Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W

J 4 2
J 9 4
8 5 3 2
K 7 5
West East
10 9 5 Q 8 6 3
Q 8 7 6 5 A 2
7 6 K 9 4
Q 9 8 J 6 3 2
A K 7
K 10 3
A Q J 10
A 10 4


South West North East
2 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead:6

“The lingering illness

Is over at last —

And the fever called ‘Living’

Is conquer’d at last.”

— Edgar Allan Poe

The Dyspeptics Club has been reduced to three players in its regular game after East had been forced to take time off. South’s explanation that East’s system had produced a surplus of bile was willingly believed by everyone at the table — especially West, his regular partner.


Accordingly, a distinguished stranger was introduced into the game — and the regular partnerships were broken up. It did not take long for the newcomer to make his mark.


Declaring three no-trump, he received a low heart lead and put in dummy’s nine. When East played the ace, the heart king emerged from South’s hand, along with a faint gurgle that suggested an unwillingness to play that card. His RHO urged him to pick the card up, but South indicated that a played card could not be retracted. The defenders promptly cleared hearts, but declarer could take one diamond finesse when in dummy with the heart jack, and a second after crossing to the club king.


So the contract came home — but try to make the contract if you do not unblock in hearts at trick one! There is no longer a heart entry to dummy, and with neither black suit producing a miracle, eight tricks would be the limit for South. All he could do would be to win the third heart in hand and cross to dummy with a club. He could take a diamond finesse successfully, but since the diamond king would not fall in two rounds, the contract could not be made.

ANSWER: Bid two clubs rather than one spade for two reasons. The first is that bidding a major may excite partner to look for game, and that would not be what you would like to see happen. The second is that you want partner to lead clubs if West ends up declaring either hearts or no-trump, and this is surely the best way to get him to make what looks to be the best lead for your side.


South Holds:

J 4 2
J 9 4
8 5 3 2
K 7 5


South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. 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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Michael SteinJanuary 21st, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,

I dealt holding S-x, H-AK10xx, D-AKJ10x, C-xx and my partner S-AJxx, H-xxxx, D-xx, C-AKQ. After 1H-2NT (jacoby), I responded with 4D showing a good five-card suit. With partner’s poor holding in diamonds and reluctance to cue-bid his aces above 4H, he bid 4H which was passed out. I made seven. Had I responded with 3S (shortness) instead of 4D, partner cue-bids 4C. Key-card Blackwood reveals the partnership holding all the keycards, and even without the trump Q, seven is a possibility, six for sure. Your thoughts on this auction, specifically the response to J2NT? Thanks and thanks for the column.

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Hi Michael,

The original method of playing Jacoby 2NT invented by Oswald Jacoby sometime in the 1960’s suggested bidding one’s shortness at the three level, but if no singleton or void was held, then to step off one’s balanced hand strength with a bid of the trump suit at the 3 level the strongest (perhaps 18+ or a 6 card suit with a little less), 3NT with an intermediate hand (perhaps an opening strength strong NT 15-17) and a jump to 4 of the trump suit with a minimum (11+-14). Some, rather opted to jump to the 4 level in the void suit immediately. This last treatment could be awkward if the trump suit was hearts and the void suit, spades.

Perhaps 10 years later, some bridge creator (do not know who) suggested that a jump to the 4 level to show a 2d good suit (perhaps at least KQxxx) provided more information to partner while at the same time showing shortness in at least one of the two unbid suits to be determined later. This second version seems to be the more popular usage in 2010. Do you like chocolate or do you like vanilla? As you eloquently pointed out your example hand would have struck gold opposite the original Jacoby.

Any other comment would not be appropriate since I do not have a preference between the two versions except to suggest that you, Michael, would have the law of averages working for you the next time a similar sequence takes place. Sorry to not voice an opinion, but upon playing with a new partner I am sure I asked him what he preferred and played it that way.

Thanks for writing.