Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Nature, with equal mind,
Sees all her sons at play;
Sees man control the wind,
The wind sweep man away.

Matthew Arnold

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

*11-15 points, diamonds or balanced


When China ZH and Indonesia met in the first phase of the Yeh Brothers Cup, both were on the cusp of qualifying for the top group; but one bad match by either could drop that team into the Swiss. This deal cost the Chinese dearly.

In one room the Chinese East came in over a no-trump opening to show the minors and bought an exceptionally poor dummy in three clubs doubled. Though he was allowed to escape for down two, minus 300 was not a great score.

In the room shown, declarer, Zhuang Zejun, received a diamond lead and ducked it to the queen. Back came a club won in dummy. Declarer led with a low trump to the queen and ace, then played a heart to the nine and East’s king. When a second club came back, declarer won in hand and played a third club, planning to pitch a diamond and crossruff. However, West ruffed in, leaving declarer with an inevitable trump and diamond loser.

Had declarer run the heart eight, covered by West, before playing the club, he would have been much better placed. He leads out the spade jack, then the 10, which West must duck, or declarer can draw trump, cash the club winner, then take the heart finesse.

When both trumps are ducked, declarer changes tack and plays the diamond ace, ruffs a heart to hand, and leads the club queen to pitch dummy’s diamond, leaving West with just his master trump.

As usual, acting comes with a government safety warning — bidding can damage your bank-balance. But if you pass three diamonds out, then the opponents win. When you have both majors and opening values, it is a reasonable gamble that your side has a fit. It does not take much to give game play (imagine partner with five spades to the ace-king and a singleton diamond).


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


Iain ClimieMay 9th, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

I noticed that the weak 2-suited overcall hit some trouble at one table and I can think of many hands where such bids have rebounded by helping declarer read the distribution. There again, the potential interference value of 2-suited overcalls can be considerable at favourable vulnerability.

Can I ask what is your preferred approach on Michaels, UNT and the like in terms of strength, type of scoring and vulnerability?

Many thanks,

Iain Climie

bobbywolffMay 9th, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Hi Iain,

My guess is that I am sort of in the middle, although my Michaels over a major suit opening is not standard, it is the other major and clubs, so that if the responder to the opening bidder raises (or jumps) in opener’s suit (quite frequent) my partner will know which minor I have. With the other major and diamonds, I tend to bid the other major if long enough and then bid diamonds later if practical.

With UNT I tend to do it, but while doing it I am always weak (often favorable vul) and designed for sacrifices, not constructive bidding.

A first time bridge mentor of mine, the late Johnny Gerber from Houston (a great player in his day) always reminded me that if my team was behind, vary overcalls or not depending on trying to do differently than my counterpart at the other table so that we or they might easily get to a different contract, enabling favorable swings when fortune smiled.

It, of course, doesn’t work often, but at least it is good advice, but perhaps better advice is not to get behind to start with.

Back to your question, it is very important for whatever one’s tendencies tend to be, for partner’s sake be consistent so that he will be in a better position to judge, than if his partner did something different every time.

In poker, since it is an individual competition, the more variance the better, but not in bridge, where partner is better placed to be in the know.

Iain ClimieMay 10th, 2012 at 8:20 am

Many thanks and interesting advice on not flattening boards