Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

The good things of life are not to be had singly, but come to us with a mixture.

Thomas Lamb

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


Deals from actual play are somehow more satisfying than constructed deals. No one has rung a bell to let the player know that the critical moment has come and that he must focus on the problem at hand before it is too late.

The deal came up on OK Bridge and the auction shown was typical. After South took a punt at three no-trump, the defenders led a heart to the ace and returned the heart eight to West’s jack. West saw that the missing hearts were the nine and queen, and since East would have returned the nine had he been left with the 9-8 at trick two, South must logically hold both of those cards. A shift was logically called for, and West had the choice of playing his partner for the club ace or any two spade honors. Most guessed well by playing a spade. (On a club shift declarer would be likely to succeed by ducking the trick.)

But at our featured table, declarer, Tim Bourke, could see this scenario about to present itself to West. To prevent him from finding the winning play, Tim cold-bloodedly sacrificed the heart nine under East’s eight at trick two!

Now there were no inferences available about the small hearts. From West’s perspective he needed to cash the hearts immediately or declarer might be able to scamper home with nine tricks. (Give declarer any one of East’s black-suit honors, and that would be true.) So he cashed the heart king and set up Tim’s ninth winner for him.

Your partner's cue-bid suggests a good hand, and you certainly have extras — enough to suggest that game is in the cards. Neither a call of two hearts nor three hearts really describes your hand; a repeat cue-bid of three diamonds by you should suggest extras with no clear direction to go.


♠ K Q 5
 A 8
 9 7
♣ Q 10 8 5 4 3
South West North East
1 1 Pass
2♣ Pass 2 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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Michael BeyroutiJanuary 24th, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,
very nice play by Tim Bourke… But I have a question on BWTA. It all goes back to how to interpret North’s 2D cue-bid. Is he asking for a diamond stopper or is he showing a club fit? Why can’t South bid 2S to show values there? Does a “repeat cue-bid” of 3D have a special meaning? Such as denying the diamond stopper? Wouldn’t 2S accomplish the same and more? Having reached 3D, the next logical bid by North would be 3NT if he has the diamond stopper but maybe he fears spades… My mind is in a swirl… (Jim2, I need an assist on this one…)

jim2January 24th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Michael –

Not only am I with you on the BWTA, but I was also typing almost the same exact comment!

I did not even consider a repeat cue bid, and was choosing between 2S and 3C. Once in a tourney in my youth, my RHO opened 1C, I ventured a Michaels 2C and the entire table got caught up in it and the bidding went 1C-2C-3C-4C-5C.

I refused to bid 6C to offer a choice of major suit slams or something, and bid a pedestrian 5S and it went all pass making 5 for a fair score. Nonetheless, I emerged scarred from the experience, and eschewed multiple cues ever since. 🙂

Michael BeyroutiJanuary 24th, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Thanks Jim2.
There’s also the issue of right-siding an eventual NT contract… which I did not broach…
Now it’s our host’s turn.

bobbywolffJanuary 24th, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Hi Michael and Jim2,

Good news and/or possibly not.

Cue bids sometimes, and this possible one by West is one, DOES NOT have a specific meaning. It merely says, do something intelligent. Partner’s cue bid, after making his 1 heart overcall, suggests that, partner, if you have any extras, please show them to me and, if possible, where they happen to be and I’ll carry on from there.

A secondary choice might be 3 hearts with Ax, since holding 3 of them I would not have bid 2 clubs to start with, but rather some number of hearts or possibly an immediate cue bid instead of my choice of 2 clubs which, of course is NF.

However we have deemed this hand, with scattered values, is such that opposite partner’s forward going cue bid (and they always are) game should be lurking somewhere.

CAUTION: A now bid of 2 spades is definitely a suit (at least 4 cards) and should not be considered. Another simpler way of explaining would be for the partners to first have a responsbility to determine strain (usually at least 8 cards in a suit) and then determine how many. Sometimes we need to hedge a little since 5 to the KQJxx or even KQ109x is quite a difference from Kxxxx, or even KJxxx and deft expert judgment is often called for.

However, although this type of exchange in the bidding is certainly high-level, it then follows that players of your ability and experience should have no trouble sorting them out as long as you have the proper insight of what is trying to be told in the bidding. In this case, with a cue bid on top of partner’s cue bid , “We almost certainly have a game somewhere, but let us together decide where it is”.

To repeat I would choose 3 diamonds with 3 hearts (NF but almost sure to be kept open) a close 2nd and nothing else to be considered. As an epilogue, if partner has Jxxx, KQJxx, Ax, KJ 4 hearts is clearly the right contract and still is even if the hearts are only KQ109x.

Ever onward, ever forward!

jim2January 24th, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Well, our host is the expert, not moi. Nonetheless, I would prefer to pluck the 3D bid card out of my partner’s bidding box and chew it right there at the table in preference to watching it be placed on the table in this auction.

2S is the cheapest forcing bid, thus possessing the virtue of preserving the most bidding room. I would expect partner’s failure to make a takeout double would reduce (not eliminate) the risk that s/he holds four spades. The extra room would give me the best chance to then support hearts, revealing a 3.5 heart call but with Hx instead of three.

Over my 2S, I would raise 2N to 3N, bid 3H over 3C, exclaim in disgust at 3D, raise 3H to 4H, and convert 3S to 4H. If partner perpetrates 4S on me, I would expect something like AJxx Kxxxxx A Kx, and I might just pass and be prepared to triumphantly discuss the hand with Alphonse Moyse Jr, himself, when I move on.

Again, no expert moi, but I would rank the calls as 2S, then 3H, then 3C, and (if I were North) I would be tempted to fake a coughing fit if partner bid 3D, excuse myself from the table, and never come back.

In all truth, the answer makes sense, if one is looking at the hand. That is, the hand contains game-going values but cannot bid notrump, support hearts, bid spades, or jump rebid clubs. So, what can be left but a weakish club suit, no big diamond card and – thus – most values in short major suit holdings. It makes sense, but I would not be able to work that out at the table and, hence, would not want to dump the same dilemma in the lap of my partner. Still, I am not an expert with an expert partner with lots of mutual table time behind us.

jim2January 25th, 2012 at 3:32 am

It also instills a dedication to defensive bidding, er, driving. 🙂

Bobby WolffJanuary 25th, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Hi everyone involved (which may soon include everyone in the Chinese military services),

When Vanderbilt discovered contract bridge in 1927, it is very doubtful he would have at that time, been able to predict the evolution of high-level bidding or even if the game would still be alive and well and as magnificent as it has become (at least through some people’s eyes).

Back then, doubles and redoubles meant exactly what they sounded like, increasing set penalties or making the score for fulfilling the contract, extra digits. Bidding suits were almost always centered around the suit bid and of course NT meant NT not, unusual for minors, or Blackwood for aces and then kings. or even Culbertson for aces, but having to qualify his 4NT with certain requirements necessary for bidding that lofty number.

Since then there have been other significant other changes since bidding (the language of our great game) is restricted to 7 numbers and 5 suits with pass, double and redouble thrown in, making only 38 total noise makers available, no more, no less.

Needless to say, since the Tower of Babel included thousands of words each in many different languages, bridge was granted a step-child number comparably speaking.

Consequently, through the years, the expert community, especially fairly recently, has been quite busy trying to make use of heretofore relatively unused combinations of legal noises pertaining to various levels of their meanings.

I now choose not to go further with this discussion since I am trying to be more of a peacemaker than to be an innovator who always at first, has an adjective like crazy attached to remembering his (or her) name.

I am trusting the superior intellect of those reading this message to understand what I am driving at and possibly add to that where our community is at this moment in time in striving to eventually arrive at the Emerald City of bridge.

The key question is that when we arrive, will we see Frank Morgan behind some cheap camouflage or will we see a real Bridge Wizard?