Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Vulnerable: Neither

Dealer: North


4 3

10 6 5

10 9 8 4 3



8 6

9 7 4 3

K 6

10 7 6 5 4


K Q 10 9 7 5

Q J 2

A 5

9 3


A J 2

A K 8

Q J 7 2

A 8 2


South West North East
Pass 1
Dbl. Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass

Opening Lead: Spade eight

“‘Tis strange — but true; for truth is always strange;

Stranger than fiction.”

— George Gordon, Lord Byron

Are you a gambler at heart? If so, would you back the defense or declarer in this problem proposed by Eddie Kantar, where South plays three no-trump on a spade lead? Assume best defense, of course.

(A note on the auction: doubling, then bidding no-trump, shows a stronger hand than a direct one-no-trump overcall.) Anyway, place your bets.

If you chose the defense, you backed a winner. However, for East-West to prevail, East must not play a spade honor at trick one; the nine will do just fine. South wins the jack and attacks diamonds. As long as West wins the first diamond and continues a spade, driving out South’s ace, declarer has no chance. East remains with winning spades and the diamond ace for an entry.

If East plays a high spade at trick one, South ducks, wins the spade continuation with the jack, and attacks diamonds. Alas, West has no more spades when he gets in with the diamond king, and South has time to drive out the diamond ace while retaining a spade stopper.

There is a defensive principle here. When declarer has two stoppers in the defenders’ best suit (here, spades) and the defenders have two entries in declarer’s best suit (in this case, diamonds), the defense should try to force declarer to win the first trick in the suit if possible. Here, it is possible, but only if East resists the pressure to play third hand high.


South holds:

A J 2
A K 8
Q J 7 2
A 8 2


South West North East
Dbl. Pass 1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: Your partner heard you show 18-20 at your second turn (that IS what this sequence shows) and opted to get you to pick a partscore — diamonds or spades. So pass two diamonds (though at pairs a call of two spades would not be outlandish). If you bid anything beyond the two-level, you are telling your partner you know what is in his hand better than he does!


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


jim2May 11th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

On the bidding quiz, how would North bid with:





JaneMay 11th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

Two questions- on the first hand presented, should north rebid diamonds to tell parter he has five and is not crazy about NT? Since the first bid was only two diamonds, partner knows the hand is not terrific. The club holding is great, but not much else about the hand is. On the second hand, is it possible partner is asking if I have three spades by bidding a second suit? He already knows I don’t have four with the big hand or I would have raised in spades rather than bid NT. Seems like with the second bid, partner might have the five-four hand and is looking for the spade fit if possible.

Thanks in advance.

bobbywolffMay 11th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Hi Jim2,

First, your example goes to the heart (or I probably should say the spades) of the matter.

Second, my bridge take on the problem, is that North should not bid 2 diamonds on the hand you offer, but rather either 3 diamonds or even 3 spades as a means of “running to daylight”, another description of trying to head to the most likely game available instead of the pusillanimous choice of pass we recommended.

Obviously 2 diamonds would be a standout choice on your example hand, by a large percentage of the readers of my column, as well as other average+ players, but why would anyone expect them to understand (will not fly in Peoria) what we are now discussing? A typical 2 diamond bid should instead be, Qxxx, x, 10xxxx, xxx which should be an attempt to find the best contract to go plus instead of possibly going set in 1NT.

You, as usual, go to the core of the problem and if there was a 4 year bridge college, these types of problems would not be discussed until the students entered their senior year when a course could be offered, possibly titled, “High-level” bridge, its numeracy, goals, and expert commitment.

Yes, I know that your example hand represents a fine 4 spades (opposite the exact hand suggested), although continual club leads might offer a successful defense against, assuming less than perfect opponent distributions.

bobbywolffMay 11th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Hi Jane,

Since the ships which pass in the night theory is ever present in our bridge blogging, let me suggest for you to read, if you haven’t already, the conversation immediately above, between Jim2 and me.

To answer your first question about North’s rebid after first bidding 2 diamonds and then having my take-out doubling partner respond with the strong response of 2NT to my bid (19-22).

For now it is prudent and very necessary for North to quickly raise partner’s 2NT response to 3NT. It is impossible to imagine (or provide for) all the different combinations of cards partner might have, but, as you pointed out, the KQJ of clubs is enough to try and bid and make game, and certainly NT is the spot to be. Don’t worry about it, but rather do your bridge duty, and then become a fervent rooter for your partner to score up 9 tricks.

On the second hand (as you describe it, but in reality it is the Bid with the Aces problem), the thinking at this point is somewhat different than the normal course of the responder (to the take-out double and then 1NT rebid over your initial 1 spade response). Partner should be trying to find a port in this storm of being very weak, but still wanting to seek a safe harbor in order to find a contract which is the safest one to play. Thus the responder is very likely longer in diamonds than he is in spades, having only responded in the major since you the doubler is almost guaranteed to have at least 3 spades and likely 4 while that is not-so in a minor. Because of that fact alone, bidding is quite different in this area than it is in the normal course of bidding wherein we are all taught to bid our longer suits first.

Yes, high-level bridge sometimes is more complicated than many think, and that is why in previous comments I have mentioned being all alone on a desert island with your partner and thinking and discussing bridge all day long for your chief hobby.

If you want to follow-up this discussion with more questions, I’ll be happy to follow suit (so to speak).