Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Nothing puzzles me more than time and space; and yet nothing troubles me less, as I never think about them.

Charles Lamb

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


Reaching six no-trump from the North seat would be too hard for most of us. After you open two clubs and rebid two no-trump to show a good 22-24 points, you have failed the "test." Incidentally, North might have explored for a minor-suit fit, the easiest way being to jump to five no-trump to offer a choice of slams.

Of course, West leads a heart. Resignedly, you call for dummy’s heart queen, not in the least surprised when this loses to East’s king. How will you play the contract when East returns a second round of hearts, removing your safe entry to dummy at an inconvenient moment?

Five diamond tricks and four club tricks will bring the total to 12. You will need to find East with the club king, of course, but you must also solve the blockage problem in diamonds. The best line is to lead the club queen from dummy. If East follows with a low club, you must unblock the club 10 from your hand. When the finesse wins, as you must hope, you continue with a low club to your jack. If East began with a doubleton or tripleton club king, you will be able to pick up the clubs. Then you can unblock the three top diamond honors and finally return to dummy by overtaking the club five with dummy’s six.

Dummy’s two remaining diamonds, plus the top spades in your hand, will allow you to claim the slam.

Your partner's jump to three diamonds is invitational, not forcing. (With a game-force, he would start with a cuebid.) So you can expect a 5-4 hand with extras, and in that context your best game is surely four hearts since it is easy to imagine hands where both red suits will have three top losers. So bid four hearts.


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


Michael BeyroutiOctober 4th, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,
on the AOB hand, I didn’t understand why you say that after opening 2C and rebidding 2NT “I failed the “test””. Nowadays, a 2NT opening shows 20-21 HCP for most people. Is this hand such a bad 22?

bobby wolffOctober 4th, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Hi Michael,

From a double dummy standpoint, a partnership might be accused of “failing” whenever they play the hand from the wrong side. All three “good contracts’, 6 clubs, 6 diamonds and 6NT are all best played from North, so from that “results” perspective of playing it from the wrong side, it required playing the clubs in an innovative way to overcome the “wrongsiding”.

In other words, high-level bridge is quite demanding, and being so, intelligent creators are always looking for superior ways to not only bid to the right contract, but play it from the right side. Here they did not accomplish that, so they considered themselves failures.

Harsh, but not a bad way to seek perfection. No one should be hard on oneself when they, as you suggest, play 6NT from the wrong side, when you are only following what the bridge books tell you to do.

BTW, at least my opinion, surgeons, if they lose a patient, but by doing something different could have saved him (or her) should probably feel the same way as above, even if they only followed the time honored way of operating how they were taught.

I, at least, think that this type of thinking leads to progress and in something quite more important than the playing of bridge.

John Howard GibsonOctober 4th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

HBJ : Unblocking to seek an additional entry to dummy sometimes becomes a necessary manoeuvre, as in the above hand.
It is this ability to look ahead , perceive a risk which cannot be ignored that provides simple solutions to potential problems.
Yet again it is lazy and sloppy thinking that is the downfall of the moderate player.

Bill CubleyOctober 4th, 2012 at 5:04 pm


I believe that responder to a 2 Club opener should respond positively showing game+ values It is not as vital for the strong hand to declare compared to opening 1NT/2NT. I aggressively bid 5 card majors.

This approach guarantees game . The auction 2C-2H, 3H is probably better than 2C 2D, 2H and makes a 4H call a possible shutout bid when the strong hand may not have disclosed itself fully.

I bid 2NT on this hand to show no great major suit interest but at least 4-4 in the minors. Possibly too much influence by Al Roth’s Picture Bidding.

I do not agree with automatic responses of always waiting for the 2 Club opener to show her hand. Bidding is for both partners to describe theit hands. Strong 2 Club bids take up a lot of bidding space and I see the automatic responders miss a lot of slams.

David WarheitOctober 4th, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Methinks everyone is being too harsh on north and south for their bidding. It is important to note that 6NT or 6D played by either player would almost certainly come down either to the heart finesse or the club play detailed by Mr. Wolff. Why? Because if north is playing 6NT east is not going to lead a heart away from the king & it is not impossible but extremely unlikely that east would lead a heart away from the king against 6D. 6C would be the best contract, especially if played by north, but a) south opened 2C, so north can’t declare 6C & b) therefore, 6C is only trivially better than 6NT. Explanation: if the heart finesse works, so long as neither minor is 5-0, any contract makes. If the heart finesse loses, south can choose to play clubs as Mr. Wolff suggests or he can lead a low club on the first round, gaining against east having the singleton king. If the finesse wins and no singleton king, he then must ruff the 3d round of spades, risking an overruff. This is a close choice.

bobby wolffOctober 4th, 2012 at 7:46 pm

To Bill & David,

While I agree on both of the comments written and the ideas behind the message from Bill as well as the pragmatic approach from David, my comment had more to do with using the word “failure” to emphasize what the future designs for bidding should discuss.

In order to seek improvement, it is best to respond to challenges rather than accept the status quo and bow to mediocrity.

The current hand is difficult to fault, but the idea of seeking ways to, if possible, get the play from the right side is worth including (the new idea of bidding one under one’s suit may be a positive start to such an endeavor).

I have always thought, since I was just learning the game, that authors have an obligation (such as the significant disadvantages of Support Doubles, Bergen Raises, and even Key Card Blackwood, etc.) to discus by the authors before a book (or a chapter) on the subject be given a favorable review.

However, since doing so directly conflicts with the “human condition”, I have no choice, but to accept what is in front of my and everyone’s face.

Bill CubleyOctober 5th, 2012 at 3:42 am


Thanks for writing I said something sensible about bridge. Maybe this retire will check what club you and Judy play at next time I’m in Vegas evne if I get my butt kicked.

Last time I was in a Las Vegas club my partner thought poorly of my bidding. I menyioned that one of the partnership has won 2 wordl wide bidding contests and it would help if an explanation be asked for by the won who did not win any. At least he was quiet for the rest of the session. I email and see of you can find someone for me if you don’t mind.

bobby wolffOctober 5th, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Hi Bill,

Judy and I play at a wonderfully well run club here in LV called, “The Bridge World” close to the strip on Flamingo Road.

Whenever you decide to visit, please let me know and I will attempt to fix you up with someone I think you will enjoy playing. Good luck to you and much thanks for your always enlightening comments.