Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Vulnerable: Neither

Dealer: North


A Q 6 5

Q 8 6 5 3 2

Q 9 7


K J 10 9

10 7 5

J 10 4

K 10 8



Q J 9 8 6

K 9

A 6 5 4 3


7 4 3 2

A K 4 3 2

A 7

J 2


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

Opening Lead: Heart five

“Time, it is well known, sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a worm; but man is wont to be particularly happy when he does not even notice whether it passes quickly or slowly.”

— Ivan Turgenev

Understandably, once today’s 4-4 fit was identified in an uncontested auction, the Danish North chose to play in the spade game at one table of their Venice Cup match against France in the 2007 World Championships. But the suit game stood no chance against the 4-1 trump break, along with a plethora of losers in the plain suits, and it finished down two.

However, in the room that we are focusing on, things were very different; there was no way here that North-South could find their spade fit. Equally, it was undeniable that Catherine D’Ovidio of France did not exactly underbid her hand when she headed to the no-trump game facing a passed partner.

If West had led a club, or even a spade, d’Ovidio’s game might have been defeated. But in response to her partner’s opener, West led a heart, which South won. Reaching nine tricks seems to require West to have the spade king, and for the diamond suit to produce five tricks. But with so few lines of communications between the North and South hands, how do you come to nine tricks without setting up too many tricks for the defenders — especially since South’s only entry is the diamond ace?

D’Ovidio found the solution — she ducked a diamond in both hands at trick two. Then, with the diamond king dropping doubleton, she was able to cross to her diamond ace, take the second heart winner, finesse in spades, and run dummy’s four diamond winners to make her contract.


South holds:

7 4 3 2
A K 4 3 2
A 7
J 2


South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
ANSWER: If your partner’s one-no-trump call is nonforcing or semiforcing, you have no problem in simply passing. But if the call is forcing (potentially concealing a minimum balanced game-drive), passing may be an error. You may feel obligated to bid two clubs, pretending you have three of them. Personally, I would pass blithely, breaking partnership discipline and taking the blame if wrong


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


jim2August 24th, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Is the bidding quiz an advertisement for Flannery?


(I note that your convention card at Detroit had you playing it.)

Bobby WolffAugust 24th, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

You continue to observe, identify, and question (OIQ), three qualities of someone who has high aspirations and, because of them, has a real chance to climb mountains.

Yes, I have played Flannery with all of my partners for the last 40 years and not ever regretted doing so, even though my teammates, Meckwell (8 of those fleeting years) fervently wished Hamman and I to switch back to weak 2 heart bids, the opening we used to show Flannery, because we also played Roman 2 diamonds which was a strong 4-4-4-1 (random singleton) hand beginning at 17 HCP’s. The Roman bid, unlike Flannery, did not occur often, but when it did, it shored up our particular forcing club and allowed us to be accurate with that type hand, difficult to bid with our particular overall forcing club system.

Whether we were right or wrong in our choices will always be a matter of subjective discussion, but perhaps the best answer may be, it should be the individual partnership’s choice since they alone are in the best position to determine what seems to work best within their particular system choices. From Meckwell’s perch, whenever a weak 2 heart bid was opened against them, they realized that the auction was going to go differently at the other table, causing them psychological consternation which they preferred not to have.

Please excuse my rather long winded history of answering your question, but a one word description of my feeling about playing Flannery is “Super” since it shored up a rather very weak part of what has now become American Standard of 5 card majors and a forcing 1NT response to a major suit opening.

Will Flannery enable a partnership to rise a full level in effectiveness? “No”, Will its addition make a long term consistent improvement, though hardly noticeable at times, with overall results? “Yes”, especially if it only replaces a weak 2 diamond bid on the card, which at least in my opinion, is not difficult to overcome.

jim2August 24th, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I confess to some difficulty in constructing an image of Meckwell suffering “psychological consternation” ….

Nonetheless, I understand the principle. In general, any time a pair gets to make a “system bid,” they accrue an advantage and their opponents suffer a corresponding DISadvantage. It is also why it so often pays to interfere in such auctions. Pre-empts work, etc.

Similarly, I have always felt that a pair suffers an analagous disadvantage any time their opponents get to make a limit bid early.

The easiest example is a 1N opening bid. In one session of 24 boards, I had 1N opened by an opponent 14 times. The problem was that the playing field was not level, as those 14 bids included ranges of 10-12, 11-14, 13-15, 15-17, and 16-18. For example, when my opponent opened 1N with 14, I knew that the same hand would be held in other rounds by 10-12, 15-17 and 16-18 1N bidders, who would be in a different and less limited/efficient auction.

Psychological consternation – a very apt phrase.

HBJAugust 24th, 2011 at 8:48 pm

HBJ : Am I in a minority of one here but is a heart lead….. the lead of rational choice ?

West should be thinking that North has come up with 2 bids indicating at least 9 cards in diamonds and spades, probably 10. From his point of view North is unlikely to hold no more than 3 clubs. Similarly, South has bid 3NT which should suggest he fancies diamonds to run, but more than that a decent heart suit enabling him (a) to hold it up to kill off communications between the two defenders, and (b) to produce a double stop.

West must also discount spades with both his honours sitting under North’s inevitable holding of AQ. But what of clubs, the suit that no one has mentioned ? If East’s heart suit is riddled with holes, as well as having very little in diamonds and nothing spades, then he must by deduction he must have SOMETHING in clubs. Hence that is the suit I’m going to lead…..kicking off with the king.

Ps If I am wrong…..I will apologise to partner claiming it was a desperate attempt ( flier ) to achieve a ” swinging ” board.

jim2August 24th, 2011 at 10:13 pm

I am not the expert, but note that East could have doubled 3S to ask for a spade lead, or doubled the final contract to ask for a diamond lead (or maybe the unbid suit, depending on agreement). Thus, the absence of a double suggests the lead of East’s suit unless West has some clear reason for another choice.