Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 14th, 2019

No disorders have employed so many quacks, as those that have no cure; and no sciences have exercised so many quills, as those that have no certainty.

Charles Colton

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


When West overcalls two hearts over one spade, North has just enough for a negative double. South is close between an invitational jump to three spades and bidding game, and his 100 honors in spades persuade him to go high.

West has a natural lead of the heart king, and South wins with the ace, since he can see no reason to duck. Declarer will need to find a way to bring the diamonds into play, but it may be best to disguise his intentions initially by playing the spade queen. When West ducks, the queen scores, and declarer craftily continues with the 10. This time, West decides to win and cash the heart queen. When everyone follows, West knows that to have any chance to defeat the contract, East must hold precisely the diamond ace — since if declarer has both top diamond honors and has played sensibly, the contract will be cold.

Furthermore, East needs a minor club honor, and now desperate measures are called for because declarer is threatening to take five spades, three diamonds and two aces. The desperate measures in question are to shift to the club king at trick four. If declarer ducks, the diamond ace will be the defenders’ fourth trick. If dummy wins the club ace, East can simply duck the first diamond, and the defenders will eventually come to a trick in each minor.

For the record, if South plays on diamonds at trick two, he should still be defeated with accurate defense.

You don’t need to bid more than three spades now; the three-club call creates a game force. This auction suggests three spades, so it also implies six decent hearts; with three decent spades and six uninspiring hearts, it would have been reasonable to raise spades on the previous round. You can let your partner decide which suit to play in, but I would not leave him in three no-trump, as diamonds sound like the danger suit.


♠ A 9 5
 K Q J 6 5 3
 9 5
♣ K 10
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 Pass 3 ♣ 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bill CubleyFebruary 28th, 2019 at 5:29 pm

A Morton’s Fork line of play against top defense. Rare seeing that no matter how you play you lose. Overbidding gets its just desserts. A great Merrimack Coup1

Patrick CheuFebruary 28th, 2019 at 8:02 pm

Hi Bobby,We went astray in the bidding on this hand: North AKx AKxxx xx AKx South xx Qxxx Qxxx Jxx. Pairs NS vul D East. E 2S(weak) S pass W pass N Dbl~E pass S 2N(lebensohl) W pass N 3N pass out.3N makes but 4H scores better.North did not bid 3C for fear that I would pass..As it happens I was going to bid 3H after 2N-3C.Should North have bid 3H which would be highly invitational unless I hold a lot of…Could you please advise as to how it might have gone..Regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffFebruary 28th, 2019 at 9:03 pm

Hi Bill,

While you get (at least according to me) a B+ for describing this Merrimac coup as similar to a Morton’s Fork and an A for remembering the name Merrimac, you will only get a C for your presentation relating to: 1. Spelling of the ship and coup, 2. Specific reference to the far from identical function of how the Morton Fork and today’s brilliancy deprive any defense of defeating it. True, they are similar in result, but quite different in how it is achieved.

I know that once a nit-picker, always a nit-picker but when I am not, it seems the Nitpicker Union all rise against in unison.

And even desserts which are almost all loved (especially by me), but the fat boy’s society which is always tempting me (and often, since I love chocolate, succeeding) is better off for all of us to show disdain.

You wound up with a batting average of 1000 (three for three) of better than passing marks, a school record that I wished I had.

bobbywolffFebruary 28th, 2019 at 10:35 pm

Hi Patrick,

Don’y fall for the false promotion of all sorts of Lebensohl. IMO, Lebensohl is worthwhile in general use after opening with one strong NT and encountering interference, but only in a simplified version which includes the overcaller having a known major. Yes, there are other versions with assorted pluses and minus’ but overall, and especially when at least one of the two Lebensohl players is inexperienced with either the convention itself or just relatively new to the game and still learning.

On this hand and after North’s TO double of the 2 spade opening will then bid a simple 3 hearts followed by North cue bidding 3 spades. Then a return to 4 hearts would be a 100% choice, not falling for the ridiculous alternate call of 4 diamonds, since the strong hand, by his cue bid, has taken over the role of Captain and the more important feature for his partner to convey is that his hand is very weak, but accepting the other major as the eventual trump suit. If the responder held the ace of diamonds instead of the queen and the queen of clubs instead of the jack, I think it OK (barely) to bid 4 diamonds over partner’s 3 spade cue bid and then, if so, North should recue 4 spades, likely only getting a 5 heart call from partner and then North probably deciding to venture 6 hearts, but not necessarily so.

Yes, it becomes a guessing game for NS when sometimes they will reach a laydown slam and sometimes not as well as sometimes (luck) dictating getting to a down slam when the two hands do not mesh as well as they could.

However, the major lesson to be learned is NOT TO PLAY a fancy convention unless that partnership is experienced or for that matter, and for fun and games, practices bidding Lebensohl auctions while gleaning experience which will help if and when that convention is used.

Just feel cannot be over emphasized in order to have a winning partnership. Of course, skill is also important but that comes with experience as well as having played many hands as partners.

Good luck and beware of early use when playing a convention which rarely comes up and requires the calibration of when to accept, when to reject and all the hands which are in between.

Patrick CheuMarch 1st, 2019 at 7:08 am

Hi Bobby,Could North bid 3H after 2N? Would that not show 5+Hearts and Gtry though responder can pass..?

bobbywolffMarch 1st, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, and no doubt, when partner, while playing the Lebensohl convention over weak two bids and hearing partner respond 2NT (showing general weakness (usually 0-5 hcps) unless holding something like QJxxxx, especially in the other major (hearts) and better, an outside singleton or void,.

However, what is the immediate bidder after the WTB supposed to do with a huge hand (perhaps 20 hcps) but very little length in the other major.

Sorting the various hand types out becomes difficult when those wily opponents have taken bidding space away from their opponents with the WTB, but after all, that is the primary reason, or should be, for them to choose that start to the auction (while also informing partner of their length in the bid suit, in case of a fit, when their partnership can take a significant number of tricks with their suit as trump.

All naturally good to very good players can do at least reasonably well at bridge, using only their born talent, but in order to do even better, requires a superior feel and a compatible partner who specializes in making correct bids and plays, especially at crucial times, in IMP matches or for that matter, while playing rubber bridge or even while playing matchpoints, but that subject is for another time.

Getting back to the ranch, sure that hand you gave me, after doubling 2 spades and while playing Lebensohl over WTB should not bid the expected 3 clubs, awaiting partner’s response (since with QJxxx in clubs and no special distribution and not much more than another jack or queen will simply pass). However, instead of accepting the puppet to 3 clubs the robust double should, as you suggest, bid 3 hearts (probably not 3NT, but bridge being the game it is, even that distortion could be the winning bid) which, of course then should be raised to 4 hearts, to which partner should, of course, now pass. If, for some reason, the partner of the big hand had something like, s. xxx,
h. xxxxx, d. Axxx, c. x, believe it or not he should then, instead of merely raising to 4 hearts, rather cue bid 3 spades (in spite of his xxx in spades) which should guarantee a heart fit and in relation to his attempted showing of a very poor hand (by his initial 2NT response) now show a robust raise, since he has already severely limited his assets.

The above does represent good bridge and should be the goal to reach with any bridge partnership aspiring to compete against the very best players.

However when not playing Lebensohl and then of course, responding a natural 3 hearts to partner’s original double, then rather than just raise to four hearts the really big hand should, of course, now bid 3 spades eliciting a 4 diamond cue bid from the hand who first showed a minimum by bidding only 3 hearts rather than 4.

Thanks for your follow-up query since it allowed us to discuss more of the inner workings of good bidding methods, but you and other readers can then see the advantage of sometimes choosing certain conventions to play but before they do, the convention chosen needs to be discussed as thoroughly as possible before adding it to one’s system.

In spite of the ample writing above, it takes a series of discussions and a great deal of playing against other aspiring partnerships in order to quickly get on the Yellow Brick Road to consistent bridge success.

Like other worthwhile activities, the early going can be frustrating and changes sometimes need to be made (including, after the initial period, changing partners) but isn’t there a great deal of that in life anyway?

One word of caution that I can conscientiously offer, both partner’s need to have both the time and most importantly the inclination to work hard to get it done, or otherwise the chances of success are close to nil.

However, with your personality, positive attitude, determination and already, bridge smarts (at least my judgment), you start out, as a single, with a significant advantage over others to get there from here, as long as you are lucky enough to find the right partner possessing enough innate skills.

Again, not unlike other aspects of life.

Patrick CheuMarch 1st, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Hi Bobby,I have noted what you recently said,that understanding the game is more important than just wanting to win..therefore Aren’t I glad to have asked again! Thanks again for your kind help which will further our understanding of this great game. Best Regards~Patrick.

Patrick CheuMarch 1st, 2019 at 10:29 pm

Hi Bobby,Bridge is a way of life,aptly so.

bobbywolffMarch 2nd, 2019 at 6:40 pm

Hi Patrick,

At least a likely understanding of the game is a condition precedent to being a winner and, no doubt, for a bridge lover, it may become a way of life, or, at least a most valuable pass time with many challenges.

And just having friends like you, make all our advice back and forth worth every bit of what it takes to give and receive it.