Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 8th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: North


A K 5

A 5 4 3

A 9 8 7



10 3

Q J 10 6 2

3 2

A 9 8 3


J 9 8 6 4

Q J 10 6 4

7 5 2


Q 7 2

K 9 8 7

K 5

K 10 6 4


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

Opening Lead: Spade 10

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Safety plays come in all shapes and sizes. Today’s deal is from a recent Senior Knockout Teams quarterfinal round at the U.S. Nationals. Declarer was Melih Ozdil, in a four-heart contract where it was apparent at the second trick that the only major concern was the 5-0 trump break, so declarer was able to plan accordingly.

Ozdil won the spade lead in dummy to preserve entries to hand and led a trump to the seven and 10 as East discarded the diamond six.

West shifted to a diamond, won by dummy’s ace. West now took the first club in an attempt to block the suit and played a second diamond. Ozdil won in hand, crossed to the club jack, and led a spade to his queen. He next cashed two rounds of clubs, pitching the winning spade and one of the losing diamonds from dummy.

At this point he had played off four clubs, one round of trump and two tricks in each of the other suits, and the lead was in the South hand. Ozdil now advanced the spade seven, ruffed by West with the trump six, and overruffed with the ace. A diamond from dummy was ruffed with the heart eight, and West overruffed with the jack. But now a two-card ending had been reached where West was trump endplayed at trick 12 to lead from his Q-2 of trumps into declarer’s K-9 tenace. Contract made!


South holds:

Q 7 2
K 9 8 7
K 5
K 10 6 4


South West North East
3 Dbl. Pass
4 Pass 5 Pass
ANSWER: When the opponents have bid a suit, as here, a raise of a major to the five-level is a slam try, asking for a control in their suit. Without a first- or second-round control, one passes; with the ace, one moves to slam. With the guarded king, as here, best is to bid five no-trump, in case six no-trump is the right spot.


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


John Howard GibsonApril 22nd, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Great hand. West would certainly fancy his chances on making 3 hearts and one club to beat the contract. The vision of some players to foresee what needs to be done, to take the tricks in such a way as to engineer a finale end play in trumps is tremendous.

I , like so many other players, would have aimlessly meandered to a one trick defeat wondering if there was something we could have done about it.

So much still to learn……

bobbywolffApril 22nd, 2011 at 1:45 pm


Thanks for your praiseworthy support of Melih Ozdil, who foresaw what was necessary to overcome the horrible trump break and still managed to take ten tricks and make his heart game.

Superior technique with possible bad breaking hands is indeed a talent sometimes needed and when it is, only a few are adept enough to profit from it.

Because of your unqualified honesty, do not fret in discussing how difficult it sometimes is in executing the solution. To say the least, bridge is indeed a very humbling game and any player, especially I, would be stretching the truth (lying), if I didn’t recognize how often it happens to me.

C’est la vie, but after all, it can sometimes be thought of as refreshing to be continually reminded of the actual and subtle challenges our wonderful game constantly offers.

jim2April 22nd, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I confess that I would have bid 3N, instead of 4H as Melih Ozdil did.

My intent would have been to offer a choice of games, since I had no fifth heart, no singleton, and considerable black suit values. If pard had a true red two-suiter, I would expect to then be put in 4H.

In this hand, I think North would pass, Ozdil would wrap up 10 tricks w/o breaking a sweat (or 11 with some sweat), and we’d have missed a great story!

bobbywolffApril 23rd, 2011 at 5:59 am

Hi Jim2,

While no one should criticize your bid of 3NT, it might be wise to delve a little deeper.

Since partner has promised 4 hearts by his jump raise he would be reluctant to override your decision. Of course, I’ll give him a strong NT type hand 2-4-4-3 but with 2 little spades. He would then be masterminding if he returned to 4 hearts, particularly so if his partner occasionally responded with 1 heart with a 3 card suit, 10-11 HC points, and not enough to go to the 2 level while playing a 2 over 1 system. Others eschew a 1 heart response and sometimes choose a very conservative 1NT holding above the maximum expected.

Also on this hand the Kx of diamonds looks terrific once the heart fit is found since with fairly normal breaks it seems that 4 hearts will usually make at least 90% of the time.

Again certainly I, for one, would respect your 3NT choice, but, everything considered, I would probably differ in my judgment.

Mr. Ozdil was prepared to do this hand total justice and although your team would defeat his team on this board at board a match scoring, he would certainly have a giant glow with his superior dummy play with that very tough trump break.

Albert OhanaApril 23rd, 2011 at 8:16 am

Dear M. Wolff

N opens 1D, E overcalls 1S, and as S I bid 2H. Does my bid promise a second bid ?

If yes, and N support with 3H, I cannot Pass, even if I have a bit overbid on the first round. Yet you say that I can pass because this auction is not forcing and N is probably minimum otherwise he should bid 4H. I thought that 4H should promise 4 cards and a good hand.

Could you make this clear for me please ?

Thank you in advance

Best regards

bobbywolffApril 23rd, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Hi Albert,

When the opponents enter the auction, bidding rules change, especially applied when the subject partnership is playing 2 over 1 or a variation of it.

Since the meaning of a 1NT response by partner changes, at least slightly, (must have the opponents suit stopped and the range goes from 6-9 to 8-10 1/2) as well as often the responder must go to the 2 level over an opponents 1 spade intervention.

So if the bidding starts 1 club by partner, 1 spade by the overcaller, 2 hearts by the responder, that bid is forcing, but only for 1 round. If partner now raises to 3 hearts, the responder could and should pass with:

s. Kxx

h. KJxxxx

d. xx

c. QJ

Of course, the responder has the option of instead of bidding 2 hearts immediately to trust his fortunes to a negative double which implies 4 hearts or possibly more, but has the downside, in the event of the overcaller’s partner raising spades, of being shut out of being able to mention his 6 card heart suit.

In effect, the contested auction changes the opening bidder’s side from a scientific 2 over 1 system to a natural, old fashioned, go as you please system, where it is necessary to bid where you live and bids which would normally be forcing now become what are called limit bids, well defined but not forcing, with, however, more use of a cue bid in the opponents suit as a stronger, of course, forcing bid, but having many different meanings, but wanting partner, the opening bidder, to continue to describe his hand.

If you have any specific sequences you want described please let me know, as every nuance needs to be known for successful partnership bidding.

Albert OhanaApril 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 pm

thank you M. Wolff, your explanations are very comprehensive and clear. And thank you for your so kind proposal for the future

Have a good Easter with family

Sincerely, Al. Ohana