Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 1st, 2013

Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.

W.H. Auden

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


West leads the heart king against your three-no-trump contract and persists with the suit. You win the heart ace on the third round, and with eight top tricks must aim to develop a ninth from one of the minor suits, without allowing West on lead. What is your plan?

Looking for a 3-3 break in the club suit can wait. The first priority is to seek an extra trick from the diamonds. If the suit breaks 3-3, two extra tricks will drop into your lap. Life will also be easy when East holds four diamonds, since you can concede a fourth round to the safe hand. The key situation occurs when West holds four diamonds; in that case you must aim to duck an early diamond trick to East.

At trick four, you lead the diamond nine, intending to run that card to East. Let’s suppose that West thwarts you temporarily by covering with the jack. You win the trick in dummy and return to your hand with the club king. You then lead the diamond four toward dummy. West cannot afford to rise with the 10 or you will make all five diamond tricks. He plays low and you cover with dummy’s seven, ducking the trick into the safe hand. East wins with the eight and you have ensured your contract when he follows suit. What is more, you will be spared the annoyance of finding that clubs were 3-3 all along!

There is no easy way to show your fifth spade and simultaneously invite game. The best you can do is to rebid two no-trump and hope that your partner will bid out his shape if he has three spades, or rebid his minors as appropriate. Facing a minimum opening bid, two no-trump may be as good a partscore as any.


♠ A 9 7 6 2
 A 6 3
 9 4
♣ K 5 3
South West North East
1 Pass
1♠ Pass 2♣ 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


David WarheitFebruary 15th, 2013 at 9:16 am

I would lead the 4 of diamonds at trick 4, not the 9. The only way this gains is if west has J!08x of diamonds and gets careless and plays low. He isn’t likely to do that, but there’s no harm in trying!

LeonFebruary 15th, 2013 at 10:14 am

I would also lead the 4 of diamonds.
The other way that can gain is if in the current example west doesn’t get careless and puts in the Jack (necessary if south has singleton 4 of diamonds).
How satisfying it would be to pin the 8 in the next diamond trick.

That satisfaction would be more worth to me than the one IMP it would win.

jim2February 15th, 2013 at 1:23 pm

In the BWTA hand, could you address a two hearts bid? For example, what sort of change to the South hand would be needed to make that the correct bid?

JoeFebruary 15th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

2H would be fourth suit forcing to game for most players. That hand is probably just short of forcing to game – you either need another queen, opposite 12, or slightly better shape (5 spades is all well and good, but A-empty means that might not be worth much in no trump).

If you play 4th suit forcing one round, then 2H is probably the correct bid, though 2NT has much to recommend as well. Partner can always bid 3 spades with above a minimum and 3 spades.

bobby wolffFebruary 15th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Hi David & Leon,

Yes, you both are technically correct in not only grabbing the theme of the hand, but also improving the execution.

Also, what if an inspired West switched to a low spade at trick 3 instead of continuing a 3rd heart? Then, after certainly ducking that, a second low spade came back from East, West contributing the king.

The upshot of that creative defense would cause South to duck the second spade, but then have to rely on either 3-3 diamonds or 3-3 spades, the second hope eventually to be realized, but not without anxious moments.

Is bridge a great game, or what?

bobby wolffFebruary 15th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Hi Jim2,

Right siding hands, particularly NT when holding together 5+ of the likely suit to be led (including the A and Q) should almost always be played from the side with the queen in order to insure two stops, regardless of the location of the defensive king.

However, that caveat, sometimes must become moot when valuation suggests that some bids (in this case 4th suit being necessarily played game forcing (GF) sometimes just do not fit both requirements). While 2 hearts will get the NT played rightside up, it, too often, will get the partnership one trick too high.

Some, because of the above (and a few other somewhat illogical nuances), cause some to agree that chess, with its total pureness, is the better game, but my feeling is that these conundrums result in making bridge the superior competition, because of the developed subjective judgment necessary to be gleaned by experience, turns out to be the more worthwhile goal.

Bridge is the perfect storm of numeracy, technical ability, experience, legal partnership communication (bidding and defense), psychology, featuring poker thinking, and a special dose of ethics, most of which is absent in chess, only requiring superior technical brain power, concentrating on analysis and fierce determination to be great.

jim2February 15th, 2013 at 4:41 pm

My pard and I play 4th suit as a one round force but not necessarily GF.

Would that make 2H the correct bid for us?

Patrick CheuFebruary 15th, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Hi Bobby n Jim2, I too play two hearts 4th suit forcing for one round, it allows us to stop in two no trump when opener is light or bad 11-13.As with five spades,we can still stop in two spades, but in our our bidding pard can often raise on three card spades.Me thinks two hearts allow pard to bid two no-trump with Qx or Jxx.Best regards-Patrick.

bobby wolffFebruary 15th, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Hi Jim2,

As long as it is discussed, yes it would make 2 hearts the correct bid on the hand in question, if played 4th suit is not GF.

However, I would not advise such an understanding, because when playing the 4th suit by responder not GF, it causes greater problems such as the following type problem:

Opening bidder:

s. A
h. xx
d. AK10xx
c. AQxxx

as opposed to:

s. x
h. Jx
d. AQxxx
c. KJ9xx

On the 1st hand one would like to rebid (over a 4th suit forcing) 3 clubs, hoping to have room to establish a fit for game and/or slam and have more room available to explore before deciding, by showing controls and distribution, but on the second hand for partner to obviously just prefer clubs by passing or diamonds by preferring and be done with it.

It is deemed by the high-level theorists that MUCH more is gained by playing 4th suit GF.

In the early days of the ACES the lst digression from (in those days) bidding improvement was the following convention then played by all ACES partnerships who were not playing strong clubs:

1D P 1H or 1S P
2C P 2NT P
3C was passable but 3 of the other major not first bid (above) would show a strong 5-5, be GF and, of course, have nothing to do with the suit bid at the 3 level.

Patrick CheuFebruary 15th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Hi Bobby, Dirk Schroeder(Germany),did mention in his article ‘Use the free space’-the sequence you gave:1D-1H,2C-2NT,3S=55 minors Gf,and 3C 55 nf.(Bols bridge tips).Regards-Patrick.

Patrick CheuFebruary 15th, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Hi Bobby, I can see why,from your examples, that 4th suit might be better played as game forcing.More food for thought :)Patrick.

bobby wolffFebruary 15th, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Hi Patrick,

Our last emails were being composed simultaneously so please read my answer to Jim2 regarding the overall opinion of whether or not to play a 4th suit by responder GF instead of only a one round force.

To basically repeat my suggestion, the long run effect of playing 4th suit GF is to improve what has always been a major weakness in American type popular systems, not being able to have more room for intelligent slam bidding which always requires no fear of being passed before game is even reached.

You and Jim may be happier playing an Acol type system which plays many fewer bids forcing and almost always involves bidding where one lives, but, instead, requires jumps (space wasting) to insure continuations.

In some ways it may tend to what some individual partnerships prefer as against what others choose (chocolate or vanilla) but I can say without reservation, that, at least for me, I would not be happy playing 4th suit by responder not GF with only one exception, e.g. (1C P 1D P 1H P 1S now being not forcing to game but actually guaranteeing 4 spades, while a now 2S, instead of 1S, denying 4 spades, but is GF).

Patrick CheuFebruary 15th, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Hi Bobby, thanks for your insight.Best regards-Patrick.