Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

New things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new.

Samuel Johnson

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


Today's deal demonstrates that there is always something new under the sun. On the surface of it, your contract of six spades comes down to establishing clubs or finding the diamonds to lie moderately favorably — a combined chance of about 75 percent. Can you do better?

Against your slam West leads the heart queen to your ace. You draw trump, throwing the heart seven from dummy, and lead a club. If West plays the five or four, declarer would cover, giving up an early club trick to facilitate establishing the suit. He can win the club return and ruff a club, coming to 12 tricks unless clubs are 5-1, in which case he falls back on the diamond finesse.

However, when West produces the club nine, you call for dummy’s ace. After cashing the club king, you play the club two and, once East follows with the 10, throw a diamond from hand.

No matter what East does now, the contract is safe. You can ruff the club queen and then have two discards for your own diamonds. A heart return provides the extra entry to set up the clubs, while a diamond back surrenders the 12th trick immediately. If West had produced the club queen, the suit would have split 3-3 and therefore the heart king and a long club would have provided discards for your losing diamonds.

Bid one heart. There are both tactical and strategic reasons why one responds to opening bids in a minor here. First, despite your limited values, you cannot rule out game for your side if your partner has a strong hand with either clubs or hearts. Second, you respond to make life harder for your opponents to get their act together.


♠ 6 5
 9 8 4 2
 K 8 7
♣ Q 10 5 4
South West North East
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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Howard Bigot-JohnsonMarch 8th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

HBJ : Hi there…..for once I’m commenting on the bidding problem. If you offer 1H you may hit the jackpot if partner has a strong two suited hand ( hearts and clubs ), but if he hasn’t it’s oh-so-easy for the opposition to come in with a diamond/spade take-out double,….maybe a simple overcall of 1S….or even a weak jump overcall of 2S.
My regular partner likes inverted minor suit raises and would expect me to bid 3C ( weak hand) , which if he has a big hand and a 4 card major he knows i’t’s safe to bid this suit at the 3 level. If the object here is to make life harder for your opponents to get their act together…..then surely 3C does the trick better than 1H ?

jim2March 8th, 2012 at 10:25 pm


I am not the expert, but the partnership understandings I see almost all require 5 clubs or 4 diamonds for such raises.

bobby wolffMarch 8th, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Hi HBJ & Jim2,

Yes, Jim you are right in expectations, mainly so to provide the partnership at least 8 trumps in case of a 3 card club opening. Other partnerships may require (or at least strongly suggest) 5 diamonds also in case partner has a 4-4-3-2 hand or a 4-3-3-3 or 3-4-3-3 hand with much stronger diamonds than clubs.

To be able to preempt to the three level with trump support, but a very weak hand has certain advantages, but alas it also has disadvantages, depending on the vulnerability and if then goes all pass sometimes the bidders go down several tricks and find their opponents unable to make game.

Nowadays many opponents will come into the bidding with shortness in the opponents suit with only a 11+ HCP hand applying Larry Cohen’s “The Law of Total Tricks” meaning that HBJ is not necessarily wrong, but there are no easy solutions and bridge, sometimes like poker and playing against known opponents, lends itself to varying the strength of preemption, keeping in mind that partner as well as the opponents will sometimes be fooled.

Summing up, no one is right, no one is wrong, just do it at the right time and you will win almost every tournament.