Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: South


8 7 2

K 3 2

A 10 5

7 6 4 2


4 3

10 9 7 6

7 6 2

A K Q 9


Q J 10 9 5


K 8 3

J 10 8 5


A K 6

A Q J 8 5

Q J 9 4



South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Club king

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

— Matthew 7:1

It is very dangerous for one bridge writer to criticize another. Who knows how revenge may be taken? So instead I’m going to show a deal that occurred in another syndicated column without mentioning the author, and ask you what you think before I give my views.

Against four hearts the club king and ace were led, and the column suggests that declarer should ruff. Now the text says declarer is certain to come home if trumps divide 3-2. It recommends that South lead a trump to the king and a trump to the ace. When the trumps prove to be 4-1, declarer runs the diamond queen and fails by one trick when East wins the diamond king and plays a third club. The defenders eventually score two more tricks, one way or another.

Can you spot the mistake? Better technique is to ruff the club, then cash the heart queen and jack, leaving the trump king on the board. Now you run the diamond queen, and East wins and plays a club. You ruff this trick, leaving West with two trumps while you have only one trump in each hand. However, you can still survive if the hand with the long trumps has at least three diamonds. You cash the diamond ace and jack, then take the spade ace and king. At this point you lead out the 13th diamond and can take your two high trumps separately, for 10 tricks.


South holds:

8 7 2
K 3 2
A 10 5
7 6 4 2


South West North East
1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: When two suits have been bid, as here, the third suit tells, not asks. Now that you know about the spade weakness, your duty is to get to clubs. You do not have to commit yourself yet, though. In the context of having shown a minimum at your second turn, you have a great hand facing a singleton spade. Bid three hearts to show your feature there, and maybe you’ll get to cuebid diamonds later.


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


GalApril 28th, 2011 at 10:11 am


You may discard a spade on the second club and make the contract when East has only three clubs. East can make life difficult by ducking the first diamond though (in case diamonds are 2-4).


bobbywolffApril 28th, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Hi Gal,

Right you are, especially in your last comment about East being difficult if he ducks the first diamond when he has the king and they are 4-2.

Also do not underestimate the unlikelihood of East having only 3 clubs when he also shows up as having only 1 heart (West did not overcall clubs).

From an educational exercise, this particular hand is illustrative of the advantage of numeracy in one’s bridge thinking.

Instead of enjoying the great old time love song, “Georgia on my mind”, perhaps a wannabe great bridge player will hum a few bars of “numeracy tends to make bridge much easier”.

jim2April 28th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

You present such interesting bidding Qs!

I am more used to seeing standard themes revisited over and over, with the hand/bidding quite “within the box.”

In this quiz, in contrast, partner has heard South make a first-round limit bid response denying a 4-card major suit and has then bid a major anyway (but not rebid it to show something like 0-5-2-6). When South responded to the one round force with a cheap and tepid preference, North made another forcing bid in still another suit.

The cheapest bid of 3H seems safe and clear enough for this round. Absent having belatedly found a 4th H (presumably among the diamonds), South must be surely be showing Hxx or HHx. If partner bids 4C, the way is clear to bid 4D which must show Axx, unless South could have bid this way with 3-3-4-3. That is, South could hardly bid 3D over 2H and some might say 1N is a better response to 1C with, for example, Axx Kxx 10xxx xxx.

What remains unclear to me is the “why” of partner’s sequence.

Was South expected to now bid 3N with S-AQJ H-xxx D-xxx C-Jxxx?

Could South have bid 1N with 3-3-4-3? (If so, 4D over partner’s 4C next round will be dangerously ambiguous, as a North may think a D contract might play better if North is 0-4-4-5.)

If partner bids 4C, it will be North’s first non-forcing rebid. Should South bid 5C, or the scientific but possibly ambiguous 4D?

All in all, a fascinating hand, and one important to discuss with a partner to establish/confirm understandings and preferences.

Did you have a hand in mind for North?

bobbywolffApril 28th, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Hi Jim2,

Interesting begets interesting.

At the risk of over describing but in the interest of brevity, let me hurry, at least to my view, to calibrating the hand in general, cautioning about sighted poisoned flowers, to

a stated goal of at least trying to reach the right final contract.

As both of us know that when Goren commercially and famously announced years ago that it will take about 26 points to make 3NT or a major suit game, 29 to make a minor suit game and around 33 and 37 to make small and grand slams, he, of course, was merely averaging what it usually took to score up those goals, keeping in mind that approximately 5 to 8+ of those points (high cards and distributional) on the average were wasted and did not contribute to the trick taking.

It follows then that the bidding used to get there should start out with naming possible trump fits and together with partner, attempt to find out just what distributional and high cards held were worthwhile and which ones were not.

On this hand the bidding started in the most mundane way with the opponents silent throughout, (1 club, 1NT). North bid 2 hearts showing a better than minimum hand and some further interest wherein South merely then preferred 3 clubs, possibly only 3 (and then, of course at least 4 diamonds, but alas on this hand holding 4 clubs).

Now bridge science enters with 3 diamonds which shows both extra and at least 3 diamonds (since 3 clubs can, of course, be passed). Now, from South’s perch, he should be aroused since North is showing at most a singleton spade and both his own Ace and King are doing yeoman’s work in meshing with his partner’s description.

South now, at least in my opinion has a choice of a simple 5 clubs, basically saying to partner, “thanks for the information and I am now using it to suggest our final contract”, or continuing the science by bidding 3 hearts, showing a major heart value (not finding a 4th heart among his diamonds) and enlisting partner’s opinion of further portraying his description.

If partner returns to 4 clubs, I would then pass, since my meager values have not suggested that we have enough combine strength to take 11 tricks. To say it differently is that I have used my ace of diamonds in my decision to bid 3 hearts so that if I was to bid again over partner’s 4 clubs I would be simply overbidding (dreaming).

Cutting to the chase, yes high-level bidding does lend itself to showing where we live both in high cards and distribution, but ALWAYS keep in mind that we must from time to time assess not only how good our hand has become, but also have the balance (gained by experience) of evaluating the overall value of the two hands together for trick taking.

If however, instead of signing off in 4 clubs, partner instead bids 3 spades then we should venture 4 diamonds since partner could hold, s. void, h. AQxx, d. KQx, c. KQJxxx making 6 clubs almost laydown. Change it slightly to s. void, h. AQxx, d. KQx, c. AKxxxx and a grand slam now becomes the overwhelming destination.

Without belaboring these double dummy possibilities, suffice it to say that only high-level visualization brought about by having much experience, a tendency to successful numeracy, and self-confidence in your own judgment together with a trusted and tested wonderful partner blends itself into a winning combination which has no upside limit to what that partnership can become in the worldwide bridge world.

You, Jim2 have the enthusiasm and determination needed, but I would be in no position to judge whether you have the time nor the desire or the superior bridge intellect to brave the distractions and sheer effort required to follow that road.

This discussion, as usual, was longer than intended, but for you, my friend, it is only a labor of love.

Albert OhanaApril 29th, 2011 at 8:23 am

Dear M. Wolff

1) In one of your columns, you say that if E opens 1D, S pass, W bids 1H, and N bids 2D, it is best considered as natural. But 2H is already natural ( 6 cards and a near opening ), so if 2D is also natural, how can N cuebid to show the blacks two-suited ?

2) S have :

S : Ax

H: KQ10x

D : J

C : AK10xxx

He opens 1C, partner says 1H. What is the rebid ? What should it be if the hand were

S : AQ

H : KQ10x

D: J

C : AKJ10xx

How to inform partner that you have 4 Hearts and not only 3 ?

Many thanks in advance.

Al. Ohana

bobbywolffApril 29th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Hi Albert,

Bidding design is based on frequency, especially in obscure areas such as when the opponents start with one of a minor by LHO and his partner (RHO) now responds in a major.

First of all a double by you is usually a takeout for the other two suits, unless you are dealt a blockbuster hand such as the example AQ, KQ10x, J, AKJ10xx then even with only length in one of the unbid suits, the hand is much too strong to do anything less than double after which you plan on vigorously bidding clubs or depending on what happens, perhaps 3NT, if LHO’s diamonds somehow do not appear to be a lethal threat.

Having said the above, both possible cue bids (diamonds and hearts) if bid by you, should be natural with suits such as KQJ10xx which need to be bid naturally to either compete for the final contract or maybe just to induce an opening lead by partner should your LHO become the eventual declarer.

Consider the meaning of certain bridge bids being made in advance by knowledgeable agents of the game who met with other bridge experts of many different cultures like might have happened at the biblical explanation regarding the city of Babel when confusion insisted that that many different languages must be developed world wide.

On your lesser strength first example, a simple bid of LHO’s bid suit should be bid for both getting the lead and throwing it into the mix as a possible trump suit. Keep in mind also that if you, in 4th chair and after the bidding has gone 1 of something by your LHO Pass, 1 of a major by RHO a jump to 2NT by you shows a distributional 2 suited hand (at least 5-5 and probably moreso) and, of course, the unbids.

One important exception is usually followed and that is a bid of one of a major (5 card suit) by LHO is best defended by playing then that a bid of that major by a 4th chair defender reverts to a take out rather than a natural bid.

Albert, the lesson to be learned here is that bridge bidding has evolved (through many years, since 1927) to make each possible accepted choice the most likely one to, on frequency, to be the most helpful. Like you have done, question them if curious, but DO NOT discount the way most of the high-level contingents now play them.

Good luck in your desire for better understanding. Be careful of tending to bow down to would be experts who are far from what they (and perhaps you) think they are.

Good luck in your (and most everyone’s) sometimes frustrated path to learn to play our wonderful game as well as you can.