Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Wickedness is always easier than virtue, for it takes the shortcut to everything.

Samuel Johnson

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

*Fourth suit forcing


Tim Bourke of Canberra, Australia, spotted this fine play in a delicate 4-3 fit from the Transnational Open Teams at the last world championships.

Against four spades West led the spade jack to the seven, two and king. At trick two, declarer played the heart nine around to East’s king. That player switched to the diamond five to his partner’s king, on which declarer unblocked the 10 from dummy.

Now West returned the spade six. To maintain trump control and to cater to a possible 4-2 trump break, declarer played the eight from dummy. South won with the nine and persevered with the three to dummy’s queen. Declarer cashed the spade ace to draw the last trump, then finessed in diamonds, cashed the diamond ace (dropping the jack), then played the diamond queen. The clubs provided the rest of the tricks, giving 620 to East-West.

It was impossible to see, but had East continued with a top spade at trick three, the combination of the bad lies in spades and diamonds would have been too much for declarer. Of course, the auction had given him no chance to get this right.

But declarer had deviated from the winning line, one that he really should have spotted. Declarer’s best play is to duck trick one! Now the defenders cannot do anything. Maybe a club shift would be best, attacking declarer’s communications, but so long as he plays diamonds for two tricks, one way or another he is home.

Resist the temptation to use the ubiquitous and iniquitous cuebid simply to announce a good hand. This is a task for … super-cuebid. Here a jump to four hearts is a splinter agreeing clubs and setting up a game-force. As you can see, slam might be cold facing the right minimum hand, and you owe it to your partner not to give up on it just because both opponents are bidding.


♠ K 5 4
 A Q 9 7
♣ Q 10 9 8 2
South West North East
1 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


Andy SassOctober 30th, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Small typo. East won the trump 9, not South

Andy Sass
Fremont, CA

bobby wolffOctober 30th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Hi Andy,

And welcome to bridge blogging.

Somewhat small, yes, but inexcusable and also disruptive to some.

Thanks for writing and hope to hear more from you in the future.

Iain ClimieOctober 30th, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

On today’s play problem, wouldn’t south have saved himself pain by
opening 1D then bidding 2C over 1H or raising 1S? Every time I try bidding 3 card suits which could be natural, partner does this sort of thing!


Iain Climie

bobby wolffOctober 30th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes indeed. Or even rebidding 2 clubs after opening 1 club, or, of course, opting for a more normal 1nt rebid instead of the three card suit.

However, if then done, we wouldn’t have the unusual 2nd spade lead duck to suggest.

“It’s an ill wind that……….”

JaneOctober 30th, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I am with you, Mr. C. I don’t like opening this hand to begin with, but I am more comfortable with your approach. It also looks like three NT is the better contract, losing four heart tricks as the cards lie. Scary to bid, I admit, but when dancing with the devil, you need to learn the quick two step. And I am that partner you referred to.

Opps, are we ganging up on Bobby again? Probably not, since he did not say he agreed with the auction, just presenting the hand. Let’s not kill the messenger.

On the BWTA hand, seems like it would depend on partnership agreement before making the splinter bid. If partner overcalls with sound hands, then this should work. What about jumping to four clubs as long as partner does not think the bid is preemptive. This way if partner has a good hand, he can explore for slam, or sign off in game if not as good, or pass. None of my partners ever pass, however. I like it!

Patrick CheuOctober 30th, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Hi Bobby, I have always thought that one does not rebid 1N with a singleton in partner’s suit, am I out of touch? Best regards-Patrick.

bobby wolffNovember 1st, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Hi Patrick,

No, you are definitely not out of touch, by normally not having a singleton in partner’s suit, but still rebidding 1NT.

The only time one may consider such a thing is when other rebids, as here (and after opening 1 club instead of what we all consider a better thinking ahead opening of 1 diamond) are thought to be greater evils than would be 1NT.

People who are academic by nature or by life’s experience, especially when climbing up the ladder in bridge ability, sometimes have trouble once the bidding takes a lesser percentage turn and complications arrive. Where the so-called natural player (and almost all of the really great bridge players are) take these glitches in stride and overcome them successfully, the academic becomes nonplussed and therefore sometimes panics, then doing the wrong thing.

Blame our wonderful game of bridge, not the person who taught you.