Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 21th, 2012

When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat,
Yet fooled by hope, men favour the deceit….

John Dryden

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



With no real fit, you do not have to bid combined 24-counts to game. However, as you look at all four hands today, four spades seems simple enough to bring home. You would be worried about losing a trick in each red suit and two trump tricks, but with the spades lying in such friendly fashion, you would expect the contract to make, as indeed it did at almost all of the tables where it was attempted — but not when Portugal faced Ireland's Adam Mesbur and Nick Fitzgibbon in the 2002 European Championships. The defense that the Irish pair found was both imaginative and effective.

North-South were playing a weak no-trump, which partly explains South’s aggressive initial action and North’s ability to rebid a forcing two no-trump. In response to his partner’s intervention, Adam Mesbur led the club five, which was taken in dummy with the ace. A low spade went to the king and ace, and this was followed by a finesse of the heart 10, which held. Next came a low diamond to the queen, also ducked without a flicker from Adam.

Declarer now confidently finessed again in hearts, and on winning with his now-bare king, Nick Fitzgibbon returned a diamond to Adam’s ace, who promptly played a heart, which his partner ruffed with the spade queen. That was the defense’s third trick, and with the spade 10-8 sitting over South’s nine, a further trump trick was guaranteed.

In response to a reverse it is relatively common these days to treat a rebid of your long suit (here, two spades) as forcing for one round. Almost all other actions deny five cards in the suit in which you responded. Whether or not you have this special agreement, there is no reason not to bid two spades. If you play the call as nonforcing and partner passes, you won't have missed game.


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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonFebruary 4th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

HBJ : If East’s King happens to be a stiff, then West has certainly got 2 spade winners with his holding of Q108x, so surely declarer has to play for East holding the KQ to justify his play of the king, and restrict spade losers to one.
If this analysis holds true then it is right to lead a small spade and play low from dummy with confidence. Even if West wins this trick on a 4-1 break, dummy’s jack will take care of one of his two remaining spades, meaning of course the contract now depends upon the heart finesse working.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonFebruary 4th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

HBJ : Oh yes, what’s your take on a bidding system that allows a player to open a weak two ( showing 5/4+ in two suits ) on 0-10 HCPs ? Can this be legal? Should it be legal ? And where might it all end up ? Three level pre-empts on a 3 void ? See Carp’s latest article.

Bobby WolffFebruary 4th, 2012 at 3:30 pm


Your two comments were diverse, so let me respond in kind.

The Irish pair defended in a highly imaginative way, especially with the double duck, the key play of ducking the king of hearts (with only a doubleton) and then the cooperative 2nd duck by West in diamonds. The two conspired to find a defense to defeat a hand which was on the way to being made, because of the lucky layout for declarer, but, due to the defensive ruses, not known to be that way.

Bridge offers many highs, particularly at expert levels, but nothing trumps the thrill of a partnership defense which turns straw into gold.

Turning my attention to your second comment can be thought of, at least by me, as almost the opposite in morality to the brilliance of what that sensational Irish pair accomplished.

Yes, the weak two with 0-10 HCPS is legal (at least in most situations at World Championships) as long as the two suits are known,

While industry in bridge should not be discouraged, attempts at destructive bidding, wherein the side without either the high cards nor distribution necessary to seriously compete for the contract uses what I will call poison gas (Edgar Kaplan had a better name for it, naming it particularly unusual systems, making the initials PUS, at least to me, a perfect moniker).

During my productive bridge years, I, as an Appeals Chairman, was very hard on those who saw fit to throw tacks on the highway in the hope of derailing modern well thought out highway traffic (highly legal superior bridge methods which concentrated on using the language of bridge (bidding) to show one’s hand) rather than to destroy the enemies communications with nefarious techniques.

Since many of these destroyer bids could be legal, I tried to make sure the users followed all the requirements, including knowing which suits they were supposed to have, totally full disclosure to that particular partnership’s use of them, history of their usage, and (where I was most successful) the meanings of follow up bids by them, which in most cases they struck out, allowing their admitted sloth, for me to rule against them.

In doing so I made many enemies, but since I regarded the perpetrators not friends to bridge as it should be, I wear their animosity to me nothing less than a badge of honor.

All I can say is that since I lost almost all of my hearing I have had to retire from doing my job, but I, of course, sincerely hope that prospects for bridge destruction have not improved in my absence.

Yes, encourage bridge creativity, yes do not come down on possible positive discoveries, but when some insist on doing it through ways which are against IMO what bridge is supposed to be about, e.g. prior disclosure and at least some experience (like being prepared for normal preemptive tactics by weak hands with distributional advantages), other complicated innovations like intentionally forgetting what suits partner is supposed to have just does not cut it, nor as far as I am concerned, never will.