Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 11th, 2013

Fair are the flowers and the children, but their subtle suggestion is fairer;
Rare is the roseburst of dawn, but the secret that clasps it is rarer.

Richard Realf

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


All the deals this week come from the annals of one of the best annual invitational tournaments in the world, the NEC tournament in Yokohama. This event is traditionally held in February, though it has moved to April just for 2013.

In this deal from the semifinals between Bulgaria and an Anglo-Dutch team, the Bulgarians won the bidding battle but lost the war – though it was a close run thing.

In the room not featured North had overcalled bid two diamonds over one no-trump, which simplified the auction but lost the heart fit for good. The Bulgarians as East-West declared four clubs, and the defenders led spades and eventually scored a trick in each suit for down one.

Meanwhile, although the Bulgarian contract of four hearts (on the auction shown) appeared hopeless, Manol Iliev gave himself a decent chance. He got a spade lead and a club shift to the ace for a club return. He won in hand and played out his top spades, on which Ricco van Prooijen discarded — though ruffing in with the queen might have been best.

Now declarer played a heart to the ace, and Louk Verhees carefully unblocked his king to let his partner in for the diamond play, insuring the defeat of the game. Had he not done so, he would have been thrown in and forced to lead from the diamond king or give a ruff-sluff.

While you might lead a heart in an attempt to set up heart winners before they can be discarded, when dummy is weak the club suit doesn't feel like much of a threat. More likely is that declarer is in a 5-3 diamond fit and you may need to lead trump repeatedly to kill a major-suit ruff in dummy. So lead the diamond two.


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


Iain ClimieFebruary 25th, 2013 at 11:26 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Fine defence as the cards lie but I’ve had a horrible thought. Suppose the red queens were reversed. Declarer will almost certainly place East with the HK for his opening bid, especially if he reckons the CJ is on his left. Now unblocking the heart is a disaster, although perhaps South’s failure to try the HQ first, just in case, could point to the winning defence. Perhaps S should lead HJ trying to give that impression.


Iain Climie

paul BoormanFebruary 25th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Woodson Two-Way Notrump–Is it banned at (high level) tournaments? if so, why–and do you agree with the rationale?

bobby wolffFebruary 25th, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Hi Iain,

While your ploys are surely on target, on real hands (such as this one), the player’s thoughts are often quite different, perhaps West, by not ruffing, either high spade was trying to hide the location of the queen of hearts (in case East had the jack third or possibly not either the jack or the king and declarer was fishing for the heart queen). These psychological battles occur often when very good players play each other.

In any event East guessed correctly to jettison his sure truck (king of hearts) in order to not get endplayed, playing his partner for the heart queen instead of the diamond queen.

High-level bridge is sometimes like a fencing match with “parry and thrust” only in bridge the tools are not as sharp, although being wrong, at least for the time being, probably hurts every bit as much to be wrong.

Finally, yes, declarer should have played the heart jack (for effect) rather than a low lone.

bobby wolffFebruary 25th, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Hi Paul,

Woodson 2 way NT, invented by a creative guy, from the mid-Atlantic (I think North Carolina) was quite a discussed convention, many years ago (perhaps over 60).

I somewhat vaguely remember that it had a run, but was probably eventually barred by what was sometimes done by conscientious (and knowledgeable) high-level administrators as basically destructive to the game, since, in the hands of unscrupulous players could (not that they would) in some way, signal to their partners when they had the weak hand instead of the good one (ranges used were considerably different), therefore giving them a huge edge on any one hand.

While the above doesn’t always speak well for great trust abounding our bridge world, still, the intention is always, as with all other sports, to create an even playing field wherein fairness reigns.

Not everyone will ever agree, but after all, if one has even been subject to their opponents consistently doing the right thing time after time, suspicion will always abound and without hard and fast rules there will be no legitimate method to determine culpability, if it, indeed, exists.

I hope this will throw some light on what might have happened with this popular convention which became fashionable and then, of course, suddenly faded out.

jim2February 26th, 2013 at 12:11 am

Our Host is correct: Charlotte, NC.

I know because the downtown club there was where I played and it was his home club.

The Woodson 2-way NT was just part of his artificial system. After one sequence left me on lead, I made a disastrous choice because I did not understand several nuances in the bidding, including what the bids would have meant that the opponents did NOT make. I complained at the table, he laughed at me, and I asked the director at the change why that system was allowed at the club level. The answer I was given was that bids/systems allowed to be played in the club were determined by the blank-blank committee.

If I had a complaint, the director said, I should bring it to the committee chair, who just happened to be in the room that night. He pointed to … Mr. Woodson.

In case you may have missed it, I am still POed about it and that was in 1977.