Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 1st, 2012

The errors of a wise man make your rule,
Rather than the perfections of a fool.

William Blake

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


When this deal occurred in a local pairs game, most pairs landed in three no-trump. As North would occasionally raise a major-suit response to an opening one-bid with three trumps, South's three-no-trump call simply offered a choice of games. How would you play the game when West leads the spade six and East plays the queen?

Most defenders took East’s queen with the king and ran the club queen. East took this with the king and returned the spade seven. As the cards lay, the defenders now had no trouble in making four spade tricks, and those declarers finished down one.

One declarer allowed the spade queen to win the first trick and played the spade jack on the next trick. After some thought, the West at this table ducked, retaining his spade A-10 tenace over South’s remaining honor. This was enough to defeat the contract. When East won the club king and returned his remaining spade, West could take three more spade tricks.

The final declarer judged that West had led from spade length and, as he had not overcalled in spades, decided that the club king was likely to be wrong. He played the spade two at trick one and the spade four under the spade seven at trick two. East continued with a third round of spades to the jack and ace. However, when the club finesse lost, that was the last trick for the defense, and declarer could take one spade, two hearts and six tricks in the minors.

My views about opening one diamond with 4-5 in the minors are very strict. Do not do it with 3-1 in the majors (you can rebid one no-trump or raise as appropriate); also, do not do it unless your four-card suit looks like five and your five like four. Your clubs are good enough to open and rebid if necessary here. But my plan would be to rebid one no-trump over one spade, or to raise hearts.


♠ 9
 K 6 4
 A Q 7 5
♣ A J 10 9 2
South West North East

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


jim2December 15th, 2012 at 12:59 pm

So, in BWTA, the bidding proceeds:

1C – 2S/3S – Db – P

Assuming the partnership plays negative doubles through 3S, now what? Four hearts, anyone??

Speaking of four hearts, Alphonse Moyse, Jr would have liked the play in today’s column hand at that same contract. Looks cold to me.

Three days out of the last four!


bobbywolffDecember 15th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, 4 hearts with a possible (likely, but not necessarily) 4-3 heart fit seems in the mix with the bidding on this BWTA and, as you accurately recall, three out of the last four columns.

In the older days of 4 card majors (which my partnership with Bob Hamman) played for 26 years (1972-1998), we also played a strong club, which featured control showing responses and enough gimmicks to shore up most of the weak spots, to carry us through to some victories. Those 4 card major openings gave us much experience in playing 4-3 trump fits which are not nearly as treacherous as many depict and, on balance, I feel, as Sonny Moyse, the editor of the Bridge World at that time, often wrote, under rated as game contracts causing them to be the game of choice in more occasions than now thought.

Since then, American bridge has sought out the comfort zone, 5 card majors, and various other common conventions such as support doubles, jack denies, and even key card Blackwood to mention only a few, which tends to make partnerships, both great and not so, feel better about what dummy to expect, but at the same time eliminates knock out punches, like the long pass in American football, the home run in baseball, the three point shot in basketball, even coming back from far off the pace in horse racing, not to mention the real KO punch in prizefighting (Joe Louis in his famous fight against Billy Conn in the early 1940’s when he was far behind in points, late).

Sonny was not a great player, but he had a very good nose on what it took to win consistently and was not afraid to voice it via his excellent pen and even better judgment about competition.

And so it goes, but all of our minds develop routine and with it, expectations of what we think best and proper in the long run. However, comfort, during the bidding and before the dummy is laid down, is only just that, nothing more, nothing less, but character in playing at the top of one’s game at crucial moments, and in speculative contracts, is what separates winners and losers.

You obviously have struck a nerve with me and I hope I have not bored you or others with my controversial opinions.

ClarksburgDecember 15th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Absolutely fascinating point!
In our local Club games, casual “recreational” pairs will get to good “4-3 fit” contracts with somewhat surprising frequency (by either opening with four or raising with three). More “knowledgeable” “modern” pairs don’t get there.
I’d already begun to at least raise responder with three “good” trumps when it seemed the best alternative; now I’ll be “comfortable” doing it more often!
Thanks so much for this one!

bobbywolffDecember 15th, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

The advantages of 4-3 fits (when of course 5-3 is not available):
1. Trumping in the short hand produces more tricks.
2. Drawing trump is usually not recommended (but not always, especially if the declaring partnership has a long established side suit, always a minor, at the ready), and imagination concerning timing of the play now takes over, keeping in mind that probably neither opponent is aware of the 4-3 fit. More grace and style are often needed.

The disadvantages:

1. Bad trump breaks are usually hard to overcome. To get doubled is NOT a good sign.
2. A much more common problem is maintaining control of the hand with only 7 trumps at your disposal, but again, imagination and confidence often overcome trump shortages.

#2 just above reminds me of your always enthusiastic and positive attitude, which by definition, makes you an excellent candidate for experimenting with it.

Good luck!