Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: West


K 7 6

K 9 7 6


10 9 6 3


Q 4

J 10 8 3

J 7 5 2

K J 7


J 8 5

Q 5 4

K 9 8 6

Q 8 4


A 10 9 3 2

A 2

10 4 3

A 5 2


South West North East
Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Heart jack

“So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,

The tyrant’s plea, excused his devilish deeds.”

— John Milton

Tim Seres, Australia’s greatest bridge player ever, was born in Austria in 1925 and migrated down under after World War II. Seres represented Australia in 24 world and zonal championships and won bronze medals in the most prestigious of the world championships, the Bermuda Bowls of 1971 and 1979. He died five years ago, but his brilliance as declarer means that he left behind a treasure trove of great plays.

Today’s deal is from the Australian Interstate Teams of 1975. Seres, seated South, brought home his four-spade contract via a variant of the Devil’s Coup.

Declarer won the heart lead in hand, then immediately finessed the diamond queen to see how many losers he might be facing overall. The queen lost to the king; there were two further club losers; and unless there was a favorable trump position, a loser in that department could also be expected.

East returned a club, which ran to West’s jack, and Seres captured the club king at the next trick. He cashed dummy’s red-suit winners, ruffed a heart in hand, then ruffed a diamond in dummy and the fourth heart in hand as East discarded a diamond. The scene was now set in the four-card ending as Seres exited with his club to East’s bare queen.

East was forced to return a trump, and the five went to the nine, queen and king. Seres now successfully finessed against East’s spade jack, and his trump loser had vanished without a trace!


South holds:

K 7 6
K 9 7 6
10 9 6 3


South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 1 Pass
ANSWER: Although you have almost a full opening bid, you don’t really have quite enough to drive to game since your honors don’t seem to fit your partner well. And despite your four-card club fit, there seems to be no reason to play in clubs rather than no-trump. I would jump to two no-trump and invite game, rather than bid three no-trump.


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


JaneJune 18th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Hi Bobby,

Congrats on your great win in Detroit. You and your team rock!

On the hand in question, seem to me if east returns a diamond after taking his king, the hand has little chance. Why would east break open a new suit? He let himself get inplayed at the end, right? Also, instead of raising spades immediately, would it be OK to bid one NT, then show three spades later if partner uses new minor forcing or some other device to get further info. Not saying the game should not be bid, but it is a pretty skinny one.

As usual, thanks in advance.

bobbywolffJune 18th, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Hi Jane,

It is always nice to hear from you and rest assured my rockin’ team appreciates your support.

Although you are right that quite often it is not right to break new suits unless there is a live possibility of being done out of tricks if not done, the switching to a club by East, this time did no harm. All the declarer needs to do is eliminate the hearts, ruff the diamond in dummy and eventually throw the defense in at the death for the trump switch or instead another diamond which accomplishes the same devil coup for the declarer. The devil you may say, but still pitchforked the opponents will become.

Your bidding question has been debated for years, with me belonging to the raise with 3 group simply because if the original responder has a 5 card suit but still a balanced hand, but not enough HCP’s to rebid (10 or less) your side will probably wind up in the wrong contract of 1NT instead of 2 of your long suit.

Also it is nice to know if the opener does rebid 1NT he is probably looking at only 2 of your suit (unless he is 4-3-3-3, the exception to raising with 3). This, in turn, could make doubling the opponents more appetizing if they now dare enter the auction. Also, if the bidding then continues above the 2 level your partnership will never be left to play a 4-3 fit since the responder should never rebid that suit with only 4 therein enabling different contracts to be eventually played which often becomes NT.

The above is long winded, but probably worth while since our subject often comes up and the above view is certainly worth thinking about, even if not employed.

Please keep on rooting for us as your support could make the difference in how we do later.

David WarheitJune 19th, 2011 at 7:45 am

This play was first commented on by Terence Reese in Reese on Play (1948, p. 174). Reese did not have a name for this play (he headlines the hand “A Trump Pick-up”) and 63 years later apparently there is still no name for it. Anyone have any suggestions? Maybe something using Reese’s name, although I suspect your wife might object.

bobbywolffJune 19th, 2011 at 11:58 am

Hi David,

Methinks the play is now apparently called, The Devil’s Coup, which to the defense, while losing a heretofore sure defensive trump trick, might feel like they were attacked or at the very least tricked, by the bridge devil.

That hand and certainly your post should help remind all of us of the long and cherished history of the development of our exquisite game, complete with gambits, coups, exotic and descriptive names, and, of course the players and authors who led the way through those years.

Somewhere among those names, Terence Reese stood either at the top or at least very near as both a player, during my very early bridge days (1950) and probably would have been the popular choice as then, the very best player in the world, and to all who are still alive to remember, also the best bridge writer, having penned Master Play (aka as The Expert Game) and many other classics.

Years later, (1970s and 80s) and during the heyday of the London Times annual January tournament I was lucky to get to know Terence quite well during my London visits. He had retired from active playing and devoted his time to taking care of his wife (married late in life and was put through a horror of having his wife paralyzed in an horrific automobile accident).

Although essentially a cold fish, his personality was unique in that he was droll (as only the English can be), did not suffer fools, extremely intelligent (to be sure), and a handful to merely understand his well developed caustic sense of humor.

Very complicated, not easily understood, great depth in personality, extremely interesting, and probably devilish beyond belief would be, at least according to me, his calling card.

Judy, because of her to the point justified beliefs, did not cotton to what the man actually did and I, for one, cannot blame her. Life, so often, takes different paths for separate people, which in turn, creates different emphasis to judge. So be it and by my first hand experience, I think it better to allow all of us, based on our individual judgments, to form our own opinions.

Thanks for your inquiry, if in fact, you wanted it to be.

bobbywolffJune 19th, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Hi Bruce,

While being aware that you have not commented on this particular hand I am taking this opportunity to comply with your request of briefly (my word) relaying Dan Morse (my regular partner) and my relative simplified convention card which we have played for some time (even going back to the 1967 pair trials in Atlantic City, our first important adventure in big time bridge).

We play 15-17 NT with 2 way Stayman (2DGF and 2CNF). A jump to 3 of a minor to play and 3 of a major as a singleton to warn partner about our particular weakness for 3NT. Usual 5 card majors with some exceptions for 4 card heart suits in relatively rare occasions. NF NT response to a major. All suits limit raises, with a jump shift in the other minor a FG in the opener’s minor. We play two way Drury and 2 way checkback Stayman over a 1NT rebid, preemptive jump shifts in competition, Wolff Sign-off, Unusual over unusual, Mitchell Stayman over the opponents 1NT overcall, Negative Dbls after our 1NT opening and through 4 hearts over our 1 of a suit opening. We play weak jump overcalls NV and intermediate jump overcalls V. Our preempts are weaker than most, while playing change of suits F over V and NF over NV. We play Ogust over our WTB’s with mostly NF responses for change of suits except 3S over 2H and 3H over 2S. We play Acol 3NT openings (solid mnor suit and semblances of stoppers in unbids). Over Oppts 1NT we play 2C for the minors, 2D for the Majors and 2NT for a strong Major Minor hand. We play Snapdragon over RHO’s response after partner has overcalled the opening bidder. We play responsive and card showing doubles in competitive sequences rather than penalty and maximum doubles with spades over hearts and hearts over diamonds.

Generally we come into the opponents bidding as often as possible and perhaps some would say too often. We play Michaels cue bid over an oppt. 1 of a minor and the other major and clubs as a major suit cue bid. We play Leaping Michaels over the opponents WTB and reserve 4 Clubs as a slam try over a 3S, 3H or 3D opening with 4D to be the same over 3C. We play Gerber only as an immediate jump over 1 or 2NT and reserve 4NT as always quantatative over all NT bids and when 4 clubs is not Gerber then a jump to 5 clubs is always Gerber with no King asking bid. We DO NOT play KCBW, but rather regular BW, with a bid of 5NT in the flow of the bidding as usually pick a slam, but may later be read as a grand slam invitation on certain sequences. A jump to 5NT after a suit is established between the partners is Josephine (GSF). We play dbl is penalties with BW interference with Pass showing 0 and bids up the line showing the number of aces unless the bidding gets too high and then judgment must be used. We make more TO low level doubles than most and (at least I believe strongly) that a 4-3-3-3 hand is very suitable for a one level TO double rather than a wimpy pass and hoped for 2nd chance to bid, We bid sooner rather than later, raise if possible and let the opponents cope with the level.

Perhaps the above is enough although our carding is standard with K from both AK and KQ and standard old fashioned carding. We believe that Smith echo, nor of course odd even, can be played ethically so we do not play either.

I must say that those top level players who play Smith echo are very much improving on their playing it ethically, but the obvious then comes into play and that is, in the haste to make a choice many wrong signals are then given, still making the convention a minus, at least in my view.

Please forgive me if I have overlooked one or more conventions which we play, but the above is probably a close enough random sample of what we do, not terribly effective, but at least playable, and more importantly to us, ethical. We do play forcing passes only in obvious situations where there is no doubt that we have the lions share of the high cards.

Bruce KarlsonJune 19th, 2011 at 2:27 pm


Eternal thanks for remembering and taking the time to write all. I hoped that you could “put up” an image to save time and trouble. I have to check on Snapdragon and think I play “checkback” by another or no name. It interests me that you favor standard carding and discards as opposed to UDCA, which I believe most pros prefer. Do you simply think UDCA is over rated??

I am now going to make a CC using your agreements.

Again, thank you…


bobbywolffJune 19th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Hi Bruce,

I’m happy that you were on site to see where the deed was posted.

Snapdragon is doubling in the following examply sequence:

1 club 1 heart 1 spade (or any three suits bid first) Dbl by the partner of the heart overcaller to show usually 5 decent diamonds (the unbid suit) and a tolerance for hearts Kx or Qx or somesuch. All that is involved is that by so doing we turn a heretofore useless bid, double, into something which could be used positively. Checkback Stayman is merely bidding either 2 clubs or 2 diamonds over our partnership 1NT rebid to either invite or force to game (2D) and is a checkback for either 4 of the other major or usually 3 of partner’s major.

My guess is that probably rightside up or upside down signals are about 50-50 used at the high levels. The late Bobby Goldman once expressed it well, when after he did a comprehensive survey of what is best voice an opinion that all signal conventions are almost identically equal including using one’s own Social Security numbers to show positive and negative as well as odd and even.

Meckwell, in their younger days and perhaps still played things such as upside down suit preference signals merely to wear inexperienced but pretty good players out trying to sort out what they Meckwell, were doing, although, of course, they would come clean if asked, but some players do not ask..

All well and good if allowed, and it was, but whether it is within the spirit of the game or not I do not think it should be, but others almost violently do not agree and, at least, according to them, think anything that is legal thought possibly thought of as shady should be played for maximum advantage.

Good luck with your venture and although I definitely think 2 way Stayman is clearly better and no KCBW prevents the moving parts which make it inadvisable I hope that the simplicity which is present allows the partnership to remember easily and therefore frees the brain to perform more consistently and without devastating system forgets. by the way I forgot to mention major suit forcing raises are basically Jacoby 2NT and, of course, a wide variety of splinters except being natural when major suits are bid such as l heart pass 3 or 4 spades or 1 spade, 4 hearts which, of course are natural and not shortness.

Let me know what happens.

Bruce KarlsonJune 19th, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I shall…