue clubs at trick four to disrupt declarer’s entries!

With game-forcing values, you would need to find an exceptional hand to persuade me not to bid my longest suit first. The rationale is not so much that we should always find spades, even if I bid clubs first. It is more that if we have a club game or slam, we make it far harder to locate the suit unless it is introduced at once.


♠ J 6 5 4
 K 7
 A 5
♣ A K 8 5 3
South West North East
    1 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bill CubleyMarch 3rd, 2018 at 6:31 pm

I like the BWTA analysis. This is a basic concept in bidding. Clubs might be the only making slam. Properly describing your longer clubs and short spades is so obvious.

But then you know where we need lessons far better than I. I will be playing again in the Pajama Nationals with my robot partner and opponents.

BBO refuses to provide a robotimprinted with Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. It would be great to have a partner who is programmed to help me. 😉

Bobby WolffMarch 3rd, 2018 at 6:56 pm

Hi Bill,

While all even sort of experienced, informed players know that 2 clubs as an initial response is definitely a slam dunk, still duplicate hungry matchpoint hunters like the possibility of first bidding 1 spade in order to:

1, Avoid a spade lead, if indeed it turns out best for the opponents especially against NT and, of course, responder’s partner is short.

2. Sometimes makes the overall defense more difficult (after the 1 spade distortion), for the defense.

3. To become declarer if partner turns out to have 4 card support with, of course, still the advantage of the bidding making it tougher, even for excellent opponents, to defend, starting with the opening lead.

4, A very common practice for bridge pros to avoid partner playing too many hands.

5. Of course, the overall psychology is to do as much as possible to put that partnership into winning mode, rather than being both a good teacher and example for what proper bridge is all about.

6. Finally since 6 clubs starts out being an unlikely final contract, the disadvantage of not bidding it, becomes minimal.

Reminds me of a hand I held 100 years ago:

s. AJ9x, h. KQxxxx, d. x, c. Ax and while playing professional bridge with a non-talented bridge partner: I, as dealer, opened 1 spade (in case partner had four+ of them) and heard my partner respond 2 hearts!

No one took pity on me then, nor probably would they now. Besides, I wound up making as many NT as we could at hearts and no slam in either denomination.

ClarksburgMarch 3rd, 2018 at 8:52 pm

Re BWTA, with same South hand, suppose Partner opens 1S.
Would a Jacoby 2NT call (with flaw of unbalanced hand) be clearly inferior to 2C (playing either 2/1 or not) ?

Bobby WolffMarch 3rd, 2018 at 9:47 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

An excellent and very contentious question, and worth a proper analysis.

Advantages of 2 clubs:
1. Later, after spades are supported partner will expect a source of tricks (length, not particularly strength)

2. Keeps the level lower to make room for more description (the real value of a 2 over 1 system).

3. Just in case of opposition, may allow better judgment from the opening bidder whether to eventually declare or defend (even sometimes at the slam level. Of course it also helps the opening lead plus the later defense, but this overall advantage is unlikely to be a factor.

4. More likely to get written up as perhaps the bidding sequence of the month, year, or lifetime. (Just a bad humor break).

Advantage of an immediate GF trump raise:

1. Helps both players settle half the battle, knowing what suit is going to be trump, with in almost all cases at least a nine card fit. (much stronger than only 8),

2. Sets off a conventional response where shortness and controls are both emphasized and at as low a level as is practical.

3. Just in case (and according to the vulnerability) will deny the opponents (particularly the defender who has not yet spoken) to be as effective by entering, particularly a preemptive high level bid.

4. Sets off a sequence where the responder in most cases becomes basically a puppet, except the times the opener asks (by making a bidding choice) for him to judge.

I prefer the immediate raise, both for practical reasons and to not alllow a usually NV opponent to direct a lead at the 2 level.

Of course the source of tricks, especially when the opener has a major honor (A, K or Q and even, sort of, the J) is definitely an advantage and quite often later becomes the determining factor in bidding a good grand slam, expecting that suit to provide the 13th trick) However many players would still bid 2 clubs while holding AKJx, so that long suit fifth trick may turn out to be a mirage.

But change the hand to: s. Kxxx, h. A, d. xx, c. AKJxxx and then a strong jump shift (if the partnership is playing them) is, at least to me, a slam dunk (please excuse the pun) of course when partner admits to at least 2nd round control of diamonds.

One of the major “magic” keys to very high level bidding is to make sure “captaincy” lies with the player whose hand is less known than his partner. That theory, while extremely important, is not always available, particularly when the opponents take away needed bidding space.

That is about all, but I will be happy to answer any specific questions about any of the above.

Perhaps if only the reader gets only one positive “truth” out of this whole discussion it might be the advantages to being a tough opponent, somehow getting into the bidding and make those worthy opponents have to guess what to do at the high levels.

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