Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

You pays your money and you takes your choice.


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


After seeing dummy, on the auction shown, would you think your next move might be critical? If not, give the problem a couple of extra seconds' thought!

The hand is from the Individual at the 1st World Mind Sports Games, held in Beijing, where Pairs scoring was in use.

First, let’s see the action at the table where Gay Keaveney of Ireland was partnering Bob Hamman of the USA. Hamman had no easy way to get his values across, but decided to treat his hand as invitational, banking on his three black honors to be working overtime, and treating his spades as a three-card suit. Had this been teams, Keaveney would have bid the spade game, but at matchpoints he preferred to be circumspect and try to insure a plus score.

Against three spades West led the diamond queen; East rose with the ace and returned a diamond. Keaveney played his king, cashed the club ace and king and got off play with a third club. The trump return from East came too late. South could not now be prevented from ruffing his fourth club in dummy and coming to 10 tricks, losing just two diamonds and a club.

It was Patrick Huang of Chinese Taipei who found the defense to beat four spades. On winning the first trick with the diamond ace, he recognized the danger and switched to a trump, and continued with a second trump when in with a club. That killed the club ruff and set the game.

Your partner's two-club call shows spade support and at least the values for a raise to three spades (perhaps starting at a good 10-count with three trumps). Your nice trumps and extra shape coupled with good controls suggest you have enough for a try for game. A bid of three clubs should show your side-suit and get partner to evaluate his club length.


♠ Q J 10 9 3
 K 10 2
♣ A 7 5 3
South West North East
1♠ Dbl. 2♣ 2

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 ClimieJuly 25th, 2012 at 11:26 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I’m afraid East was on autopilot here as his club holding clearly flags the risk of not returning a trump. The hearts show there is no threat of the suit being set up for one or more club discards even if declarer has HAx and played for a 3-3 break. Perhaps east felt that a high club ruff on table could promote a trump if his partner had S10xxx but the extra trump trick is balanced by the loss of the 2nd club winner. If South had CA10xx and played an early club off the deck there might be a concern but I think the most likely play is still 3 rounds of clubs,

Still, I shudder to think how often I’ve done something similar to the diamond at trick 2..


Iain Climie

jim2July 25th, 2012 at 12:16 pm

It is easy for a defender to miss the need to lead trump when the Board has no shortness except in trump, especially when the Board’s holding is bare honors. In this hand, however, East has little excuse. South bid clubs naturally and East’s club honors will take tricks unless they are ruffed.

On the bidding quiz, whenever I am offered the chance to raise a cue bid, I look hard for ANY other call. Here, the opponents’ bids (negative double and free heart bid) strongly suggest all partner’s values will be working. I would simply bid 4H.

Iain ClimieJuly 25th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Hi Gents,

Although I feel 4S is worth a shot (I assume 4H is a typo above) why the hurry? If you pass now and west does the same, partner will bid 2S. or 3S and maybe we can get doubled in 4S – or am I being overly devious here?

My worry with 3C is that it gives west the chance to double with decent club support and might help EW find a good save or defence if one exists. I recall a Bols tip from Reese about not giving opponents extra options in the bidding.



jim2July 25th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Yes, I meant 4S.

My thought is that pard has made a limit bid that puts us in the game range (“starting at a good 10-count with three trumps”). The recommended bid of 3C would have been my choice if the bidding had been uncontested and pard had bid a constructive 2S. (Or maybe a short suit game try) Here, however, the opponents have already given us a good clue that pards values fit ours. So, I bid what I think we can make and deny the opponents all bidding room.

It also avoids raising a cue bid, as I said previously.

bobby wolffJuly 25th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Hi Iain,

Thee and me. We both have obviously fallen victim of playing too quickly to trick 2 on defense. Not Patrick Huang from Taiwan, who ever since the late 1960’s has been one of the top players (sadly, mostly unknown among present day top players) in the world, leading that productive country to very high finishes in many different World Bridge Championships. We, for one reason or another, have also been close friends ever since our first battle in WC play (Stockholm in 1970) when the USA played Chinese Taipet (their official bridge name in world bridge) in the finals and Patrick was first beginning to stand out with his marvelous consistency, sheer talent and sense of purpose.

Although there is little doubt that Reese’s Bols tip about trying not to give the opponent’s extra room to exchange information which will normally serve them well in their decision making (opening lead and/or bidding judgment) a jump to 4 spades might be the best medicine for preventing that.

However, although partner’s 2 club cue bid will normally have primary spade support (perhaps 90%+ of the time) he might have a forcing diamond bid e.g. s. Ax, h. xxx, d.AQJxxxxx, c. void (2 diamonds by him is usually played NF) making 7 diamonds a virtual laydown contract.

From a practical standpoint you, as usual, have contributed a sound approach and for good reason, but once in a while (maybe just in my imagination) bridge reaches out and bites us where it hurts, suggesting a repeat cue bid as more likely to cover the bases and in the example given, lead us to a diamond mine.

bobby wolffJuly 25th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Hi Jim2,

What you say has much practical application and I, and probably no one else, can dispute your logic.

However for a theoretical bridge discussion, what I wrote to Iain (which should have been to both of you) it may have been worth pointing out how bridge, if you will forgive the expression, sometimes plays strange tricks.

And to cover the loose ends, before they arrive, if after jumping to 4 spades, would a now 5 diamond bid by partner be a spade slam try cue bid e.g. Kxxxx, Kxx, AQJx, x, or would it be natural?

Partnerships need to discuss these somewhat esoteric subjects and then arrive at a stage where they can remember, usually through system consistency with like situations, if they want to join the elite.

jim2July 25th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I would take 5D as a cue bid. Pard has made a limit spade raise in competition.

I just have a hard time with the notion that I could be the third one to bid clubs and have it be considered a natrual bid.

Passing 2H is something I would do before 3C. Pard would certainly have the opportunity to clarify, presuming s/he could not pass.

(BTW, 6S will usually make on that monster diamond hand, which would beat those who get to 6D but not 7D.)

John Howard GibsonJuly 25th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

HBJ : Am I in a school all of my own , but with 4 small spades ( partner not expected to have much in that suit ) I would always lead a spade . Then if partner is fortunate enough to have a second spade I would expect him to return it once in with a club or diamond.
When opponents settle in 3 of a major it often suggests that the defence has some winning side suit tricks, which of course can be protected from nasty ruffs by an immediate attack on trumps.
But hey who am I to say what’s right when up against far superior players to myself.

bobby wolffJuly 25th, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, I agree with you in your interpretation of the theoretical 5 diamond bid (in response to the 4 spade jump) being a cue bid in favor of spades with a diamond control.

Getting back to the cue bid in response to partner’s cue bid, the length in clubs does not make that cue bid a possibility, but rather the ace (control) does. It should announce to partner that we are going to game and I assume it is in spades, but please confirm. If partner instead, now bids 3 diamonds, I would raise to 4 diamonds and await developments since partner’s hand could have been the beginning of announcing a strong diamond hand.

No, partner cannot pass 2 hearts and when he now bids 3 diamonds we should raise diamonds preparing to bid strongly later since our hand has both support and 2 major off suits 1st round controlled.

Getting to either 6 spades when it is right, or of course the sensational 7 diamonds (or probably even 6 diamonds) on the fictitious contrived hand will both be well rewarded in whatever type of bridge event one is playing in.

The reason is that when opponents open the bidding many players do not seriously consider bidding slams when the non-opening bidder side is exchanging information.

Iain ClimieJuly 25th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Interesting points on the bidding, and the stronger hands you suggest show that passing 2H and awaiting developments may be sensible. If partner does have one of the powerhouses, though, what have the opponents got for their bidding? I know there is a tendency now to bid light, but EW would seem to be on fresh air or even hydrogen in some cases, although we all know players for whom this wouldn’t be a deterrent.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffJuly 25th, 2012 at 4:54 pm


While I am not critical of your choice of leading a small trump (from 4 small) against the subject contract, I do not consider it the only possibility. Sometimes, while holding 4 trumps, the best defense centers itself with tapping declarer who eventually will not have enough trumps to cope with such a defense, but by leading a trump we lose a tempo on so defending.

BTW, I have sent 2 different comments to your site dealing with your legal spoof, which I do not think have made it past your security. Since I likely have not complied with the border patrol, through lack of computer savvy or just plain stupidity, I thought I would let you know, assuming some easier, but maybe less secure, right of passage is ever considered.

Sometimes we writers need all the help we can get to be noticed and your assistance and attention to both Judy and me has been sensational.

John Howard GibsonJuly 25th, 2012 at 9:04 pm

HBJ : Hi there….just wanted to say I have opened up I think a free passage to receiving comments . Sadly , my computer skills are relatively limited…all I can do is type. Thanks for letting me know.