Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 4th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: Neither


Q 9 4 3 2

J 9 8 3

K 8 3



K 10 7 6 5


9 6 5

10 8 7 2


J 8

K 10 7 6 5 4

Q 10

9 5 4



A 2

A J 7 4 2

A K J 6 3


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 4 Pass
4 Pass 6 All Pass

Opening Lead: Queen

“In a bargain, no prospect of advantage is so dear to the merchant, as the thought of being tricked is mortifying.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell were one of the few partnerships to reach six diamonds at the 2009 Bermuda Bowl after an artificial auction. I’ve substituted a more natural sequence.


West, Pablo Lambardi, led his singleton heart, and Meckstroth won the ace. How would you play it from here? The natural and successful line is to unblock the club queen, then take the two top diamonds, planning to get dummy’s hearts away on the top clubs if the diamond queen does not fall. However, when Meckstroth led a diamond to the king, Luis Palazzo as East dropped the queen!


Declarer imagined that even if West had begun with 10-9-6-5 of diamonds, the slam could still be made, as long as declarer could throw all three hearts from dummy on his winning clubs, then ruff the heart two.


After cashing dummy’s club queen, Meckstroth crossed to hand with the spade ace (better than using a trump, in case West had only three clubs along with his four diamonds) and ran the clubs. His idea was that if West ruffed the fourth club and returned a trump, he might still be able to ruff a heart in dummy, as long as West had a second heart.


Dummy’s last heart duly went away on the fourth club, but East ruffed the trick with his “impossible” trump. Now he played a heart, and Lambardi could ruff in front of dummy with the diamond nine — down one and a rich reward for the falsecard!


South Holds:

Q 9 4 3 2
J 9 8 3
K 8 3


South West North East
Pass Pass Dbl. 2
ANSWER: Opinions differ as to whether a double here should be responsive (suggesting both majors) or penalties, since the opponents have not found a fit. Regardless, it seems easier to develop this hand by bidding your five-card major, on the assumption that partner has either spades or extra values. So simply bid two spades and await developments.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2February 18th, 2011 at 2:48 pm

On the “Bid with the Aces” quiz, with what sorts of hands would South bid three diamonds?

bobbywolffFebruary 18th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Good morning Jim2,

Since no intelligent bridge aficionado would confuse bridge with being an exact science, we should, instead, state its normal goals.

Concerning bidding, there are usually only 2 visible goals for the partnership:

1. Strain (specific suit or NT)?

2. How many?

In this case since the hand (under 2 above) is only worth contracting for 8 tricks opposite a minimum take out double by partner, we should not cue bid, but instead bid our 5 card major keeping in mind that partner will almost always (99%) have at least 3 in both major suits for a minimum type takeout double, satisfying our desire for our combined hands to have an 8 card fit.

If however our hand is:

s. Q943

h. J9832

d. A83

c. K

I would, instead cue bid 3 diamonds and raise partner’s major suit response to game, since how many, has reached, in my estimation, at least a good play for 10 tricks

Delving a little deeper, the following truths need to be said:

1. The ace of the opponents suit is much more valuable than the king rather than only the one extra high card point given by accepted valuation, particularly so since partner’s hand on this bidding could easily include having only a singleton diamond.

2. Equally important is the fear of partner having only three cards in both majors, so my tweaking of the Bid with the Aces hand gives 5 hearts (the suit partner may choose to bid if he holds the awkward 3-3 in the majors) which, in turn, makes it more fluid to risk the cue bid. If the suits numbered what they do (5-4) in the hypothetical hand I would be uncomfortable to then bid 3 spades over partner’s 3 heart response for fear of partner thinking I was cue bidding with long spades, but short hearts and an altogether different distribution.

The above reasoning could be frightening to a fresh beginner, but in reality the logic of bridge usually takes hold early and it sooner, rather than later, becomes a walk in the park.

JaneFebruary 18th, 2011 at 5:10 pm


Why not over call a spade to begin with? The diamond king looks well placed, and with a singleton as well, the hand might have potential? Still at the one level also. My partners know not to lead my over called suits anyway (just kidding), and you did not mention vul. Not vul does not seem to pose a huge risk, right?

bobbywolffFebruary 18th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Hi Jane,

It is nice to hear from a red blooded, bridge loving, daredevil.

While I appreciate your bravery and the competitiveness, we all need to establish some limits, beyond which, we should not descend.

You mention one of the prime motives for light overcalling (lead directing) and because that suit is not worthy, neither would be (IMHO) an overcall.

If one held AKxxx in a major and out, it should be worth the risk, because of the value gained by suggesting the lead provided, of course, if your LHO becomes declarer. Once you transgress (if you really are) and partner sees your suit strength you may convince her to start leading her own suits instead of yours.

I do appreciate your attitude, but do disagree, just barely, with your judgment.

Al Roth once said that “Vulnerability is for children”. and although he was a great bridge player and a superior contributor to creative bridge thinking his quote would suggest to me that children make for better bridge players, since bridge (especially matchpoints and with competitive part score bidding) is tremendously intwined with the vulnerability.

JaneFebruary 19th, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Thanks, Bobby. Somehow I knew this would be your assessment. Funny that Mr. Roth felt that vulnerability is for children. I do pay attention to vulnerability however. Seems kind of important to me!

Another question- in the following bidding sequence, is my four NT bid to play? We do not play 2/1 and I am not a passed hand. I did not present the hands as that is not the issue. We are in no danger at all at 4NT and can make five NT, which my partner did.

Partner opens one spade, I bid two clubs, she bids two diamonds, I bid two hearts (alerted as fourth suit) and she bid thee NT. I bid four clubs (Gerber, and yes, she did know it was Gerber) and she bids four hearts. I then bid 4 NT, thinking I was captain of this ship and she would pass. Wrong! She bids five hearts. I have no idea what her bid means, so bid six NT down one. I did not try to sign off by bidding four hearts for her to bid four NT because hearts had already been bid by me, even though it was artificial. I did not believe she would get it. She obviously did not get that 4 NT was to play either. Help!

bobbywolffFebruary 19th, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Hi Jane,

Your interesting (though slightly convoluted) story about your down 1 slam is an exercise often repeated, as we speak, around the world from the bridge clubs in North America to the coffee houses in Europe and finally to the Hall of the People in Beijing.

The first 5 bids through 3NT from your partner were all mama-papa (although if you were playing 2 over 1, your partner might save a round of bidding, and therefore give your partnership more bidding room to rumble, by bidding only 2NT).

However, now uncertainty, (in spite of your all-knowing blurt that your partner knew your 4 club bid was Gerber) slipped into the picture. Yes, your partner certainly suspected you meant 4 clubs as Gerber (not a treatment which I would recommend) and so answered one ace, but then when you carried on to 4NT meaning “Stop” your partner veered off track. Her reasoning, no doubt, went back and forth, but then concluded that it might be safer to bid than to make an oh-so-final pass, ending the auction. It wasn’t that she was overriding your good decision, it was instead what the windmills of otherwise intelligent minds sometimes thrust upon us.

Bridge merely was proving again what we all shouldknow which is, “If you want to learn how to play me, you better discuss long, leave no stone unturned, since I plan on testing you every chance I get, particularly so when you get closer to the Emerald City”.

It was only one hand and can easily be overcome, but to do so we need to give the game the time and even more importantly, the respect which our wonderful game deserves.

Thanks for serving the purpose of a real life living example along the Yellow Brick road to improvement.


JaneFebruary 19th, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I enjoy your rhetoric, so thanks again. Until I moved here, I did not use Gerber except over first bid NT for ace asking, but seems like the trend here is to use it over first and last bid NT, at least that is what my partners like to do. I find it confusing at times, but try to stay afloat. One advantage is that it keeps the bidding lower so a slam can be avoided, but as you said, the train can become derailed if partner does not understand the braking system.

Have a great day- hi to Judy.

bobbywolffFebruary 19th, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Hi Jane,

As an epilogue to the Johnny Gerber convention may I suggest that a jump to 4 clubs is only ace asking if the bid is made as a JUMP to 4 clubs and over only specifically 1NT or 2NT. If the last bid is 3NT, 4NT becomes always quantatative and 4 clubs either a suit or possibly a cue bid, allowing the use of a jump to 5 clubs always asking for aces with no king ask. Add that to getting the responses agreed satisfying the demands of either regular Blackwood or Key card Blackwood and as the song goes, you are “Almost There”.