Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

I wasn’t lurking. I was standing about. It’s a whole different vibe.

Steven S. DeKnight

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


At the Spring Nationals in Kansas City, Missouri, last year, from where all this week’s deals come, Spike Lay produced an elegant play on this deal from the first final session of the Lebhar IMP Pairs, playing with Robert Dennard. After North-South had sacrificed over their opponents’ game, they discovered it was the best kind of sacrifice, a making one.

(Incidentally, you can certainly understand North looking for a sacrifice here; he knew his side must have a decent fit in one of the minors, and the fact that his partner had not doubled four hearts might have suggested that four hearts would come close to making.)

Against five clubs doubled, West led the spade king and shifted to the club three, won by dummy’s jack. Now came a diamond to the jack. Declarer cashed the club ace-king and the diamond ace, then played a diamond to the king and ruffed a diamond, leaving a five-card ending where he had four hearts and a trump in his hand, queen-third of spades, a winning diamond and a trump in dummy. Needing four of the last five tricks, Lay led out the heart queen. West was obliged to cover, and declarer pitched a spade from dummy.

Now West was left on lead and endplayed. Whether he led a spade or heart, he would have to give declarer the rest of the tricks. Most of the field had played four hearts, down one or two tricks, occasionally doubled, so making plus 550 was a very healthy result for North-South.

The question is whether to pass and leave well enough alone, or raise to three clubs. I think passing is right since you are not especially worried about the opponents competing, plus your soft honors in spades and diamonds are not ideal for play in clubs. I’d consider raising if partner had responded two diamonds, not two clubs — or if the spade queen were the ace.


♠ Q 6 5 2
 K 9 6 5 3
♣ J 10 6 2
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 27th, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Hi Bobby,

An extra thought about North’s biding here. West probably didn’t believe that North could pass 3H but then bid over 4H unless he’d gone mad. North knew better of course but there is also the point that he might have ben prepared to take a cheap save over a game but let the opponents have their major suit part score if they stayed out of game. Nicely judged but perhaps West shouldn’t go in with the big stick here – he can probably be confident of 2 tricks but partner will surely double with (say) CQJx or the DA.



Bobby WolffMarch 27th, 2018 at 3:14 pm

Hi Iain,

Well said, but always the emotion (even by experienced very good players who should know better).

It is very human for West, after picking up his terrific hand, to expect a significant plus score, and then (even though his partner could not keep the opening bid open) to still expect to score up a likely three defensive tricks.

Of course, especially with his partner’s hand having some defense, he normally would be correct, but stellar play by South would foil his expectations. And yes, North was somewhat coy in not bidding the previous round (over West’s 3 heart jump), but that psychology worked (instead of in spades, in clubs) by South’s brilliant effort as declarer.

Bridge is usually always somewhat exciting, but when the bidding battle gets joined by both sides, and two good partnerships are involved, the best overall mind game ever often produces gems, this being just one of them.

PeterMarch 28th, 2018 at 1:06 am

Hello Mr. Wolff

is the West hand strong enough to reverse?

I know it is 6-5, but if it was 5-5, 5-6, same strength, would there be some merit in opening 1H?


PeterMarch 28th, 2018 at 1:12 am

Hello Mr. Wolff

there was a hand today

West held


considering the weakness, West opened 1D, planning to bid 1S based on likely H response, or to bid 2C based on 1NT response.

West considered that opening 1C could lead to a reverse diamong bid down the line, for may sequences, and not strong enough to reverse.

Please comment


Bobby WolffMarch 28th, 2018 at 4:47 am

Hi Peter,

Never distort 6-5 distributions by the simple expedient of always opening the 6 card suit first and then rebidding the 5 card suit. IOW do not distort distribution in order to show strength since bidding must determine both level and strain before settling in. If only 5-5 is held then open the higher ranking suit and rebid the second suit giving partner notice as to suit lengths as indeed values are also shown by both partners up through game and then if slam is determined to be possible, controls in the unbid suits or just possible ace asking used, when one of the bidders decides to bid the slam if he is not off 2 aces nor 2 quick tricks in any suit.

In regard to the second example while holding 4-0-4-5 I wholeheartedly agree to opening 1 diamond (an exception to the general rule) and then rebid 1 spade over partner’s expected 1 heart response. Finally clubs should be bid, if logical later or, of course, supported vigorously if partner first bids them.

Remember the goal between partners is always strain first and level next, although sometimes when those worthy opponents enter the bidding in their longest suit, bidding becomes more problematical and good judgment, gained only through playing with and against above average players, becomes necessary for success.

The more experience one gets in that difficult area, the better will become his choices, helping find the best contract available more often than most.

Never forget that no one ever is born to play bridge, making it impossible for any young player, like Mozart in music, to be a born bridge genius. It has never happened and IMO never will.