Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dealer: West

Vul: E/W

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


South West North East
  2 Pass Pass
Dbl. Pass 3* Pass
6 All Pass    

Opening Lead: Queen

“We never know what is hidden in each other’s hearts; and if we had glass windows there, we’d need keep the shutters up.”

— Charles Dickens

In today’s auction North had available an artificial response of two no-trump to South’s takeout double of two hearts to show a bad hand. Hence, the three-diamond call showed values and persuaded South to drive to slam.


Six spades is a splendid contract if the opponents have not come into the bidding; but on the auction shown, it was a good bet that the king and jack of hearts were reposing offside, in West’s hand. So declarer had to devise a line that would put that player under pressure, forcing him to lead hearts into the tenace or to give up a trick in a different way. It took some doing, but he had been painted a very clear picture by the opponents.


South won the club lead with the ace, then unblocked the diamond ace and crossed to the spade nine to take dummy’s diamond winners, pitching his club losers and crossing his fingers as he did so. When West was forced to follow to the top diamonds, South could see daylight. He ruffed a club high in hand, went back to the spade queen, and ruffed another club high. Now declarer drew two more rounds of trumps, reaching a three-card ending where West was reduced to his three highest hearts.


At this point, South triumphantly exited with the heart queen. West won the trick and was forced to lead from his heart jack into declarer’s tenace: contract made!

ANSWER: Most people these days play that a jump to three diamonds here is pre-emptive, the typical range being 3-7 points. Your hand may not be blessed with extra shape, but your good trumps suggest you want to get to the three-level, and it is always better to put the maximum pressure on opponents by competing as high as you dare as fast as you can. So bid three diamonds now.


South Holds:

Q 9
7 5 3
K Q 4 2
9 8 6 5


South West North East
  1 1 1


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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


bruce karlsonJune 26th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

A very nice hand (my LHO would always start with 2 Diamonds and 2 Trumps of course). I would not bid the slam with that holding for the reason you cite. Supect the odds of making it are quite low.

Anyway, back to basics: Please splain “value showing” and what North’s response might be with the same distribution but missing the Diamond king??

bruce karlsonJune 26th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Unclear- I meant swap the Diamond K for the Diamond 5. Sorry

DarinTJune 26th, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Bruce, with the D5 instead of the DK one would probably bid 2NT instead, a Lebensohl variant this pair appears to be playing. But one would probably also bid 3D with the CK instead of the DK, (say Qx xxx QJxxx Kxx) and then the slam is a worse proposition.

bobbywolffJune 26th, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Hi Bruce,

First and foremost, thanks for keeping the blogsite informational. Sometimes, perhaps not creating subjects which are interesting to everyone, but by and large covering varied bridge playing and bidding to, at least, often enticing others to don their bridge caps.

DarinT refers to the Lebensohl convention, a device meant to clarify very poor hands, 0-6 high card points (by bidding 2NT first suggesting to partner to respond 3 clubs) to those better hands which then are positively bid at the 3 level immediately by the responder.

Caution, the above is gobbledy-gook, and though thought of by some as an improvement, in actual practice is very questionably superior.

At first blush the above description appeals to many, including some in the higher-echelon contingent, but what about losing the natural meaning of 2NT (at least a stopper in the opponents suit and a hand ranging from 7-10 hcp’s)? Also deft (another word for generally impossible) judgment is required which is to determine whether distribution strength should be included in the original determination on whether to go positive with a suit at the 3 level or settle for the wide ranging negative though forcing 2NT.

The subject column is a good example, including the picking apart of this or that value.

DRUM-ROLL-Bridge is an art, not a science. If anyone expects to be right 100% or even 70% on some guesses he better be prepared for less, especially when playing against worthwhile opponents, because it simply won’t happen. DarinT’s examples are right on with what to expect. The editorial license I took to give the responder the q NINE of spades is sheer maneuvering by me in order to create a good hand for declarer to play.

However, I would still guess to bid the same 6 spades and hope for the right dummy. What should we learn by this:

1. To be particularly good at bridge one’s judgment must eventually climb the ladder to superior.

2. When the opponents either preempt or invade the strong side’s auction it makes it that much more difficult for them to scientifically reach the right final contract by taking away bidding space which, in turn, often creates guesswork rather than science for the strong hand’s side.

3. While chess is a much purer exercise than bridge, that particular advantage sometimes becomes a bore where only analytical ability rules rather than many less measurable qualities such as psychology, sending out false reads to the opponents, and general ruthless competitiveness along the way.