Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve;
Lovers, to bed; ’tis almost fairy time.

William Shakespeare

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


In today's deal South started low, then felt obliged to make one exploratory call above game, getting him to the Goldilocks level: not too low, not too high, just right for a newspaper article! North's four-spade bid simply suggested a minimum with four trumps, while his five-heart bid showed the ace or king, while denying a diamond control.

Against five spades West was not challenged to lead the diamond jack. The defenders cashed two rounds of the suit and led a third, and declarer made the natural play of ruffing high, protecting against a possible overruff and prepared to claim his 11 tricks. However, when he led a top trump from hand and found the 5-0 trump break, a reassessment was required

South found the solution when he cashed the two top clubs, then played the heart ace and king to put the lead in dummy in a five-card ending where dummy had the J-10-9 of spades and a high and low heart, while declarer had the trump Q-6 and three low clubs.

At this point declarer led the low heart from dummy, giving East a problem to which there was no solution. If he ruffed high, declarer would overruff and draw trump, taking trick 13 with the master heart. If he ruffed low or discarded, declarer would score his small trump and take the last four tricks with a high crossruff.

This was the problem South faced today, and he opted to open one club and jump in spades rather than open two clubs. I wholeheartedly agree. The alternative of a two-club opening pre-empts your own side – wouldn’t you rather get both suits into the auction and set up a game-force at the two-level than not bid either of your suits till the three-level?


♠ A K Q 6
 A 3
 Q 7
♣ A K 8 5 2
South West North East

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 ClimieJune 4th, 2013 at 9:46 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA is 2N a possibility and how sensible is it? Over here it is typically played as 20-22, although the hand is arguably too strong and/or mis-shapen. There does seem to be a trend towards opening NT (especially 2N) on more hands e.g. 5422 6322 and even 4441 with a singleton ace if in range. On this hand there is a risk of playing 3N with 5C much better but it avoids 1C being passed out with game on. What are your views here?



Bobby WolffJune 4th, 2013 at 11:34 am

Hi Iain,

I am inclined to agree with your opinion, and although just a guess, would rather not sweat out my partner keeping my 1 club bid open, rather than open 2 clubs and, at least plan, on rebidding 2NT.

However, as you say, my hand is not ideal 4-2-2-5 with an unstopped suit, so there is room for argument as to which opening bid will work out best in the long run. On this side of the Atlantic, a 2NT opening (amongst the high-level players) has fallen to a low of a good 19 (likely a side 5 card suit or at least a couple of 10’s among my other high cards) through 21 which then, in turn, raises a 2 club opening, followed by 2NT to be 22-24.

Authoring books and making suggestions is one thing, and playing at the table is quite another. While theoretically it is better to start low, 1 club, and hope partner can muster up a response (or sometimes rely on the opponents to keep it open for you) than it is to just bash with NT and hope for the best.

Suppose partner had s. Jxx, h. Kxx, d. x, c. Jxxxxx, might not he raise a very strong NT hand to game in NT rather than explore (very difficult and not usually provided for in most bridge systems) a possible club contract? We all can see that 3NT is off the whole diamond suit, while 12 tricks in clubs would be laydown.

Having said the above, there is no 100% action (nor anywhere close to that number), making the opening bid a mere guess, which probably most would solve by opening 2 clubs and rebidding NT.

Good luck to all who have to choose, and at least in this choice, either opening bid can work out, depending on what dame fortune has in store for you.

Thanks for discussing this devilish problem.

Iain ClimieJune 4th, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Thanks for the info, Bobby.

I do wonder whether regarding flat 19 counts (or bad 20 counts) as worth 2N is best. if partner can’t bid over 1C (say) game may be odds against while give me 12 pts opposite 12 pts rather than 21 opposite 4 for 3N in all but rare cases.



Bill CubleyJune 4th, 2013 at 5:35 pm


I like the thought of opening one club on this hand. I am not a fan of opening 2NT because I have points and no void. It makes it harder to bid games and slams when bidding distorts your hand.

There is also a poor, IMHO, bidding practice to open 2 clubs be cause there are 8 or 9 tricks without regard to high cards. It also ignores reverse strength hands.

So I open S AKQTxxxxx H x D xx CK hands 4 spades as that better describes the hand rather than 2 clubs. Confusing preemptive hands or hands with long suits and strong forcing 2 club bids is really bad bridge to me.

Feel free to gently correct me. I proably need the lesson.

Bobby WolffJune 4th, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Hi Bill,

Damn it Bill, how can you think that way?

Or rather, in truth, I agree at least with your concept of bidding strong hands scientifically to good slams or to stay out of bad ones, by using more bidding room (start out at the one level) to exchange the useful information necessary to succeed.

As to opening 4 of a major, generally it is for preemption with a hope to make, so that your example hand (9 solid) might miss a slam to a partner who was expecting perhaps two tricks less, but bridge is a game which offers no guarantees when being able to preempt can cause negative havoc to the opponents, instead of using science to show long suits.

Winners seem to pick the right time to vary their tactics when the poker element in bridge appears.

Thanks for your valid thoughts and I was only kidding with my first sentence.

Bobby WolffJune 4th, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt 13 HCP’s opposite another 13 almost always plays better than does 21 opposite 5, simply because of the fluidity of being able to go back and forth, setting up positive gambits and often creating trick gathering end situations.

Thanks for the mentioning of the advantage of that feature which is sometimes overlooked, but hardly ever ignored by Dame Fortune.