Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 23rd, 2018

When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

John Ruskin

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


Today’s deal from the North American Bridge Championship in Toronto last summer is more about the auction, and less about the play of the hand. North and South were a mixed pair, with a handful of world titles between them, but they goofed here.

With nobody vulnerable, as South you open one diamond in fourth seat, and partner responds one heart. Do you bid one spade or one no-trump now? I don’t feel strongly, but my choice would be one no-trump or pass rather than one spade; to each his own.

At the table, South bid one spade, which was passed around to RHO, who bid one no-trump. You pass (hoping your partner can double), but North balances with two diamonds. It has taken a long time to get to the two-level; what are your thoughts now?

You know a lot about partner’s hand. He clearly doesn’t have four spades (he would compete again to two spades) or four diamonds (he would have bid two diamonds at his previous turn), and he surely doesn’t have a club stopper, or he would have rebid one no-trump over one spade.

So your partner holds something like 3=5=3=2 or 3=4=3=3, and it is therefore clear to correct two diamonds to two hearts now. If you play in the 4-3 heart fit, you can see that you will be taking ruffs in the short hand — and hearts scores more than diamonds.

Partner had exactly what you’d expect: a 3=5=3=2 pattern with 7 HCP. Two hearts is cold on careful play; two diamonds will lose an additional trump trick even if you locate the queen.

Clearly a club lead looks unattractive; the choice is to lead your suit, diamonds, or to try to open up one major or the other in the attempt to find partner’s suit, or at least to avoid giving up a trick unnecessarily. Since both opponents appear to be relatively balanced, I want to try to set up tricks for partner by leading spades. My choice would be the eight.


♠ 8 6 2
 Q 8 2
 J 9 5 4
♣ K 8 6
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 NT All 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 ClimieAugust 6th, 2018 at 9:23 am

Hi Bobby,

Can’t South still get home double dummy? He/she takes the CA and leads a heart intending to play the Queen, then to play a diamond to the 10, then D back to the Ace and take another trump finesse. West plays HK and the defence cash a club, 3 rounds of spades and then give a ruff and discard on which South dumps HA while ruffing low on table. DA, D to 10, H to Q and now a heart off table picks up East’s DQx.

This doesn’t detract form the sound point about playing in a more sensible spot, of course, but a vaguely interesting possibility with the sight of all 52 cards. I wouldn’t even blame South for bidding 2H over 1H. Presumably in 2H, declarer just does best to play CA and run the H10. The defence can cash their 4 black suit tricks but now have to play a red suit and South is easily home with the diamond being thrown on the long spade.



Michael BeyroutiAugust 6th, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Shouldn’t the opponents compete all the way to three clubs? This may sound double-dummy but East was given the chance to bid 1NT…

Iain ClimieAugust 6th, 2018 at 1:23 pm

HI again,

Just realised CA then running H10 only works if oppo let you play from wrong hand. Probably better to exit with a club at T2. I take Michael’s point, though; clearly South’s mistake for failing to realise partner had his usual load of rubbish.


jim2August 6th, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Another point is that contracts usually play better in the weaker hand’s trump suit. That way the suit scores tricks as trump, but might not have the entries to score tricks in it as dummy’s side suit.

In BWTA, I would have either passed or bid 2H, probably 2H.

bobbywolffAugust 6th, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Hi Iain, Michael & Jim2,

Although each of you are all right-on or close to what you carefully and creditably explain, I feel a little like the quote suggests, this hand did not get its money’s worth.

Of course, the exciting part of our game usually has to do with bidding and playing close games and especially slams, but winning, especially at matchpoints, but still also true at the purer games of IMPs and rubber bridge, often lend themselves to extending bridge logic (here in the bidding) to full advantage.

Breaking it down, I can understand South rebidding 1 spade instead of passing, just in case partner is 4-4 in the majors, but when the opponents reopen and partner then competes to 2 diamonds (very logical considering the sound of this auction with the high card values, obviously close to being even) then South, IMO, shows inexperience when he doesn’t show his belated 3 card heart support, just in case his partner has 5 of them (both a major suit contract, especially important at matchpoints and an 8 card fit, almost always golden at any form of the game).

Omissions, while trying to play high level bridge, seem to occur much more frequently and are less reported nor felt, than more visible and flamboyant overbids which either ring the bell or the opposite, causing at least a minor disaster.

All of you have then gone on to quite correctly visualize what the play may be like, seeming to justify whatever may or may not result, all very enlightening, not to mention interesting. However, and instead, to enable an 8 card fit (especially in a major) instead of something less, is a vital subject, though it seems tossed out along with the morning trash.

Please do not misunderstand, talking about the play is never out of place, since all of us would or should be, very interested in that phase of the game, I just wanted to emphasize what I believe was the major event thus reason for inclusion of this specific hand.

Also Michael, you are 100% right that EW can make 3 clubs and kudos to the ones who have the inspiration to bid it, but also that is just another byproduct of the possibility of what may happen.

My sometimes childish nature of viewing good bridge as to what everyone is interested in, (pertaining to today’s quote) sometimes overtakes my judgment, causing me to ramble about what I think is important.

bobbywolffAugust 6th, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Hi Jim2,

Neglected to comment on your specifics.

Yes, from an overall perspective when the weak hand’s long suit become trump, there is often a stronger play for more tricks since his long suit being trump cannot be denied, which, on certain hands if that suit is merely a suit, and not trump, it may not have enough side entries to make full use of it. However, at least my experience would tell me that condition does not often occur. since both that suit would have to be critical to success and (the kicker) there are not enough entries inside that suit to make it critical. Possible, but unlikely.

I, too, would not have bid 1 spade, but in these days of lighter opening bids, (to which I grudgingly agree) I would pass 1 heart since it looks to me from my minimum hand, and with slightly unfavorable breaks, 8 tricks may be in jeopardy plus the larger disadvantage of encouraging partner to bid even more, when I from my perch think it highly unlikely that 10 tricks are in the cards opposite a passed hand.

Yes I would give up the possibility spades will be an eight card fit in favor of paying off to when my partner is 4-4 in the majors. Only an opinion with no percentages, just feel, to back it up.

Of course, by passing, it may allow the opponents to compete when bidding two hearts, having my partner pass, and then stealing the hand from them. It may depend, as it so often does, exactly who one’s opponents are and, for that matter, the bidding judgment of my partner. Theoretically not bridge player expertise, but in reality, the usual
difference between success and failure at the local duplicate when psychology becomes more important than technical ability.

jim2August 6th, 2018 at 5:47 pm

I would bid 2H because I am prepared to let them play 2S but fear 3C, and I judge that’s the best way to avoid hearing 3C.

bobbywolffAugust 6th, 2018 at 9:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

It is true what you say, since from your opponent’s ears while listening to that particular auction should suspect that together they have about 9+ clubs between them, but will they?

You are now exposing how really good players, are carefully listening to their opponent’s bidding, in order to know what, sometimes offensively, to know their own prospects. And that is only one reason why I would pass 1 heart instead of chirping 1 spade to lessen the opponents knowledge of what to now do.

Loose lips seek ships, not only in war, but at the bridge table. Little by little we can discuss great things but in real bridge life, most do not have to worry about that kind of sophisticated bridge thinking at some random bridge table.

Thanks for finding a way to bring up a very worthwhile bridge subject the easy way, with an example.

bobbywolffAugust 6th, 2018 at 9:26 pm

Hi again,

Loose lips SINK ships they do not seek them.

Brandon TaylorAugust 7th, 2018 at 12:18 am

Hi Bobby.

Here’s an attractive defensive hand, and the preliminary bidding:

S 8 5 4
H A K 4 2
D K Q 10 8 6

North East South West
Pass 1D Pass 1H
2C 2H ???

My first pass (unbeknownst to my opposition) was the equivalent of playing, say, a Trap Card in the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game. But I can’t sit back and pass a second time — this is the kind of hand that requires me to speak up, although I am weak in partner’s clubs. So, should I go spades or no-trump in this situation?

jim2August 7th, 2018 at 12:33 am

I am not Our Host, but I might bid 3C, hoping my red cards will be worth as much as two more small clubs. Meanwhile, I just might hear 3H …

bobbywolffAugust 7th, 2018 at 1:52 am

Hi Brandon,

I agree with Jim2 without having to assess the value. IMO and no doubt, there are not many high cards left for partner to have enough to bid 2 clubs (even after passing) so that it looks to me like he has at least 6 and maybe 7 of them.

To explain a constant discipline ever present in our beloved game is then partner’s future action. Once he ventures 2 clubs he should allow you, and you only, the right to make the next decision, if the bidding continues positive.

IOW he should know by what has already happened and add that to what his RHO then bids, if anything but pass, so that he will not get in the way of the next decision. which in 99+% of the time made by you.

The above is what needs to be learned by all, when one grows up surrounded by genuinely
talented players involved.

As you can then see, there should be no hesitation by you to up the ante, trying to get the opponents to bid too much, but if you have to worry about partner saving those opponents from disaster you should look for a different game or at least a different partner.

Another way to express my feeling is that once partner decides to enter the bidding, he should then let the next decisions on that hand to you

Thanks for submitting a hand worth talking about.

Alex AlonAugust 7th, 2018 at 11:58 am

As an owner of a private business in the Home theater field, i like the quote very much.

bobbywolffAugust 7th, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Hi Alex,

Yes, no doubt you well represent the high-end
choices in your established business, and you have seen that quote often come to life.

Check the quote in the next day’s column, since my bet is that you will also agree with it.

jim2August 7th, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Brandon Taylor –


Waiting for Paul Harvey.

bobbywolffAugust 7th, 2018 at 2:50 pm

Hi Brandon & a curious Jim2,

Yes, waiting for “The Rest of the Story”, that is unless it is spades or NT, then NOooooooo!

Believe it or not:

1. The singleton K is very decent opposite even Q10xxxxx, QJ9xxx or AJ10xxx.

2. Pushing them to the three level insures against the opponents getting lucky and taking eight tricks in hearts, and most importantly, quiets the apprehension, while defending, after your penalty double.

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