Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

North North
Neither ♠ A 10 2
 10 9 6
 Q J 7 4 2
♣ 10 3
West East
♠ K Q J 7
 9 8 3
♣ Q 9 6 4 2
♠ 9 8 5 4 3
 Q 7 3
 A K 10 6
♣ 8
♠ 6
 A K J 5 4 2
♣ A K J 7 5
South West North East
Pass Pass
1♣* Pass 1** Dbl.
4 All pass    




The final of the NEC tournament held in Yokohama this time last year was between Down Under from Australasia and the Bulgarian All Stars. Both teams are more aggressive bidders than most, and in the deal that followed the aggressive approach paid huge dividends, when coupled with some careful declarer play.

In one room for Down Under Tony Nunn as West overcalled one spade over one club and Sartaj Hans jumped to four spades, driving his opponents to the five-level.

In five hearts declarer needed clubs not to be unusually hostile so cashed the club ace and king early and was doubtless more hurt than surprised when East ruffed. Now there were two more tricks to lose, whatever declarer did.

But Martin Reid declared four hearts in the other room on an essentially uncontested auction, and paradoxically, the very bad break in clubs was good news, in a sense, for Bulgaria, since Reid now might have trouble making 10 tricks in hearts.

After an opening spade lead, declarer won in dummy and led a heart to hand and a diamond to the jack to cut the defenders’ communications. When East won and shifted to a club, Reid won his ace and carefully ducked a club. Now whether West took his club queen or East ruffed, declarer could now arrange to ruff clubs in dummy and hold his losers to one more trump trick.

That swing made the match safe for Down Under — the first win for an Antipodean team in this event for over a decade.

Your hand is a little too good to sign off in three hearts but maybe not quite good enough to bid game here. The best way to suggest your diamond values, and help for partner is to bid three diamonds now. That will pass the final decision to your partner.


♠ A 10 2
 10 9 6
 Q J 7 4 2
♣ 10 3
South West North East
1 1♠
2 Pass 3♣ 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2February 6th, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I just know that ToCM would strike me down if I had bid 4H as in the column auction after East’s diamonds-showing double of 1D. I would find partner’s minors reversed. Say, something like:

S A106
H 106
D 742
C Q10932

On the column play, how would you rate advancing the 10H for a first round trump finesse at Trick 2? The intent would be to use the 9H as an entry for a club finesse should the trump finesse fail. Here, once declarer picks up the trump suit, two club tricks could be lost so clubs would be attacked by leading small to the 10.

bobby wolffFebruary 6th, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt, ToCM or not, it was very dangerous and somewhat irresponsible for the Australian South to ignore his club potential and simply jump to 4 hearts.

True his partner’s response was a negative one to his strong club opening and he did not expect partner to cover all but one of his losing tricks, but he was no doubt worried that the opponents likely had both a diamond and/or especially a spade fit, and perhaps by jumping to the 4 level, West (a non-overcaller) would not muster up a 4 spade sacrifice, which with your partner’s hand example, might even make if one opponent had either a heart singleton or a possible club void.

Nothing I’ve said can effectively negate your comment, but like many discussion subjects in our great game, there are often two sides to the roving answer.

Besides the Australians for sure, and what I’ve heard of the aggressive top Bulgarian players they bid ’em up and are difficult opponents , though sometimes leaving gifts for the opponents on the table.

Remember on the column hand South probably didn’t expect his weak sounding partner to have any aces, so with that in mind, it looked to him that 4 hearts should be bashed before the opponents had enough bidding room to compete.

On the actual play of the hand, your choice of a 1st round heart finesse looks OK, but if it lost to a possible Qxx or singleton Q, the declarer would not be well placed to more or less safety play the clubs with his low one to the ten. However, it is hard (almost mathematically impractical, because of the wide variances) to estimate the percentages of both actions, but, at least to me, yours was about as good, perhaps a tad better, than was the declarer’s choice.

If there is a lesson to be learned, it is the world over there are different types of world class type experts, some believe in bashing for reasons given above while others strictly believe in bidding scientifically and taking more chances with the opponent’s being able to come in at a lower level and generally, at the very least, be a nuisance and at the very least, disrupting your side’s scientific communication.

I admit that my life long stance has favored making it tough on those meddlesome opponents by sometimes bashing, rather than seek the beauty of a scientifically beautifully bid gem, which sometimes blows up in those artist’s faces. It all depends on the layout of the hands and who the opponents are, but, at least to me, juries are still out in determining overall effectiveness.

Aren’t you glad you posed your question?

Bob HerremanFebruary 10th, 2013 at 9:25 am

What is this ToCM ?

Thank you Mr Wolff for your blog !

Bob HerremanFebruary 10th, 2013 at 9:41 am

yes, 3C=trial bid. But what eaxt meaning ? why not 2S ? or 2NT ? What is 3C showing ?