Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: Both


K Q 7 6 4

Q 10 3

K 6 3

K 2


A 9 8

A K 7 6 2

9 8 5

7 4


J 5

J 9 4

7 2

Q J 9 6 5 3


10 3 2

8 5

A Q J 10 4

A 10 8


South West North East
1 1 2 * Pass
2 Pass 3 NT Pass
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead: Heart King

“If you give to a thief he cannot steal from you, and he is then no longer a thief.”

— William Saroyan

Today’s deal comes from this year’s trials to select the Australian team for the Asia-Pacific Bridge Championships. Both teams declared four spades, but at one table it was played by North. Despite his partner’s overcall, East thought it might be a good idea to lead from his club sequence. He knows better now!


Declarer simply won in dummy and led a spade to his hand, then crossed back to dummy with a diamond to play a second spade. He made 10 tricks with the minimum of fuss.


Where the auction was as shown, North-South were playing transfers after intervention, so had an artificial way to show spades after the one-heart overcall. That put West, Bruce Neill, on lead, and when he saw dummy hit with a full opening bid, he decided his best chance to set the game was to find his partner with the spade jack. He pressed on with two more rounds of hearts, letting South win dummy’s heart queen and lead a club to hand to play a spade up. Neill hopped up with the ace and played a fourth heart, leaving declarer to guess whether to ruff high and try to drop the spade jack, or whether to discard from dummy in the hope that West had the spade jack. He guessed wrong — and regardless of whether he followed the percentage line or not, I think West deserved to set the game because he had at least given declarer the chance to go wrong.


South Holds:

10 3 2
8 5
A Q J 10 4
A 10 8


South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 1 Pass
ANSWER: You have no easy way to show your invitational values and no guaranteed fit. You are too good for a simple club preference, so the choice is to rebid three diamonds (promising a six-card suit) or to jump to three clubs. The latter would be my choice, since my partner’s one-spade rebid over one diamond strongly suggested an unbalanced hand. He would have rebid one no-trump if balanced.


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


jim2September 27th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

On the bidding quiz, would you address a bid by South of two hearts (presumably fourth suit forcing)?

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, I will love to.

First let me digress from the bidding quiz to the actual hand and update what happened there, if for no other reason than to acquaint less modern players with the new high-level playthings of artificial early bidding with the primary motive of saving bidding space. When North first responds 2 diamonds after 1 diamond by partner, one heart by North’s RHO, North responded 2 diamonds which in their modern partnership showed at least a 5 card spade suit and, of course, was forcing. for at least one round. South, with his minimum, responded 2 spades which is, at least at this point, a minimum but normally having at least 3 spades. North then jumped to game, 2NT or 3 spades would not have been forcing, so North needed to jump to game to show his strength and also his heart stop. North merely returned to 4 spades similar to partnerships who transfer after an opening 1NT bid and then after the transferee rebids 3NT, his partner is left with the final decision of preferring the 5-3 fit or taking his chances at the nine trick NT contract.

Now to your question. North, in a natural sequence (we do not try and foist brand new high-level bidding innovations on our readers) merely rebids 1 spade showing clubs and spades and usually a minimum, although it could be a maximum minimum or even a better hand than that but short of a FG rebid. At this point (and here’s the rub) South did not have enough to force to game, which a 4th suit bid of 2 hearts would do. Also since 2 hearts, although artificial would normally have something in hearts or else have at least a FG hand in the other suits. South had neither, so, and according to our explanation, merely wanted to invite game by either jumping in partners first suit or considering treating his very good 5 card diamond suit like 6 and jumping to a NF level of 3 diamonds. We opted for 3 clubs since, when faced with a close choice usually choose the one which supports partner since it then, in turn, normally makes it easier for him to make the right choice at that point.

I think it very close between 3 clubs and 3 diamonds since 3 diamonds suggests ready made tricks (maybe with a little luck) for the most likely game of 3NT. However we will never know what North had (a fictitious problem) leaving the choice of bid a debatable issue.

Obviously your question revolves itself around one or more aspects of what it takes to bid the 4th suit, almost always a GF, and by asking no doubt will result in value to others who would also like to know other opinions on the strength and possible distribution of certain bids. For that, many players will appreciate you taking the time to ask about it.

jim2September 27th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Thank you.

Hmmm. I do not think my (younger and more scientific) partner and I play 4th suit as a GF at the 2-level. Also, I am pretty confident that it promises nothing in the 4th suit.

I will certainly now check, though!

Ted BSeptember 27th, 2011 at 8:02 pm

First, I want to thank you for the interesting hands, you erudite commentaries, and especially for taking the time to respond to so many questions.

Concerning the hand shown, the 2D bid and your explanation, in standard bidding 1S (playing negative doubles) would show a 5 card suit and be forcing. Is there a reason that you would want to use a transfer in the typical auction?

Bobby WolffSeptember 28th, 2011 at 1:00 am

Hi Ted,

Thanks for the kind words.

I can only speculate on the exact description of the auction given. My guess is that one spade showed a forcing response holding length in clubs, 1NT was probably natural, and 2 clubs showed a diamond raise, which leaves 2 diamonds to show at least 5 spades and certainly a one round force. Partner, while now bidding spades for the first time, confirms (probably) 3 spades and best of all would then be declarer forcing the 1 heart overcaller to lead away from his hand and into the opening bidder’s possible tenaces. That bidding method also usually gives more room to describe one’s hand, but possibly with certain suits held, that advantage may be lost.

My somewhat limited experience of playing against that type of handling suggests to me, that this type of method is clearly a plus way to handle our bridge language, but, of course, early, while still experimenting, some sequences may get over complicated and need to be thoroughly discussed.

My suggestion is that when you have time, and especially if you have a regular partner who may be interested in developing a bidding system incorporating these features, work it out and my guess is that you will undoubtedly see advantages over what has normally been played for many years.

Good luck!