Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: West


Q 10 9

9 5

Q 8 7 6 2

A 8 5


A J 6 3 2

J 10

K Q 10 6 4 3


8 7 4

A J 6 2

9 5 4 3

J 7


K 5

K Q 10 8 7 4 3


9 2


South West North East
1 Pass 1
2 2 3 Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Club king

“Who drives the horses of the sun

Shall lord it but a day;

Better the lowly deed were done,

And kept the humble way.”

— John Vance Cheney

Some cards are easy to cover; some are not. This is surely about as low as one can go (in all senses of the word) when it comes to avoiding the cover.

At the U.S. Trials in 1997 both tables reached four hearts, but where Martel for the eventually successful Deutsch team was declarer, he had heard his LHO bid only the black suits. He won the opening club lead with the ace in dummy and played the heart nine immediately. Sitting East, I took the ace and returned a spade. Martel put up the king, but Bob Hamman, sitting West, knew better than to take the trick and provide an entry to dummy. He ducked the trick, and when Martel exited from hand with a club, Hamman won the trick, cashed his spade ace, and exited with a third club. Now the defense could keep declarer out of dummy for a further heart finesse, so Martel lost a second heart trick — one down.

Where Nick Nickell was declaring four hearts, East had bid hearts in the auction shown. Nickell took the club lead and innocently played the heart five from dummy. Be honest; as East would you have remembered to cover this with the six? When East did not do so, Nickell played low from his hand as well, and the heart five held the trick. Now the lead remained in dummy for declarer to repeat the heart finesse, and with only one heart trick to lose, made the contract.


South holds:

Q 10 9
9 5
Q 8 7 6 2
A 8 5


South West North East
1 Pass
1 1 2 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: Your partner has shown a very good hand (a better hand than if he had jumped to three diamonds over one spade). Since you have a perfectly good spade stop, you should bid three no-trump now, expecting your partner will know you are not loaded for bear in spades, since you did not bid no-trump at your previous turn.


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


NickJune 29th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Do you have more days on your syndicate shown on United Features Syndicate? If you do keep track of the sheets, I would expect you would go back to 1-1-2007 to present. Sadly, only two sheets show up on the webpage.

bobbywolffJune 29th, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Hi Nick,

I am not, nor ever have been, what one might call a newspaper man. Recently the Aces on Bridge column has been transferred to UClick, but before that the Aces on Bridge goes back to 1970 (with my byline since 1982) under the aegis of United Features and United Media.

I confess that I do not fully understand what you are saying and, if necessary, what I can do to improve what I am doing, so please be kind enough to further explain. Truthfully I have not known about, nor ever gone, to what you call the webpage.

NickJune 29th, 2011 at 6:22 pm

I do not know what you are saying.

What I am saying is UClick, and on the website, (what site is it) I do not know which years are shown on the website.

To explain this, I do not get on how you made this website.

What might have caused this?

jim2June 29th, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Another bidding quiz that puzzles me.

Before I say much more, could you answer a few questions?

1) Could North have four hearts on this auction?

2) What would a Double by North have meant instead of the cue bid?

3) Can I assume the cue bid was just a one round force (rather than a game force)?

4) Can I assume that North would have needed a spade stopper to bid two or three notrump (and maybe even one notrump) after the first round?

bobbywolffJune 29th, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

Many experienced players play a double of 1 spade as holding 4 hearts, but not necessarily more than a minimum. If one does not play that treatment, then the technical meaning of that double would be for penalties. Of course, if North is strong enough, he could bid 2 hearts himself, as long as he has the values to reverse.

The cue bid would always have primary diamond support, but not necessarily force to game and if later North would only return to diamonds or clubs the partnership could pass below the game level.

It can generally be said that anyone, after the opponents have competed with a suit, will be counted on to have at least one stopper in the opponents suit before he can offer NT as a final contract. There possibly can be an exception to that statement, but it is very rare and not worth discussing at this time.

bobbywolffJune 29th, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Hi again Nick,

Please excuse my response, but I do not know what you are asking, however I suggest you contact Ray Lee at this very website which features the Aces on Bridge column with a 2 week delay, after my syndicate has given their permission for this to be done.

I suspect you are very computer savvy, which includes being familiar with the random workings and responsibilities of internet websites, while I am obviously not.

NickJune 29th, 2011 at 10:21 pm

This is not the website I am talking about.

You also place your deals that you played from other dates.

But what I expect, is, when you said UClick, there is only one sheet on that website.

I could make a column, but somewhere else. So who made this website? Unexpectedly you do not know the syndicates from the past.

jim2June 29th, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Thank you for your answers.

It would seem, then that North does not have four hearts, does not have a balanced hand with a spade stopper, and does not have more than game invitational values facing a one diamond response. Additionally, however many clubs North holds (should be 4 or more), North should have longer clubs.

Once again, just as it did in your May 27 / June 10 column, the heart suit seems to have gone missing and (again) most efforts to explain it do odd things to the spade suit layout.

That is, if North has 3 hearts, then he can have at most one spade, leaving 9 unaccounted for.

If North has fewer than 3 hearts, than that suit might be wide open at notrump.

If North has game invitational points (say 17) and West 11, then East has enough points for an entry.

Give North all the missing minor suit points so that those suits will run, and that leaves at most 3 points in the majors. Give him more major suit points, and the minors may not produce the 8 or 9 tricks one would need even if the defense did not set 3N on the opening lead.

This is long-winded, and I apologize for it, but I considered 3N but rejected it in favor of pass or 4D, and finally settled on 4D.

bobbywolffJune 30th, 2011 at 12:27 am

Hi again Nick,

Even though I would like to answer whatever seems to be bothering you, I do not have a clue as to what it is and since we are not really communicating let’s just leave it at that. Please, do not take offense, but realize that I have told you all I know. There is probably some other friend of yours who might help clear this up for you.


bobbywolffJune 30th, 2011 at 1:35 am

Hi Jim2,

How about partner holding:

K or Jx or Ax



Kxxxx Kxxxxx KQxxx

Ax or K or Axx


K10xx AKxx AJ10

KJ10xx KJ10xxx KQxx

Sometimes, and this is an individual thought which differs, even among the very

best players, that some spend a great deal of effort in not wrong siding the NT and do cartwheels to try and get if from the right side. The flip side of that coin is that, when trying very hard to rightside it sometimes the partnership bypasses 3NT and had nine tricks off the top from either side.

You show me a great player who loves to cue bid and I’ll show you a scientific one who demands perfection and think alike from his partner.

I doubt if anyone knows for sure what is best, but Benito Garozzo, my choice for the greatest player ever, is one of the cue bid lovers.

Your scientific approach can reap a harvest of good things, but never forget that the bridge gods are subtle and the game is so spectacular that just when a player thinks he knows what to do, disaster seems to follow close behind. Remember it is still a partnership game and an art, certainly not an exact science, so keep on thinking the way you do, but be prepared for some poisoned flowers along the way.

BTW, don’t ever worry about being long winded since it is much worse to not say something and never have it aired out.

jim2June 30th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Of course, I meant,”Additionally, however many DIAMONDS North holds (should be 4 or more), North should have longer clubs.”

Certainly, if North has a magic spade honor, the chances of 3N improve dramatically. I might note, also, that several of your candidate North holdings would seem (to me, at least) to call for more than a 3D bid at the last turn. Even if partner were straining to stay below 3N as long as possible, a 3H call would seem better, since you posited that the “cue bid would always have primary diamond support.”

JeffJune 30th, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I’m a little late to the party, but my issue with the bidding quiz was I could easily see West holding AJxxx and East holding Kx in spades. Is North expected to leave 3NT alone or can he overrule if he is holding, say, a small doubleton in spades?

If W is holding as little as a singleton JS and a heart stopper, 3NT looks like the right spot. It is kind of hard to believe he wouldn’t have a heart stopper based on the bidding, so the spades are the real issue in my mind.

And as this is my first time writing, let me also say how much I appreciate you allowing this column to be published on the internet. I no longer receive the newspaper that published the column and I have really missed it. Thank you.

bobbywolffJune 30th, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Hi Jeff,

Welcome and much thanks for the kind words about missing The Aces on Bridge. My syndicate is to be appreciated for sharing the column with the internet for no recompense.

Bridge, by not being an exact science, merely by bridge language (bidding) directs the hand to what figures to be the final contract and sometimes the Q109 is a stopper and sometimes it isn’t, but on this particular bidding the odds are in the declarer’s favor.

As for other unbid suits to be worried about, yes, some consideration should be given to that, but in the long run, educated guesses rule the day.

Thanks again for writing and we hope to hear from you again.

bobbywolffJune 30th, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Hi Jim2,

My computer is acting up on me and going down at inopportune times, so please forgive the delay.

I should have mentioned an exception to my previous post regarding always having primary support (usually 4+ but sometimes 3 good in a minor). If the opener had something like: xx, Ax, Kx, AKQxxxx he should bid 2 spades and raise NT, but if partner bids something else then a recue bid of 3 spades would be in order. All designed to cover the most likely possible solvable problems which the ubiquitous cue bid will usually handle.

Summing up priorities in a different way is the advice of heading toward “daylight” which in common terms would mean bidding 3NT (the only 9 trick game available) if possible and then when partner bids on, trying to determine by experience and partnership tendencies what pard is trying to elicit from us.

Not as hard as it appears, but to fully understand, requires conversation with that partner and questions asked and answered.

As a final statement, when opponents enter our auction their suit usually becomes an important consideration in finally making the right choice both for 3NT and for positional advantage.