Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.

Oprah Winfrey

East North
Neither ♠ J 7 6 5 2
 J 7 5
 6 3 2
♣ K J
West East
♠ Q 9 8 3
 9 8 7
♣ A 10 8 4 3
♠ 10 4
 K 8 3
 K Q J 4
♣ Q 9 6 2
♠ A K
 A Q 10 9 6 2
 A 10 5
♣ 7 5
South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
4 All pass    


There are many good reasons that I'm always happy to let my readers know about Frank Stewart's writing projects. His latest, titled "Who Has the Queen? — The Bridge Player's Handbook of Card Reading'"is out in time for Christmas.

Stewart has put together an excellent intermediate-level book on card reading. There are themes and ideas that will prove interesting to all players.

However, the real reason why I can recommend this self-published project is that Frank has a history over the last decade of self-publishing, then donating the proceeds to his local charities in Fayette. This will be his fourth such project.

Consider today’s deal. Against four hearts West leads the diamond nine, and East plays the jack. You take the ace and lead a club, West playing low. Should you put in the king or the jack?

West’s top-of-nothing opening lead appears to mark East with the missing diamond honors, and you must hope he also has the heart king. But East never bid. If you play the club jack, you will probably go down, even if it forces out the ace, losing a trump to West’s king and two diamonds. The point is that East cannot hold all the diamond honors and club ace, as well as the heart king. Make a “second-degree assumption” and play the club king to give yourself the best chance.

The book is $21.95 postpaid, inscribed on request, from P.O. Box 962, Fayette, AL 35555.

You should make an invitational jump to three clubs, knowing North has at least four clubs, typically in an unbalanced or semi-balanced hand. After the one-diamond response, opener would typically rebid one no-trump with a balanced hand, even one with a four-card major. This is because responder would introduce a four-card major before diamonds, unless he has at least invitational values.


♠ 10 4
 K 8 3
 K Q J 4
♣ Q 9 6 2
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1 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


Bruce KarlsonJanuary 3rd, 2012 at 2:33 pm

As to the lead in the Frank Stewart hand: Suppose the lead is rewarded by finding East with AKJxx or AKxxx. Since West must give an echo when following at trick 2, how is East to determine the actual distribution? I know that you are death on MUD, but either the 8 or 7 of Diamonds would be my choice…probably the 7 as it is high enough to be viewed as discouraging and it would not arouse your ire. An expert could probably work out from declarer’s spots the exact distribution but neither I nor my partners would.

What am I missing??

Bobby WolffJanuary 3rd, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Hi Bruce,

With your example, partner holding the specific, AKJxx, the declarer’s queen would fall on the 2nd round, suggesting the actual diamond distribution around the table and if partner had AKxxx an honor (either the Q or the J) would fall, also indicating what the true distribution would be.

What I do not like about MUD are two things:

1. At trick two and before the 3rd seat defender plays (after winning the first trick), when playing MUD he often will have trouble deciding what to do, since he should fear, while playing this lead convention, by having to make a specific choice at trick two (hoping for a 3rd round ruff, for example with Jxx in dummy, while holding AKxxx and then finding declarer to hold Qx instead of partner having only a doubleton) will lose the vital tempo the defense was dealt in order to make the killing switch before the Ace is cashed).

2. And to now discuss something somewhat sleazy would be to discuss the opening leader’s plight when he sometimes would think before following with his second card, since he might well have a problem trying to make a suit preference signal and then, of course unethically signalling partner that he indeed had another one if he decided to follow with his lowest one (from MUD) when his card could be from a doubleton.

Conventions which lend themselves to that (with odd-even clearly the most culpable) just cannot be played ethically without great hardship while doing it and thus, at least IMO, should not tempt bad guys to engage in it, or worse, at times, make good guys what they do not want to be, the conveyer of unauthorized information.

jim2January 3rd, 2012 at 4:33 pm

On the bidding question, I must confess that I probably would have responded 2N to 1C. Still, a recent notrump contract not playing well (or my breakfast not sitting well) certainly could have made me bid one diamond, instead, I suppose.

Given that I did respond 1D, I can see the column logic in 3C but, the more unbalanced my partner’s hand, the less useful my 9 aceless red points may be. I know pard heard my 1D, but I still am not sure my hand rates a game invitation in clubs with only 2 HCP in pard’s two suits.

One possibility, though, is that my 3C bid is intended to help inform partner on our 3N chances, however, I do not see how 3C suggests that I hold heart help. If there is a nuance there, it would seem to suggest that I hold a hand just like this, but with the major suits reversed.

Maybe there is no perfect bid. Maybe I really should have responded 2N!

Bobby WolffJanuary 4th, 2012 at 3:27 am

Hi Jim2,

While I do not buy 2NT, once having passed, but with only a doubleton in an unbid major and even though having the 10, I would prefer to invite my partner to the party which 1 diamond does, at least for the time being. Once partner responds 1 spade, a 2NT rebid would be my personal choice, eschewing the fit showing 3 clubs which could ring the bell either by reaching a makeable 5 clubs (when 3NT fails) AKxx x. Ax, Kxxxxx or even bidding to a small slam in clubs if partner would hold a magic hand such as, Axxx, Qx, A, AKxxxx.

However, in spite of just what I said, I would still opt to rebid 2NT (too much for only 1NT) instead of 3 clubs, since the road to 9 tricks seems so much shorter than 11 on many hands which are possible. However, let one’s personal experience win the day, as long as his mind remains always open to new evidence.

Holding the King of hearts instead of the ace is a big drawback when attempting to play in a large number of clubs.

jim2January 4th, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I do not understand a couple things about your reply.

First, you typed: “While I do not buy 2NT, once having passed, ….”

South has not passed in the auction. ??

Second, your column answer was 3C but your reply says 2N is the answer. Have you changed your mind since the column was put in the print queue? Or, is the Q&A part of the column not yours?

Another odd thing about the second part, is that it exactly replicates the discussion I have had on the quiz with my partner!

Bobby WolffJanuary 4th, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, I mistakenly thought that the partner of the opening bidder had first passed, which he had not.

Although technically that would not make a difference since the choice of a 2nd round bid (once having responded 1 diamond) of either 3 clubs or 2NT, both show slightly less than original openings so whether he is an original or not passed hand makes little difference.

Since writing a seven days a week syndicated column is a constant and therefore difficult task my small staff, even including a basically professional non-bridge playing English major supplied by the syndicator, helps to avoid writing traps before we go public. Other than that, both I and a very competent excellent bridge player and writer both write and oversee every column so it is possible, even probable that some choices which appear (usually in the BWTA or LWTA), are not one or the other of our first choices.

Just to confirm one of your questions and its answer, I do not farm out the BWTA or the LWTA, it just sometimes happens the way it is described above.

Hopefully, you will now be better placed to understand the bridge column writing business.

jim2January 4th, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Thank you!

That explains a lot. You see, your column answer and your blog reply replicated the two different positions that my partner and I debated! I literally could have typed one and my partner the other!