Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

O that I had ne'er been married,
I wad never had nae care….

Robert Burns

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


Debbie Rosenberg, who is married to top expert Michael, demonstrated here that the talent in that family is not limited to her husband. Debbie was also part of the U.S. squad that won the World Junior Teams in 1991 as well as having numerous major successes in the women's game. Here she is at work in a delicate contract of three hearts.

West led a club to East’s jack. It did not seem right to East to give up on the club tenace by continuing the suit (although that does defeat the hand), so East quite reasonably shifted to the spade nine. West took two rounds of spades and played a third spade. Rosenberg ruffed in dummy, and appeared to have five top losers. However, she realized that she had been given a chance, since the defense no longer had any communication in the club suit.

However, the winning path is by no means obvious. But, given that East appeared to have all the remaining clubs, West was marked with the balance of high cards to make up his opening bid. Therefore, Debby cashed the top hearts and led a low diamond to the 10 and queen. West hopefully led a spade, but Rosenberg could win her spade king since East was out of trump. She drew the last trump, finessed the diamond jack, and parked her club loser on the diamond ace to make nine tricks for an excellent result.

If you play that the two-diamond call is a waiting bid, you may feel that your previous cooperation with three spades was sufficient, and that you should not encourage partner any further with any further show of strength. I'd be inclined to bid five spades, though, if my first call was a negative. My doubletons and four trumps are just enough to persuade me to bid again.


♠ K 7 5 3
 Q 7 6 3 2
 10 8
♣ 10 7
South West North East
2♣ Pass
2 Pass 2♠ Pass
3♠ Pass 4♣ 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


John Howard GibsonNovember 27th, 2012 at 7:31 pm

HBJ : Love the hand, and of course I admire declarer’s skill in bringing home the contract.
But how different would it have been on a diamond lead ?
The bidding suggests that North does not have the King of spades ( values possibly elsewhere ) ? …..And that East could have clubs well placed over North’s presumed holding ?
Therefore is there any rush ( or need ) to lead the singleton club ? Does the diamond king lead have any merit ?
I personally would led….. like a thousand others….. the 3 of clubs….but would you have done the same ?

Jane ANovember 27th, 2012 at 9:00 pm

I personally like three clubs doubled. Since it is unlikely that there is a game in the north/south direction, why not pull that nice red card out and chalk up a possible 300 points. If south can’t sit for the double, he can bid three hearts.

We had an auction yesterday at the club that we wanted to ask you about. I opened two clubs, partner bids two spades ( promises two of the top three honors and a five card suit), I bid thee clubs, she bid three spades, and now I go looking. Her response to key card showed one or four, but I know it is one. My hand now drops in value for spades, and I have to decide whether to bid six clubs with my lovely long and strong club suit, or bid five spades. I thought for a minute, then decided there were probably two losers if I was making the correct assessment, and bid five spades.

My partner bid six spades anyway, and one of the opps felt she had no right to do that since my five spade bid was discouraging, and because I took a moment to think through the hand. Six spades is cold if played correctly, and partner held extra spade values and length. One of the opps, who is also a director, believed her bid was correct and had no problem with it. The other opp felt differently. My thought process was not overly long either, and I did make a bid. Since I obviously held a hand big enough to open two clubs, why not give slam a try if partner thought this was the right thing to do.

And you say?

Thanks in advance, as always.

Jeff SNovember 27th, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I’m interested in the response to Jane’s question as well. My guess, based on the comments our gracious host has made on bridge ethics and the dreaded UA in the past, is that there was nothing untoward here at all – if the hesitation and the bid can both be read as “discouraging”, how can it be considered out of line for partner to bid on instead of stopping?

It sounds like sour grapes, perhaps brought on by the heat of battle. But I am not the expert in this area, so I am looking forward to Bobby’s comments!

bobbywolffNovember 28th, 2012 at 4:09 am


Guilty as charged. Yes, it is just too compelling to lead my singleton club, particularly so since partner has seen fit to bid clubs,

The king of diamonds would, of course, be my 2nd choice and, as you mentioned, the winning choice, but I, like a huge percentage of players, both average up to the very top level would, IMO, opt for the club lead.

Thanks for bringing up a subject, where angels may fear to tread, but, by so doing, may provoke differences of opinion, which is, after all, the way to keep getting better.

bobbywolffNovember 28th, 2012 at 4:23 am

Hi Jane,

On this hand, South rebid her hearts before North had a chance to double, or for that matter, do anything else.

As to the high level action, the case, and thus the director call, would hinge on a single event, which could be claimed by the opponents to constitute unauthorized information (UI) since, if off two key cards the big hand (2 club opener) would not waste time studying before signing off in spades, (since 5 clubs would be insufficient and since there was a brief study, it could be considered UI that the strong hand was not missing two key cards and was only thinking about whether or not to bid 6 or not, based on other factors.

Some might say “Much ado about nothing” but others may say that choice is left up to the strong hand and once decided, her partner does not have the right to overrule her, because of the claim of UI.

Administrative bridge rulings sometimes are involved with icky facts but like other games, should be decided by demanding a level playing field, which should never allow a hesitation before bidding something be thought to now influence partner’s possible marginal actiion.

bobbywolffNovember 28th, 2012 at 4:38 am

Hi Jeff S,

Without repeating what I said to Jane, it becomes imperative for a Blackwood (BW) bidder to bid in tempo if he or she decides to sign off after hearing the answer to her ace ask. When she doesn’t and a break occurs (BIT), partner then is barred from using his or her judgment simply because of the possibility of UI. Such a thing is sometimes called sarcastically “Hesitation Blackwood” and is a reminder of this rule which is followed universally the world over.

BTW, a BW bidder should never sign off at the 5 level, after hearing that their partnership is missing one, or, of course, fewer aces. BW is never used to get to a slam but only used to keep from getting there off two key cards, therefore it should only be used to always bid a slam (with a possible grand also possible) unless the partnership may be off two immediately cashable aces (or in key card BW), an ace and the king of trumps.

The above lesson is one worth knowing and is basically inviolate when it occurs. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that in this case cited there was absolutely no intention of violating any rule, bridge playing or morality, but nevertheless what is stated here is strictly a bridge law ruled the same in all corners of the planet.

Jane ANovember 28th, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Thanks for the response about the slam bidding situation. I was really trying to decide whether to bid six clubs or not. Six spades was not my plan at all, so when partner charged forward, I was surprised, but knew she must have a reason. The entire problem could have been avoided if she initiates the ace asking after I rebid clubs, knowing she plans to play in some number of spades, but would be happy to know I have three controls if clubs is our chosen suit. Still off one control, with her hand, she can bid six spades if she wishes because of the hand she holds and hope it makes. Hope springs eternal.

Interesting however that my break in tempo could be considered UI. How is that possible when I make the five spade call. I am telling her that six spades is not my choice, but does this mean she still can’t ethically bid the slam? Seems like I ask, she answers, she knows now what I have, and takes the leap of faith anyway. In fact, her comment to the opp who felt her bid was wrong was that she was actually being a bad partner by bidding the slam anyway. Makes some sense to me, but as said earlier, my hesitation was not to deceive, but to think about bidding my own slam or not.

I see your point, but wonder about some BIT. Some hands are more difficult and require more thought. I know that a BIT followed by a pass, and then partner takes a call is incorrect, but when a bid is made, that is usually OK. My partner knew what was missing, and made the slam bid anyway. We did not get a director call, just some table conversation.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 28th, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Hi Jane,

Since BW is never used to get to a slam, only to keep out of one when missing more than one key card, there never should be a tempo violation by the BW bidder, only either a sign-off at the 5 level, a bid of 6 of a suit, or a follow up of 5NT which announces by inference all the controls and enables a possible grand slam bid by either partner.

Therefore when the BW bidder than pauses, but then signs off, his partner is not allowed to then override him or her since the hesitation directly implies that something is rotten in the state of that table and that problem is not being off 2 controls.

Ted BartunekNovember 28th, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Had Jane, after the hesitation, decided to bid 6C and her partner then bid 6S, is there still UI involved (probably some tolerance for S) which should ethically prevent partner from making that bid, or is partner’s hand the determining factor?

Would partner of a BW bidder who has stopped at 5 have occasion to bid 6 because he has an unshown void above the level of the trump suit?