Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 5th, 2013

He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it.

Ecclesiastes 10:8

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


Hands as strong as South's frequently pose a problem on the rebid. In my opinion it is the smallest lie to jump to two no-trump here, because you can still often find your way back to spades when that is appropriate, while you have simultaneously limited your hand and right-sided the play in no-trump. As you can see, three no-trump would have been a comfortable spot.

But at the table South did not see it that way. He invented a call in a nonexistent club suit, and after that his partnership did quite well to stay out of the hopeless diamond slam.

How should you plan the play for 11 tricks in diamonds after the lead of the club queen? The point is that should the heart ace be offside, the contract will almost certainly be defeated — unless West can somehow be thrown in on the third round of spades, with that suit breaking 3-3. But you can do better than that. In fact the game can always be made if either spades split or the heart ace is onside.

If spades break 3-3, a discard can be found for a losing heart by ducking the opening lead. Then declarer wins the club ace, draws trump, and discards a spade on the club king. He ruffs out the spades and can eventually re-enter dummy with a trump to cash the long spade. If spades do not break, declarer falls back on the heart ace being onside.

This column may sometimes err too far toward the modernist approach of arguing that every double is for takeout, not penalties. Today's deal will no doubt be a welcome exception to that approach. When your side has no fit and you have suggested clubs and values, partner's double indicates that the opponents have made a mistake. Pass, and let's see who's right!


♠ K 8 5 4
 6 2
 K 9 7 3
♣ K 7 5
South West North East
1♣ 1 Pass
1 NT 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John Howard GibsonApril 19th, 2013 at 10:15 am

HBJ : Yes, the beauty of transferring the spade loser to a club loser achieves two desirable objectives : giving up the losing trick to West, and setting up a fourth spade without ever letting East in.
Yet again another classic example of thinking well ahead, not succumbing to instinct by winning the first trick, and giving oneself greatly improved chances of bringing the contract home.
Acting on pure instinct, playing cards with a reflex action, and allowing temptation to steer you off the winning path are all sins mere mortals like myself possess. Most bottoms come about ( from my experience ) by making a mistake with the FIRST BID or the FIRST PLAY OF A CARD.
However, my sins unfortunately are compounded by both impatience and impetuosity: spots on this old leopard which will never change.

bobbywolffApril 19th, 2013 at 3:38 pm


Well explained with accompanying human reasons for failing, but MUCH too modest and self effacing.

Most of us, certainly including myself, can be subject to similar gaffes when those terrible i words that you mention, impatience and impetuosity enter the picture.

The answer to a 3rd i word, improvement, lies in the discipline of:

1. Determining the goal (losing only 2 tricks while taking 11).

2. Lessening the risk by looking and finding ways to succeed if the ace of hearts is in the wrong hand.

3. Succeeding, by trading off losers, the third spade for an unnecessary club loser, to the non-danger hand, West, instead of allowing the defense, if possible to counter your intention.

4. While certainly not a sure path to success, the more extra chances to do so, even perhaps only a 36% (3-3 break) added one, often makes the entire difference in your project (particularly so while playing a column hand).

5. Success breeds success, meaning that once one’s thinking clicks on, card combinations get easier, bridge logic (not easy at first) becomes magical and very doable, confidence arrives, and presto chango, the heretofore obstacles seem to vanish.

6. Thank you for your great help and basically confirming sometimes the difficulty in first finding and then being able to walk forward on the yellow brick road to the high road of what it takes to win.

7. And furthermore my life experiences tell me that someone who is willing to feature his own shortcomings and describe them as he feels them has a much greater chance of overcoming them and then obviously quickly proceed to the next hurdle, which, in turn, and during the necessary learning process to becoming much better, resulting in being able to jump the next one in a faster, more graceful manner.

GregoryApril 19th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Bidding on declarer hand remain me of deal I’ve recently played in sectional tournament
I had following hand:
♠ AK
♥ x
♦ AKQJxxxx
♣ xx

I was considering opening 2♣ (having 10 tricks) but decide against it. Likeliest respond from my partner would be 2♦ (waiting) and then if I bid 3♦ partner may have problem with weak hand. I opened 1♦ and part bid 1♥. Now I needed to create forcing bid and that rule out 3♦ so I opted for tactical bid of 3♣. Part bid 3♠ (4th suit expressing his concern about SP) and 3NT from me ended the action. No surprise ♠ lead and I claimed 11 tricks (part hold ♠Qxx ♥KT9x ♦Txx ♣Jxx). Opponents where outrage by my bidding and director was summoned, the result stand of course.

I would appreciate your opinion on how to bid this hand.

bobbywolffApril 19th, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Hi Gregory,

It is impossible for me to improve on your decision not to open a forcing bid and instead 1 diamond. After partner’s 1 heart response, I would also lean toward 3 clubs as a GF, less dangerous than 2 spades which if finding a spade fit could later lead to severe complications.

Then when partner ventured 3 spades I also agree with a slam dunk answer (no other alternatives) of 3NT, either plus 460 or 660.

The director call should not have been made by the opponents, but not all players understand the rules and merely call the director to see whether their rights have been violated.

While, obviously your 3 club GF could result in complications (when partner raises clubs and the final contract results in 5 diamonds instead of the higher scoring 3NT), but what’s a fella to do?

Bridge is a competitive game, played by usually competitive people and thusly while you are on the way up the ladder, improving your game you may ruffle some feathers. Do not mind and proceed, always being active ethical, but also being aware of your rights as a tournament bridge player. Never be rude to the opponents, not that you were in this case, but remember sometimes ignorance is bliss to your opponents and they, especially after a bad board, will attempt to pass on to you some anxiety. Take it in stride.

Bob HerremanApril 19th, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Would you not consider opening the South hand with 2NT (20-21H) ?

Jane AApril 20th, 2013 at 2:21 am

Hi Gregory,

One of my mentors would have bid three NT after your partner bids one heart, which in his opinion shows a good hand and a long running minor. Although I don’t have an issue with your three club call, you are headed towards three NT anyway, so bid it and get it over with.

You pays your money, you takes your chances. Let the dogs out! If the opps find a club lead, oh well. Happens to the best of us, but it will at least make them think unless they hold lots of clubs. If they do, they are leading clubs anyway.

(Hi Bobby!)

bobbywolffApril 20th, 2013 at 5:00 am

Hi Bob,

Yes, I would consider opening 2NT with the South hand, but in an important match, when not behind, the risks outweigh the tactical advantage.

A significant disadvantage might be that we will get to a slam with not enough meat on the South bones. Opening too light 2NT openings (20-21) with only 18 high card points sometimes comes up short when the fit between the two hands is only mediocre and when partner is short in diamonds, he will expect to have an eight card fit somewhere else and might just be disappointed.

2NT is a fairly normal tactical move, but it is not always successful (especially against good opponents) and would be considered unilateral in nature.

But for less than top level competition or when behind, full speed ahead and opening 2NT is one of the ways to gather momentum.

bobbywolffApril 20th, 2013 at 5:06 am

Hi Jane A,

The only glitch in a 3NT rebid is holding 3 spades which, if partner is short in a rounded suit, might easily lead to a disaster. By rebidding 3NT, at least the way many good players play, the rebidder might even only hold a singleton in partner’s suit and is basically telling partner not to rebid his suit unless it is obvious to do so.

Because of that, a jump to 3 clubs seems on balance to be slightly superior, although it too may have problems.

However, on any one hand any reasonable bid may work out, making the whole discussion very iffy.

Hi, back at you, Jane!