Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 27th, 2012

I am glad daylong for the gift of song,
For time and change and sorrow;
For the sunset wings and the world-end things
Which hang on the edge of to-morrow.

William Braithwaite

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


In Scotland's match against the Netherlands in the 2002 European Championships, Derek Diamond opened with two hearts to show a weak two-suiter reached four hearts in two bids, and froze the opponents out altogether.

When Jan Jansma led the club king, Louk Verhees contributed the nine, using upside-down signals. With declarer known to have 10 cards in two suits, he was trying to show his five-card suit. (By contrast the play of the club queen would have suggested a high card in spades.)

When Jansma misread the position and played another club, Diamond ruffed, then played a heart to the jack. Verhees took his ace and returned his second trump. Declarer continued with ace and another diamond. In with the king, East returned a spade. South was sure, from the lack of a spade switch at trick two, that West held the king, so he played low and brought home his contract.

If West switches to a diamond at trick two, he should defeat the contract. Does declarer have any chance? Yes – but not a good one: he does best to rise with dummy’s ace, followed by leading the heart jack, trying to look like a man about to take a trump finesse.

If this fools East into playing low, declarer can ruff out the clubs and endplay East to lead spades for him. However, East does best to rise with the heart ace, cash his diamond king, then return a trump. He thus avoids the endplay, and leaves South with a spade loser.

Your partner's double is take-out, even though you have shown both majors already. He rates to have extras, probably without a four-card major, but you do not have to second-guess what he has. When you bid two hearts you expect him to advance with a descriptive call, be it a club bid, a cue-bid or a bid in no-trump. So leave him space to tell you what he has.


♠ A 10 6 3
 J 10 7 4
 A 5 3
♣ 6 4
South West North East
1♣ 1
Dbl. 2 Dbl. 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 ClimieJanuary 10th, 2013 at 10:56 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I sympathise with West here as south could have somrthing like SQJ HKxxxx Dx CQJxxx when another club is vital. Yet the hand shows how much bidding pays off.

Given a clear run, I’d open the West hand and possibly the east hand if there were 3 passes. In older days, 4 cautious players might have thrown the hand in.


Iain Climie

Iain ClimieJanuary 10th, 2013 at 11:14 am

West might TO double 2H as well, of course – these weak opening bid conventions can rob cautious opponents blind, especially at pairs.

ClarksburgJanuary 10th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

In the BWTA item, over the recommended 2H by South, what would a cue bid by North then be telling / asking?

Jane AJanuary 10th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

My opinion is don’t try this at home! Opening a weak two bid with five of the suit, soft points, and vul in first seat, and then partner raises to game with that north hand? I like to bid, but I am with Lain. I would not open any of the hands except maybe in third seat. I am one of those players who did begin the game in “olden days”, and have done lots of revisions in bidding since to try and keep up, but this bidding sequence is beyond my pay grade. It is interesting that with the card placement, three hearts is a lovely place to be. I bet this pair were the only ones in the room to reach four hearts and make it. Go for the gold and hope you don’t wind up with the fake stuff instead.

Thanks for showing us these hands. Tread lightly but carry a big stick.

bobbywolffJanuary 10th, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, you have caught and bottled the high-level bridge strategy which exists (and around the world) today.

Have weak, usually two-suited bids, in one’s bridge arsenal, and, especially when early to speak, preempt the opponents, hoping to find an immediate fit, creating a two-headed advantage, finding either a good sacrifice, or better yet, a make, and generally making bridge life more difficult for one’s worthy opponents.

In this case a sacrifice didn’t work (since the opponents couldn’t make anything worth while), but it did create a somewhat lucky make, if handled and guessed properly.

In the old days we used to call these types of players, “fit finders”, but today, although now doing all of this mostly via the two suited openings (and sometimes immediate 2 suited overcalls), the systemic nature of their plan is worth considering, if only to toughen up the reputation of that partnership in order to better compete against the world’s best pairs.

Also, you are 100% on target when you suggest that the less the opponents know, achieved by the fastest arrival possible, the “luckier” those opponents get, in the defense.

bobbywolffJanuary 10th, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Partner’s 3rd round cue bid would suggest to DSIP (do something intelligent partner). In this case,, since partner could now easily bid 2 spades, holding 4 of them and at least an intermediate opening bid (15-17) I, as South would confidently venture 3NT to show, what I have not yet done, a diamond stop. Partner could easily hold, Axx, Kxx, x, AKQxxx and wanted to find out if you perhaps held KQJ, QJxxx, xxx, Jx wherein you would rebid hearts (and him to now raise to game) or if instead, you did not hold a 5 card major, but rather a diamond stop, risk 3NT.

Of course, partner could also hold only the AKJ10xx of clubs, making the success of 3NT dependent on the location of the queen of clubs, but such is life in all lanes of our many splendored bridge world.

bobbywolffJanuary 10th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Hi Jane,

Believe me or not, I agree with almost everything, if not everything, you say.

Yes, some relatively young and aspiring bridge players, the world over, are entering the bidding as early as possible, with either one of two purposes in mind–get lucky and make a game contract which does not figure to happen at other tables and/or entice the opponents to do the wrong thing at a higher level thereby enabling their opponents to get a very good score.

Not bad intentions on their part, yes, a somewhat dangerous gamble, but not one which is terribly slanted against success. It could be thought of one which is worthwhile to them and serve as an equalizer against the vast experience of the very best well known players and although, probably anti-percentage, still offers a chance for great success at relatively high levels.

Some like chocolate, some like vanilla, and these youngsters (not always so young) like the new flavor, call it blueberry, which at least (perhaps in only their minds) makes them competitive or at the very least, puts pause to their opponents, letting them know that they are present and fighting fiercely.