Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: West


A 3

Q 7 5 3

Q 8 6 4

K 9 2


10 9 6 5 4 2

J 4

J 10

J 8 6


Q 8 7

A 10 9

7 5 3 2

A 7 5



K 8 6 2

A K 9

Q 10 4 3


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

Opening Lead: Spade 10

“Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.”

— T.S. Eliot

Today’s deal comes from the USA’s qualifying match in the 2007 Bermuda Bowl against India; the American team went on to win the silver medal.

The contract in both rooms was four hearts. In the first room Steve Garner declared his game as North on a diamond lead. Winning in the South hand, he entered dummy with the spade ace and played a heart to his king, which held. Now he played a second heart and ducked West’s jack, hoping to drop the ace. Though he was out of luck there, he could win the diamond return, cash his winners in spades and diamonds, then exit with a trump. East was now endplayed into either giving a ruff and discard or opening up the clubs, so declarer could hold his club losers to one..

At the second table the Indian declarer played the hand from the South seat. He won the spade lead in dummy and also played a low heart to the king, under which Ralph Katz, West, made the fine play (a remarkably difficult one to find at the table) of unblocking his jack. Now, when South played a second heart, East, George Jacobs, could win with the 10, cash the heart ace, and exit with a diamond.

Katz’s resourceful unblock meant that declarer had no endplay available. So South had to locate the club jack on his own. When he failed to do so, the game ended one light — a swing I believe Katz had earned.


South holds:

K 8 6 2
A K 9
Q 10 4 3


South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 2 NT Pass
ANSWER: Your partner’s rebid of two no-trump (as opposed to a call of two diamonds) suggests either that he has only four diamonds, or that if he has five, they are in a very minimum balanced hand. Thus, even if you have an eight-card diamond fit, slam rates to be extremely unlikely. So simply raise to three no-trump and don’t bother to introduce your diamond support.


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


jim2July 20th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

On the bidding quiz, would 4N be quantitative? If so, might the South hand merit that call?

If South’s two clubs had been fourth suit forcing, would that affect the answer?

Bobby WolffJuly 20th, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, if South had ventured 4NT instead of the 3NT bid suggested, it would have been only quantitative and definitely not ask asking. However a word on that.

Winning at bridge has to do with percentages, but not exactly the kind of percentages bridge players normally think about. While, on the example hand and realizing that North probably, like the rhetoric suggested, has a minimum, clubs stopped and likely not 5 diamonds, but if so a very minimum 12-13 point hand, it is better to play a nine trick contract than risk a ten trick one, for no particular gain. While I would expect a good partner, on percentage to average about 10 3/4’s tricks on a possible likely layout against better than average defenders once in a while (perhaps 15-20% of the time) with either bad breaks or unlucky execution to wind up with only 9. This above percentage is the more important percentage to learn and although subjective, relates directly to the heart and soul of our game.

Just like it is so important (moreso at matchpoints, but also very important at IMPs) to contract for only an 8 trick 2 level venture rather be pushed or sometimes just mistakenly bid to the 3 level. Conversely, tough opponents seem to always be pushing their opponents higher with the help of overcalling often, which basically is intended to make life more difficult for their opponents. Again increasing a pair’s percentages to garner a better score on that board.

To answer your last paragraph, since almost all partnerships that we would talk about play 4th suit unequivocally forcing for at least one round and many play it (except for 1C P 1D P 1H P 1S) forcing to game. Therefore all 4th suit bids (with that one exception) should be respected as GF with the advantage of both partner’s not having to jump to, at that time, show extra.

Again on the sequence from the BWTA it wouldn’t surprise me if, after being raised to 3NT partner would then up the ante to 4NT which responder would then accept slam with my choice of 6 diamonds (AKx) my hand almost surely not having 4 of them by not bidding 3 diamonds the round before.

Expert bidding is not as difficult as many fear, but instead the rub comes in, on not taking any inferior action earlier, making the key word discipline rather than brilliance.

“Practice, practice, and then practice some more”, proving that (according to the old joke stemming from asking a question of how to get to Carnegie Hall while visiting NY City) might also enable you to play for your country in a bridge World Championship.

jim2July 20th, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Thank you for your reply.

The reason I asked about 4th suit forcing is that, if it were a GF, then North’s 2N might be stronger than 3N.

That is, 3N would have been a close-out bid, but 2N was not.

Bobby WolffJuly 21st, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, your reason for asking whether 4th suit forcing, in one’s partnership is GF, certainly applies to what you are suggesting.

However, there is a better reason for playing 2NT is not necessarily stronger nor weaker than 3NT, but is merely enabling to partner to better describe his still not completely shown bridge mosaic, in case he started with a strong 5-5 s. J h. AK862 d. A9, c. AQ1043 (in which he would then rebid a GF 3 clubs) or even a strong 6-4 s. KJ h. AK10862 d. 9 c. AQ43. in which he would rebid a GF 3 hearts, or even s. KJ93 h. K862 d. A c. AJ43 when this hand’s 3rd bid would be 4 spades. Change the King of hearts to the Ace would cause me to not bid 4 spades (a bid which will often be passed), but prefer 3 spades instead, locking in the trump suit and asking partner to strongly consider slam, inviting cue bidding even with the minimum opening bid you can expect from him. He should know 100% that you have an excellent hand and a suit distribution consistent with what you have shown, so he should only continue on to 4 spades with a hand which is not only a minimum but one which is generally lackluster for slam such as s. A862 h. J4 d. K1076 c. AJ5. However change the immediately above hand to s. AQ62, h. Q4, d. J1032, c. KQ6 causing me to regain slam interest, if for no other reason other than partner figures to be very short in diamonds, making for little wastage in the combined hands suggesting to me that I should cue bid 4 clubs over partner’s bid of 3 spades, but still, of course pass either his jump to 4 spades, if previously made or his return to 4 spades over my 4 club cue bid.

To my response you then might ask, “What hand then eschews rebidding 2NT but opts to jump to 3NT?” I would answer: s. QJ104 h. Q, d. Q10872, c. AKJ a better than minimum opening but short in partner’s likely long suit of hearts, clubs (the possible weak link) well stopped, and a suit (D) thought not worth rebidding but showing a typical NT type hand (opposite normal hands partner may hold for his up to now bidding, while himself holding basically secondary values.

Admittedly trying to walk a fine line while transmitting back and forth information, but after all, what bridge language, especially at higher levels, is supposed to be about.