Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: Neither


Q 9 8 7 6 3

K 3

K 8 2

A 2


4 2

9 8 6 2

6 5 4

10 6 4 3


10 7 5 4

Q J 7 3

K Q 8 7 5


A K J 10 5


A 10 9

J 9


South West North East
1 Pass 2 NT* Pass
3 NT Pass 4 Pass
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5 ** Pass 5 NT Pass
6 All Pass    
*Game-forcing raise of spades
**One or four aces, counting the spade king as an ace

Opening Lead: Heart Nine

“Again I took the intellectual eye

For my instructor, studious more to see Great truths

Than touch and handle little ones.”

— William Wordsworth

In today’s deal you reach a comfortable small slam, and if playing teams or rubber bridge, you would probably claim 12 tricks and move on to the next deal. However, since you are playing matchpointed pairs, the overtrick might turn out to be of critical importance.


At pairs what matters is whether you beat the other pairs on any deal, not by how much you beat them. So if you play six spades and make it with an overtrick, you score a matchpoint at the expense of everyone who failed to make that overtrick and, equally, one matchpoint from everyone who missed slam or went down in a grand slam — no more, no less. The quantum of difference is irrelevant.


Here you have 12 top winners. You can arrange to ruff a club in dummy, but that is with the long trump, which does not generate an extra trick; so you must try something else.


Win the heart lead with the king and run six rounds of trump at once, pitching the diamond nine on the last. Then take the two heart winners, pitching a club from dummy, and cash the club ace. If the club jack is high, cash it. If not, lead to your diamond ace, cash the diamond king, and hope the diamond eight will be high.


If you look at the full deal, you will see that after the major-suit winners were cashed, East had to unguard one of the minors, so your squeeze would work.


South Holds:

Q 9 8 7 6 3
K 3
K 8 2
A 2


South West North East
1 Dbl. 2 3
ANSWER: In competitive auctions of this sort, you must compete with extra trumps or side-suit shape, regardless of whether you are minimum in high cards or have a little to spare. Here, you know you have nine trumps between you and must therefore bid on to three spades. Your target is not so much to make three spades every time you bid it, as to make your opponents’ lives tougher — they’d do the same for you!


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


jim2November 30th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Could you explain what South’s 3N call meant a little? In particular, was it forcing? What HCP range did it show?

AviNovember 30th, 2011 at 4:59 pm


this is the fist time I feel smart enough to leave a comment.
IMHO, at least how we play it, 3NT in response to the J2NT shows 17-19 HCP balanced hand, the same as in a 1M – 1NT – 2NT sequence.

jim2November 30th, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Avi –

The reason I asked was that the 3N caller’s partner has to make a battlefield decision RIGHT THEN because only a Pass gets the partnership to 3N. What would one bid with a flat 14? 3H sounds like six or (under fast arrival) stronger than 4H. Is the partnership simply fated to never play 3N when 5-3-3-2 with 14 faces 4-3-3-3 with 14?

Bobby WolffNovember 30th, 2011 at 8:36 pm

To Jim2 & Avi,

Although it is counter to generally accepted Jacoby 2NT GF major suit raises, the NS pair in the current column, obviously played that 3NT showed the strongest possible hand, of course, with no shortness.

The entire sequence from then on was definitely not from a highest level partnership, since they did not explore whether the distribution was such to virtually insure a grand slam. Although all 13 tricks came in via a simple squeeze (the theme of this hand) a grand slam should not be bid as it is very much anti-percentage to make.

Once the bidding starts with the 2NT response (Jacoby) to a one of a major opening, 3NT is not a possible final contract and that bid particularly is usually designed to show a stronger hand than is a simple return to 4 of the agreed major suit.

There are many variations among high-level partnerships about what 3NT and other non-cue bids mean, but the one common feature, to repeat, is that it is a stronger bid than is a return to a game bid in the already announced trump suit.