Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out questions and answers!
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution!

Walt Whitman

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


In today's deal from the finals of the Women's World Championship between England and China, which finished in a 1 IMP win for England, a nice defensive play paid dividends.

Both Wests opened a conventional call of two diamonds to show a weak-two in one major or the other. The English North had no convenient way into the auction on the first round, then had to guess whether to bid or pass on the next. The singleton heart king was of dubious value, and her main suit was hardly robust: She decided to pass.

The defenders led a trump and declarer was easily held to six tricks, minus-150.

By contrast the Chinese North took immediate action, showing a balanced 13-15, after which South jumped to the obvious game.

West led the heart seven, declarer winning with dummy’s king. With some good guesses 11 tricks are available, but when declarer started with a club to the queen, Heather Dhondy followed smoothly with the eight!

Naturally, declarer now ran the club 10. East won with the jack, cashed the spade king, and then went back to hearts. Declarer ducked, won the next heart, and knocked out the club ace, assuming that East would win the trick. All she would then have needed to do was locate the diamond queen, except that it was West who now produced the club ace and proceeded to cash her heart tricks for plus-300.

A double here by you would be takeout but would normally see you hold both majors. Your choice is a simple call of two diamonds, an aggressive three-diamond bid, or a double, expecting to play a 4-3 fit. I'd bid just two diamonds — You are a long way from game, but if you can make something significant, partner will surely bid again.


♠ 10 8 2
 A 9 2
 A J 10 4
♣ Q 10 3
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 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 ClimieSeptember 18th, 2012 at 9:49 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

A couple of points on today’s play hand. I assume that East at the other table raised the 2D to 3H as a pre-emptive raise in either major, so prepared to play in 3H or at least 3S. This would tie up with 3 off.

The other point is whether east should play the SK instead of an immediate 2nd heart. If South has 4 weak spades this could be letting the contract through whereas a heart will remove South’s presumed Ace. Still, it all worked out well enough and the duck is impressive. All the defensive texts give it as a standard play but actuallly playing it smoothly at the table is quite another matter, especially against opponents playing quickly.


Iain Climie

John Howard GibsonSeptember 18th, 2012 at 10:06 am

HBJ : With one heart stop gone declarer has to knock out West’s probable and most guaranteed entry which is a club. So let’s say the king of clubs in play from dummy which if West has it without the jack then it’s game over for the defence. Let’s say East has it and plays on hearts until declarer takes his Ace.
Now the contract depends on two out of 3 layouts. West started off with Jx of clubs with East starting off with AJ or AJx. So when declarer next plays the queen , the jack will fall….. or East gets in with the jack on the 3rd round with no hearts left. Now all declarer needs is the diamond finesse to see the contract home ( 3C, 1S, 2H and 4 diamonds , losing only 1H and 2C )
However , if West has 3 to the jack it is all over for declarer , but this layout surely represents long odds.

Iain ClimieSeptember 18th, 2012 at 10:39 am

Good points but the defence may not blindly carry on with hearts. If West has no entry (whether the CA has been knocked out or she didn’t hold it) then she might win the second heart and switch to a spade.

Basically I think you have to find the CJ to make this one. If clubs aren’t 3-2 you need to find the DQ as well, so what is the best line in clubs given that hearts are 6-3?

bobby wolffSeptember 18th, 2012 at 11:02 am

Hi Iain,

Yes, as usual, you are right on all points mentioned. East did, in actuality, preempted 3 hearts, which in their methods was not to be raised if hearts was her suit.

Also declarer ducked the spade queen, hoping for a later defensive error which she hoped to have received by the heart return, only to discover the double twist which then allowed an extra down trick. And when the match then was decided by only 1 IMP, all of the not so petty poor choices seem to exaggerate themselves beyond proportion.

Thanks for your always superior analysis.

bobby wolffSeptember 18th, 2012 at 11:14 am


Yes, as Iain has clearly pointed out, in order for declarer to succeed she must guess who has the club jack. Once that failed, it was just a question of how many she was going set.

Often, key hands turn on whether the jack is in the box or not, this being one of them and add to that West making a creative duck (and in tempo) only made it more difficult for declarer to succeed. Of course, if declarer would have overcome guessing the elusive jack, then her next problem, guessing where the diamond queen happened to be, awaited.

bobby wolffSeptember 18th, 2012 at 11:16 am

Hi again Iain and HBJ,

I apologize for the careless presentation of this real hand and for my errors involved.

Iain ClimieSeptember 18th, 2012 at 11:28 am

Your apology is honestly not required as the very minor omission was quite easy to work out. I just hope one regular reader and contributor doesn’t think I was over-picky here. Please keep up the good work, instruction and entertainment!

jim2September 18th, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Late to the party again!


I agree that declarer was going down once the JC took a trick. That is, the defense would surely clear whichever major suit was held by the defendeer that retained the AC late entry.

On the BWTA, I am shocked — shocked! — that the bidding choices considered did not include cue bidding the club raise. After all, raising a cue bid, cue bidding a raise, sounds almost the same to me!


Iain ClimieSeptember 18th, 2012 at 1:15 pm

The trouble here is that partner may have a “poker moment” and reraise you to 4C – then what? Less flippantly, just for a change, how useful are your club values here? They’re OK for NT if partner turns up with Kx but is this likely with opponents raising clubs?

Give me one more club and one less diamond and I might risk 2N but I suspect the hand is only a working 9 count which argues for some caution. If LHO bids 3C, for example, and partner doubles, now what?

Iain ClimieSeptember 18th, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Sorry, that should be “if LHO bids 3C over 2D…”

jim2September 18th, 2012 at 1:32 pm

But would you call with the same hand but with every face card replaced by a five of six spot?

I think 2D may be best, don’t get me wrong. The main hope, I suppose, is that pard will make a major suit noise that we can raise with studied enthusiasm. A 2N by pard would be even nicer!

On your 4C notion, I once (four decades past) was second to bid when it went:

1C – 2C – 3C – 4C
5C – ?

Every player had his bid and it ended well enough (I bid 5S and played it there for a good reasult), but I may trace my chary view of cue raises back to that experience!

jim2September 18th, 2012 at 1:33 pm

But “what” would you …

— more sigh —

Iain ClimieSeptember 18th, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Good story but I think I’m missing something. With 3343 rubbish (no face cards) I can pass 2C or did you mean something different?

jim2September 18th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Yes, you’re probably right. 2D is not as great an underbid as it seems, I guess. Still, if I made it, I would have to keep my eyes on my cards throughout the rest of the bidding to convince myself I did not hold:


bobby wolffSeptember 18th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Hi Jim2,

While South does have a tidy little hand, an opening 1 diamond or a weak NT would be ventured by some aggressive good players, but instead in this case, partner’s TO double, most likely hand will not include a 5 card major and most likely be either a 4-4-3-2 or 4-4-4-1 minimum, why not just cater to such a likelihood and await developments. If the opponents then bid 3 clubs and partner passes (also likely) then make a matchpoint double which will enable partner to make the key mistake by either taking it out to 3 diamonds or leaving it in, whichever doesn’t work. Probably down 1 or 2 depending on whether we score up a natural club trick or not.

Every hand should be judged featuring the cast of characters present, the particular form of scoring used, and even sometimes on the mood of the moment. This diversification generally pertains to most every bridge hand which is dealt and should always be considered.

jim2September 18th, 2012 at 3:33 pm

You are the expert, not moi.

If I were to guess, I’d put West with three clubs holding 4-4-2-3 and a minimum and East with five clubs and only a tactical noise worth of points.

This would leave pard with a hand much like West’s but with the minor suits reversed. Sure pard could now bid a major or 2N that South could gleefully raise, or even have 4-4-4-1 and raise diamonds. However, the most likely scenario has N-S destined to play a 4-3 fit in something.

I guess diamonds really would be better in that case, as North is likely to be shorter in clubs than South. But, two of a minor? Yuck!

It reminds me of the Mae West Quotation:

“Between two evils, I always pick the one I haven’t tried before.”

Jeff SSeptember 18th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I am curious about the bidding on the column bid. North promised 13-15 balanced (a bit of a stretch with that singleton heart). Was there a way for South to get her values across without going to 3NT? Would 2NT have been an invitation if North was at a max instead of min or would it have been an only-because-you-made-me bid telling North to stop right now?

Given the difficult spot South was put in, it sounds like the English North got it right – just pass.

Very nice play by West though.

bobby wolffSeptember 18th, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt 2 diamonds appears to be and is a significant underbid. However because of the specific cards held and the bidding around the table it feels (sometimes mistakenly) that it is only a competitive auction, not one where game is anywhere near laydown.

There is one thing clear and that is, when 2nd seat, behind an opening 1 of a minor opener, it is better to overcall a 5 card major, rather than double, especially with 5-4-3-1 or 5-4-2-2 regardless which major is the 5 card suit unless with 4-5-2-2. and then a Michaels cue bid should probably be bid since with 3-3 in the majors partner should always prefer hearts, since partner should be far more likely to have at least 5 hearts, but not so strict with having 5 spades.

Mae West’s quote was probably put into use often while young, but later possibly ran out of alternatives since nothing was left untried. Bridge is more conducive to less excitement and more consistency which, in turn, returns the maximum good feeling via result.

bobby wolffSeptember 18th, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Hi Jeff S,

It has been thought for now many years, that the best defense against the “Multi” convention is to double immediately with 12+-15 HCP’s and balanced distribution. My experience in playing against it has confirmed that opinion and although holding a singleton A or K in one major it might be better to still follow through and double.

The reason is that the danger from Multi has only to do with the partner of the Multi bidder being able to preempt in a major, usually holding at least 3 of each and then 4th seat becomes the danger seat to be in. “Bid early instead of sleeping in the streets”. It seems dangerous but in reality it works well consistently, so well that Multi is usually rendered ineffective against experienced opponents.

There is no way to play bridge very safely and still win, at least in the context of that comment and considering the long run effect of doing it.

Your question and I hope my answer will lessen the fear for many while defending the dreaded “Multi”, which is in reality, a cup-cake.