Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dealer: West

Vul: All

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


South West North East
  Pass Pass 1
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 2 3 All Pass

Opening Lead: 10

“One must not try to know the unknowable, though one was quite powerless to ignore it.”

— Henry Adams

All this week’s deals come from last year’s Summer Nationals, marking the ongoing tournament in New Orleans this year.


Playing in a 4-3 trump fit always seems to lead to a lot of hard work. This deal from the first semifinal session of last summer’s von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs was no exception.


Three diamonds looks to be an easy partscore for North-South, but the contract of three hearts did produce an attractive alternative, though it was difficult to play.


South was treated to a defense of two rounds of spades, then a deceptive but inaccurate shift to a low diamond. (Playing the diamond king and another diamond might have worked out better).


West won the diamond ace and returned a diamond, which South ruffed. Spades appeared to be 6-3 and East had at least two diamonds, so it seemed too much to expect a trump break. Accordingly, South cashed the heart king and went to the heart jack to run the diamonds.


As soon as West ruffed in, he could do no better than return a spade. South could ruff in hand and enter dummy with the club king to draw the last trump and claim. If West had discarded all his clubs on the next three diamonds, South would still have taken two of the last three tricks for his contract.

ANSWER: It seems excessive to bid three hearts here, driving to game on what may be only a partscore deal. Simply rebid three clubs and be prepared to play a club or diamond partscore if that is what partner wants to do. There was certainly a case of sorts for responding one heart initially with this hand, but I much prefer bidding my length first.


South Holds:

7 6
K Q 5 2
A 10 8 7 3 2


South West North East
    1 Pass
2 2 Pass 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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Amnon HarelAugust 10th, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Dear Bobby,

Concerning the “Bid with the Aces” question – why do you rule out a reopening double?

It doesn’t show the sixth club (2C promises 5 in natural bidding), but shows the 4 hearts.

And once in a while partner will penalty pass, which you’ll love with this hand since you

have an Ace, shortness in his suit, KQ in the unbid suit, and even a 2nd trump.

Many thanks for all your thought provoking columns.

Bobby WolffAugust 11th, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Hi Amnon,

While everything you say is true, my answer may lie in a “Current state of the game summary”.

Perhaps up to 70+ years ago when bridge promotional giants, particularly Ely Culbertson and then Charles Goren were in their heydays, the 30+ million bridge players (estimated to be present in North America at that time) would impatiently wait for news about changes in first the Culbertson system (which incorporated honor trick methods of evaluation and bidding ideas of that time) and then the Goren system (which changed to numerical evaluation, 4-3-2-1 for the highest honors and an explainable bidding system which was promoted by its ease of remembering and its overall simplicity).

Nowadays many of the immediate (next generation) members of that group are now in retirement commuities (mostly Florida, Arizona and California) still playing bridge every day, but practicing the above systems. Our numbers have fallen (according to estimates) to about 8+ million, but those particular players still love the game as much as ever. The tournament bridge world in North America (ACBL) hovers around 160,000 members making that group only about 2% of the total numbers of bridge players presently on this continent.

The legacy, though, is one of against change and one of the specific caveats is that, after partner has bid affirmatively, then doubles of the opponents by his partner are penalty and definitely not takeout.

Since bridge columns which appear all over the country every day, are directed to all who read them (and these bridge retirement groups are a large and constant source) it sometimes appears counter productive to always be promoting radical updates to these elderly retirees.

No doubt bridge players (and particularly like you, who aspire to be excellent) want and need to keep up with the modern very progressive changes, but alas. the writing in the columns should and do remain old fashioned.

Yes, again you are 100% right in your assessment of that possible bid, but please understand why most syndicated columnists (I think) delicately try to tiptoe through the tulips and please as many of their readers as possible.

Thanks for listening and for your kind words about previous columns.