Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

As we rush, as we rush in the Train,
The trees and the houses go wheeling back,
But the starry heavens above the plain
Come flying on our track.

James Thomson

East North
Both ♠ 9 7 6 2
 K J 4
 K Q 5
♣ K Q 8
West East
♠ Q 5 4 3
 A 10 6 3
 7 3 2
♣ 10 4
♠ K
 Q 9 8 7 5
 A 10 9 8
♣ J 9 7
♠ A J 10 8
 J 6 4
♣ A 6 5 3 2
South West North East
Pass Pass 1♣ 1
1♠ 2 2♠ Pass
4♠ All pass    


This deal, all about timing and control, carries an important defensive lesson. The fact that the majority of a strong field did not all spot it (until too late) suggests it is less obvious than one might think, even looking at all four hands. Or perhaps the point is that we are all excellent Monday-morning quarterbacks.

The popular contract was four spades by South after an overcall by East, and the normal lead of the heart ace and another heart by West did not seem to accomplish all that much. However, it did begin to threaten declarer’s trump-holding. Dummy’s heart king won trick two, and a trump to East’s king and South’s ace came next, followed by the spade jack.

Now the defense looks elementary: the only thing West needs to do is to duck this trump trick, preventing declarer from retaining control of the trump suit. There is nothing declarer can do now. If he draws a third round of trump, a fourth trump kills him. If he plays on diamonds at once, a third heart gives the defense control; West can win the next spade and lead hearts, or make his two trumps separately. And if declarer plays on clubs directly, the defenders get a ruff to set the contract.

Interestingly, only three defenders in the field of eight found the duck in trump; five did not, and thus had to concede 10 tricks.

Having failed to double one club at your previous turn, you now have a remarkably good hand, in context. The best way to get your values across is to cue-bid two clubs, then convert a two-heart response to two no-trump. Thatuggests invitational values with just less than a strong no-trump, with heart support and with clubs stopped. A direct jump to two no-trump would suggest less heart support.


♠ 9 7 6 2
 K J 4
 K Q 5
♣ K Q 8
South West North East
Pass 1♣
Pass Pass 1 Pass

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


clarksburgDecember 21st, 2011 at 2:28 pm

About today’s Bid with the Aces item:Wow! Shape-based discipline, patience, best-description and the importance of balancing in one example. Thanks so much, from a grateful intermediate club player.

Bobby WolffDecember 21st, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Your enthusiasm and kind words, I appreciate and certainly wins the day.

Yes, once South decides to pass the first time all those adjectives you use, exactly fit his actions, however, I DO NOT approve of his original pass instead of making a TO double.

My reason is that sometimes, (too often) by the time the bidding gets back to him it will be at too high a level (even the 2 level) for him to risk coming in, and by not doing so, may possibly (probably) have the hand stolen from him. If partner has a decent 5 card unbid suit, and only a few HCP’s, along with a bit of unbalanced distribution, our side should be competing, if for no other reason than to drive the opponents to a higher level, possibly beatable contract.

South’s original pass reminds me of the way high-level bridge used to be, at least played that way by some very good players, but world-wide bidding judgment has proven to me (and for a long time now) that initial positive acts get better results.

Thanks again for writing and keep your inquisitive bridge mind, so that you can decide for yourself which method works.

clarksburgDecember 21st, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Thanks for added insight. Is there a limit to how far one should deviate from the old-fashioned requirement for the TO double? If it were Jxx, Kxx, KQxx, KQx is it still TO? Overcall in the 4-card diamonds? If it got to Jxx, Kxx, KQx, KQxx is it then a pass, or does “initial positive act” still rule the day?

Jeff HDecember 21st, 2011 at 6:11 pm

On the lesson hand today, why not make a negative double with the south hand? With my partner, the sequence 1C/D-(1H)-1S would promise 5+ spades. Of course, the lesson today is about the play and not the bidding and I would think that playing this from with North as declarer would make little diffrence.

Jeff HDecember 21st, 2011 at 6:17 pm

A non-bridge related comment: At least for me the suit symbols have not been appearing in the hand diagrams and bidding lately. The columns posted prior to December 15 have them, but the later ones do not. Makes it hard to read the columns. It could be me and my computer, but that would not explain why they appear on the earlier columns.

Jeff SDecember 21st, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I have had the exact same issue with the suits not appearing at the exact same time. For me, they do not show up on an older computer that still uses Internet Explorer 7 so I have been assuming it is related to that.

Bobby WolffDecember 21st, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Yes, yes, and yes are the three answers. I would double on the first two and initial action does rule the game of today. The 4 card suit overcall at the 2 level comes way behind the double and pass with either of your examples. Bridge is a bidder’s game, but there is a limit.

Bobby WolffDecember 21st, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Hi Jeff H,

Bidding one spade over an overcall and after partner has opened the bidding usually should show 5, except when one has a big fit (like this example, 5 card support) then I find it better to bid a 4 card major first and support later unless partner shows big support for my suit.

The reason is that my hand goes way up in value offensively, enabling me to start showing my other suit right away, otherwise if I double and LHO then raises or jumps in his partner’s overcall, partner may play me for 4 spades, but a balanced hand outside and not as good support for him as I will probably show him next round.

The result might influence partner toward defense rather than offense, the opposite impression my hand should tend to convey.

Bobby WolffDecember 21st, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Jeff H and Jeff S,

Since my suit symbols do appear, perhaps it is related to the specific computer. At any rate, I am very non computer savvy, so I will refer your comments to the bridge blogging site and get back to you if any information of value appears.

Meanwhile perhaps you can also inquire around. Also, Jeff S may have the answer with his Internet Explorer 7 reason.

Bill CubleyDecember 22nd, 2011 at 2:03 am


A change of subject inspred by a discussion of a Pairs Trials vs Team Trials for the WBF team events.
Why not have a Blue Ribbon Teams as well as a Blue Ribbon Pairs? Players would get their BR qualifiaction noted pairs or teams. Maybe the NA Swiss could convert to a BR Teams.

You may consider my high point in Seattle was bidding slam when the other guy stopped in 2 Hearts as a sign of my overbidding before you reply. At least Shannon gave me a hug.

Ian RDecember 22nd, 2011 at 4:43 am


Two things – wouldn’t the normal bidding sequence go 1C – 1H – X – etc and the contract be played from North rather than South? Of course that might have prevented the posting!

Secondly, the symbols have only recently stopped coming through in your posts. So something has changed within the last week or two to prevent this.

Bobby WolffDecember 22nd, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Hi Bill,

Your creative idea of a Blue Ribbon Teams event to go along with the well-known Blue Ribbon Pairs is perhaps a good idea.

However, it could be thought by some that the Vanderbilt in the Spring, the Spingold in the summer, and both the Open Board-a-Match teams and Reisinger as well as the 6 session Open Swiss Teams (mentioned by you) in the fall are enough to satisfy the craving for showing high level team skills throughout the year. Basically all the above events are open to any and all who desire to play, but in reality the entrants tend to be made up of mostly our best and brightest players with a sprinkling of those who, while anxious to learn, do not mind losing early in order to either achieve that playing lesson or to, at the very least, have a hand or two to talk about later.

BTW, a hug from Shannon is well worth whatever the result achieved on the hand which you admittedly overbid in Seattle.

Bill CubleyDecember 23rd, 2011 at 3:41 am


I won 16 IMPS on the overbid. Shannon’s hug is just as valuable. At least she did not punch me this time.

Merry christmas to you and Judy.


Bobby WolffDecember 25th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Hi Ian R,

When it is early in the bidding, it is usually a random thing as to which person, for column purposes, North or South, but at the table any of the four, to be the declarer in the most advantageous position. Result of that is usually no or very little factor in bidding choices.

From what I have recently heard, Bridge Blogging has gotten the suit symbol corrected.

Very happy holidays and a great or close to 2012, to everyone.