Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 14th, 2013

I know enough of the world now to have almost lost the capacity of being much surprised by anything; but it is matter of some surprise to me, even now, that I can have been so easily thrown away at such an age.

Charles Dickens

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


This week's deals all come from past NEC tournaments. In today's deal four spades looks a decent spot unless the defenders lead a top club early, as you can play to establish the diamond queen for a club discard. Naturally, at the featured table in a match between Australia and a Beijing squad, the lead was the club king.

Both declarers fell from grace. The Australian declarer took the club lead, cashed a top spade, and played a heart. When a diamond came back, he had no chance to make.

The Chinese declarer won the opening lead and played a heart at once, which East won to play back a club (a diamond was necessary now). West did his best by winning and switching back to hearts, but declarer ruffed and led a club, and the two-two trump break meant he was home.

The board was played at eight tables in the quarter-finals of the main event, but only one declarer, Leon Jacobs of the Netherlands, made four spades by ducking the opening club lead. This might feel as if it risks undertricks, and indeed it does if the clubs split 4-1; but then you were never making your game whatever you did.

The point is that after declarer ducks the club, the defenders can’t continue clubs, or the diamond loser eventually goes away when clubs break 3-2. Even after a heart shift at trick two, followed by a diamond through from East, declarer sets up a diamond discard for the losing club.

You certainly have enough to drive to game, but your absence of aces should concern you in five clubs. Best is to bid three no-trump now and not worry about the spades. If you bid five clubs, you will get a heart lead through your tenace. Now, unless partner has great heart shortage or an unexpected heart honor, you will probably be sunk at once.


♠ J 4
 K J 4
 K 10 9 7 6
♣ K Q J
South West North East
1 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


Michael BeyroutiFebruary 28th, 2013 at 11:53 am

Dear Mr Wolff,
armed with yesterday’s BWTA lesson, I had South bid 3D, a fit-showing jump facing an overcall. Alas, when I read the text, I found out that that was not what you had in mind. Yet, after 3D, if North is interested in NT he can bid 3S or cuebid 3H, according to style, and South will now bid a “safer” 3NT. What do you think?

bobbywolffFebruary 28th, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Hi Michael,

Fit showing jumps (FSJ) are used for different reasons than called for in this decision. Playing game in NT, instead of 11 tricks needed in clubs, and especially when the opponents may have as many as 3 live aces becomes a necessity for 3NT, while FSJ’s accent suit fits in determining whether the prime suit mixes well with side fits.

However, your thinking, with experience and determination will sort it all out.

Thanks for writing.

Patrick CheuFebruary 28th, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Hi Bobby, as regards the BWTA hand today,the heart holding of KJ4 of the opponent’s suit gives the hand a no-trump possiblity from South’s view.Whereas the previous hand referred to by Michael has KQ10xx in spades,and four spades is still a possiblity if pard has three carder,coupled with 10x in hearts in the fit bidder’s hand,which is a negative feature. Is this an accurate assessment?Best regards-Patrick.

Patrick CheuFebruary 28th, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Hi Bobby, Holding:QJ87 AKQJ9 109 A7,I decided to upgrade the hand to an 18 count and playing a version of Polish club,pard knew my count, and I ask for help in spades,pard raises to four hearts with:542 76532 AJ J98.Minus one.I ask him why not three diamonds,which might allow me to stop in three hearts.He said I was a point short, he was justified to bid four on account of my 18.The result was four pairs make 4H,one pair 3H+1 and 3H-1,and our 4H-1.Guess it was the lead,my LHO led a diamond from AK6 84 K854 10542 and found 1093 10 Q7632 KQ63. Pard actually agreed with me that 3H is correct contract. Actually,what in your opinion is the correct contract, feels like that I should be in 4H ,one point or not?Had he bid 3D, I would have play in 3H.Best regards-Patrick

bobbywolffMarch 1st, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Hi Patrick,

While still playing tournament bridge at the Flamingo Hotel on the strip in Las Vegas, I awoke from my sleep early this morning, 3/1/13 and will answer your two queries.

Your excellent example of the time to use fit jumps as against mine of when not to, sums it up in as positive and accurate a manner as I think it can be done. When NT is very much in the picture (probably the only game likely to make) fit jumps lose their appeal.

Bridge has many sophisticated nuances and, without beating it to death, the above examples are as good as any in describing the difference. Thanks for that.

On the second question there is little doubt that only 3 hearts is the correct contract, since even if a diamond is not led, (and there is no immediate defensive spade ruff available), the defense should definitely switch to diamonds (even if not led), and secure the critical 4th defensive trick.

However, even after stating the above, there is little likelihood of almost any system or convention within the bidding theories involved, which can easily not get to the heart game (with 10 hearts and 23 HCP’s held between the partners).

I would just chalk it up to the game itself. Bridge is difficult at the very least and some luck is needed with fitting hands, but when both partners have doubleton diamonds with AJ in one there is both mirror distribution and high card wastage and because of that, the heart game becomes very poor and will only make against sloppy defense.

Moving up the bridge ladder requires understanding of the need for good playing luck and reaching a 10 trick game contract on this hand is very normal, although perhaps “lucky” winning judgment might keep us at a lower level.

Good luck, or should I say the law of averages will eventually, if not sooner, grant you compensating luck on a hand yet to be dealt.

BTW, in attempting to answer a question about what to bid to avoid this game, sadly, I have no idea.

Patrick CheuMarch 1st, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Hi Bobby, My very sincere thanks for your invaluable help, so that I may become a better player and hopefully help others. Very Best Regards-Patrick.