Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dealer: West

Vul: None

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


South West North East
  1 Pass 1
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
2 All Pass    

Opening Lead:K

“‘Guess now who holds thee?’ –‘Death,’ I said, but there

The silver answer rang… ‘Not Death, but Love.'”

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Estoril in Portugal (the most westerly point of continental Europe) was the site of one of the more successful recent Bermuda Bowls. A pleasant and popular European bridge congress is held annually there, and the final round of last year’s Swiss Teams saw an England-Bulgaria squad face a Portuguese-Spanish one. This was the final board, and just one point separated the teams. Had the Spanish declarer made her contract, her team would have lifted the trophy, but her opponents collected the prize.


The contract was the same in both rooms — and yes, South might well have passed one no-trump. As you can see, there are seven top tricks in spades, and good chances for an eighth.


West led the diamond king, then switched to the heart nine to the queen and king. Back came the only card to beat the contract, a diamond to West’s king. Again the defenders found the key switch, back to hearts. This was won in dummy, and now declarer was faced with a choice of losing options: drawing trumps leaves three club losers; a winning heart is ruffed by West; and the diamond queen is ruffed by East.


See the difference if dummy’s heart ace is played at trick two. Trumps are drawn, then South exits with a diamond or a heart. Now the defense must either give declarer a red-suit trick for a club discard, or open the clubs, giving declarer the one trick he needs from that suit.

ANSWER: There are sound reasons for raising to three clubs. To start with, your hand offers decent chances for game facing club length, be it in three no-trump or five clubs. And you have no reason to let the opponents in cheaply by passing two clubs, since if your partner has a minimum, they may have play for a partscore in spades.


South Holds:

9 6
A Q J 5
Q 9 4 3 2
J 4


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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2March 25th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Let me preface this with the confessions that I have not kept up on bidding theory for some time and have a major championship tropy count of zero.

I would have responded with one heart holding this pattern only if I had planned not to bid again over a minimum rebid by partner (one notrump or two clubs). If I had planned to raise two clubs to three, I would have responded one diamond (expecting partner to bid one heart with something like 4-4-1-4).

What would the “Bid with the Aces” answer have been if North had rebid one notrump (instead of two clubs)?

Bobby WolffMarch 25th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your not having kept up with bidding theory, nor your not having scalps on the wall are of little consequence. Since you bring the main ingredients necessary, enthusiasm and love of the game, you are eminently qualified.

Having a coordinated plan, like you seem to have, is a reasonable exercise to make you comfortable and since, in the long run, most all plans are workable it is hard to say which is best. However, let me inject some caveats which might be worth considering.

1. If one diamond is preferred to one heart as an opening response, that partnership is more likely to be preempted out of perhaps reaching a heart contract, be it a part score or even a game.

2. Everything being more or less equal, I, holding the responder’s hand, would probably prefer a heart lead to a diamond, especially against a suit contract by the opponent’s.

3. My experience tells me that the fluidity and therefore beauty of your scheme would come out second to the practicality of quickly getting in the responses which are more likely to turn out to be bell ringers, at least comparably speaking.

Please understand that I have no real proof of the superiority of which I speak, only that I perhaps have more of a sense of urgency than I do of beauty.

In answer to your specific question about South’s rebid to North’s hypothetical 1NT rebid in the BWTA hand, I will quickly answer, PASS! In an aggressive attempt to never miss any possible game, many points are lost by playing 2NT instead of 1NT and, of course, in reaching a too thin 3NT. Yes, bridge is a bidder’s game, but also yes, bridge is also a thinking man’s game and not a blatant war always seeking huge victories. As an aside, it is usually easier to run a five card suit if the interior is AQJ instead of just an isolated queen, therefore to even consider to raise to 2NT with the subject hand I would prefer for my fifth card to be in the strong hearts rather than the weak diamonds. Small edge, but bridge has a number of such value options.

Bridge has always had many nuances, and will never be totally mastered by anyone, at least up to now. All we can do is continue to play and love it and therefore experience the thrill of learning, sometimes the hard way.

Good luck and thanks for your questions.