Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 13th, 2012

And who's of this or that estate
We do not wholly calculate,
When baffling shades that shift and cling
Are not without their glimmering.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

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


In the 2011 Bermuda Bowl Seniors match between France and Poland, both tables defended four spades. Jerzy Russyan for Poland led the spade five to the nine and queen, and Francois Leenhardt took the heart finesse at trick two, losing to the queen. Krzysztof Lasocki led the diamond king back, and Leenhardt won the ace, drew trumps, and tried to split the hearts. When that failed, he tried a club to the king and was one down when that suit too was unfriendly : minus 50.

For France, Philippe Vanhoutte led the diamond seven to the queen and ace and Apolinary Kowalski drew trumps in three rounds, ending in dummy. Now he led a diamond toward his jack, which East had to duck. (Had he taken his queen, he would have built a discard for declarer’s heart loser.)

Now Kowalski followed up by cashing the heart ace and king. When the queen appeared, two more rounds of hearts (with the diamond loser being pitched) endplayed Vanhoutte to concede a trick to the club king. That was plus 450 for 11 IMPs to Poland.

Given that diamonds were 4-2, Kowalski understood that if the heart finesse was working, he did not need to take it — at least if the hearts were breaking 3-3 or 4-2. Had the heart queen not appeared, he could have played a third heart anyway. Even if West could win cheaply and play the fourth heart, Kowalski would simply discard his diamond loser, and the endplay would still ensure the contract.

Three diamonds. Although I'm loath to suggest additional conventions for the intermediate player, I believe that a raise to three diamonds should be forcing now. With a weak hand here, South should bid either fourth suit or two no-trump (whichever is cheaper) as an artificial statement of weakness, denying five cards in his original suit. Repeating his own suit should simply show five cards and be a one-round force.


♠ K Q 7 6 3
 7 3 2
 A J 6
♣ K 6
South West North East
1 Pass
1♠ Pass 2 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 ClimieOctober 27th, 2012 at 9:55 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I have a question on the BWTA problem. I can see the logic in this treatment here but what should you assume (if anything) in casual partnerships about whether newer methods apply? Fashions change over time (old fasioned ACOL used to play low reverses as non-forcing but few ACOL players do so now) so how long before recent developments can be assumed to be relatively standard? I must admit that I would assume that 1D – 1S – 2H – 3D was discouraging with any relatively scratch partner.

I’ve also raised a query on yesterday’s BWTA – sorry for being late.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffOctober 27th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Hi Iain,

For a still interested and vital player, it would be well to keep up with the advances in modern bidding. At least for me, the relatively small changes, like above (although not so small when it comes to remembering), are usually better and make use of needed available space for more under game investigation.

Is it worth it or more work than the improvements accomplish? That is for an individual bridge lover to determine, so I have taken what I consider the middle of the road position of saying yes to some and no to others.

BTW, I am a fan of reverses only strongly invitational but not forcing. Color me old fashioned. I am aware that I certainly fit the description of at least one of those words.

Kind regards!

JaneOctober 27th, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I don’t understand the auction with the Aces hand. Opening one club with four diamonds is a bit unusual. Is there a system involved here? I assume they were not playing weak NT opens either.

Isn’t the two diamond bid by south new minor forcing, and if so, why did north not show three spades? Even if it is not NMF, seems like north should still show three card support since south has no way to know if he has three, two, one, or none. South has to be asking about north’s spades, or lack of them. His two heart response would indicate to me that he holds two or less.

Bidding is so interesting to me. I like to try and understand what the experts are doing, so perhaps you could enlighten me?

Thanks, as always.

bobby wolffOctober 27th, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Hi Jane,

My guess is that this partnership was definitely playing new minor forcing and had agreed to show 4 of the other major, hearts, before three of partner’s major, spades.

Since showing the hearts didn’t excite partner, the opener decided to then support the spades by now raising with three.

Probably not as complicated as it seemed.