Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 31st, 2013

"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Andy Warhol

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


When you are in doubt, the natural defense is to lead partner's suit. That is generally a good idea, but one can take a good thing too far. Today's deal is just such an example. The contract was a tricky three no-trump, and West led the heart eight, guided by his partner's overcall. South rightly put up dummy's king to protect his vital entry, and East played a discouraging two, since his suit was weak and he could see that the best chance for the defense might lie in the club suit.

The diamond 10 was led from dummy, covered with the jack, queen and king. Incidentally, if East had played low, South would still have played the queen, since he could not afford a holdup by West, leaving the lead in the dummy.

The moment of truth had arrived, and West solved the problem when he trusted his partner’s signals and drew the only logical conclusion. Not only did he shift to clubs, but he led the jack, a play that would serve to defeat the contract whenever South held a small singleton or doubleton. As it was, the queen was played from dummy. East took the ace and returned the five, allowing West to win the king and return the two. Thanks to the seven in East’s hand, the contract had to go down two. But note that if West had shifted initially to the club two instead of the jack, the suit would have been blocked, and declarer would have made his game.

Without the double, you would have rebid three diamonds. But now you have a choice between emphasizing diamonds again and passing, thus letting partner make the next move. With seven diamonds, it seems to me you have enough reason to repeat your suit. Although four hearts may be your side’s best game, you should not introduce hearts – but you can raise them.


♠ 5 3
 A 10 6
 A Q 9 8 7 5 3
♣ 8
South West North East
1 1♠ Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 2♠ Dbl.

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 13th, 2013 at 10:04 am

Hi Bobby,

Two quick thoughts. On the column hand, I’m surprised East didn’t trot out Michaels while what should the extra bids (pass and redbl) be used for on BWTA? South can hardly want to go an an axe-wielding hunt for penalties on the bidding to date, so peraps redbl should show extra playing strength – there may be other options e.g. Half a stop. Any thoughts here?



Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Your inquiring mind, as always, is correctly intended to update your bridge game, overcoming the wasted years in your life which you weren’t always spending at the bridge table, of course, only thinking of making a living, and/or being kind and loving to your family. How dare you?

Since no one, with that background, could be more deserving, I am ready to jump right in, with these answers:

1. East, with the column hand did not throw out a Michaels cue bid with the other major and a minor simply because his two suits were too moth eaten to emphasize and, of course, the real reason is that it would destroy the theme of the hand (by getting his partner to choose to lead clubs, his partner’s obvious minor, probably the jack for fluidity’s sake).

2. With the BWTA, South now bidding hearts, after his initial rebid in diamonds, assuming as usual, that partner’s hand included at least 4 hearts as is customary, could and would only be 3 hearts, but however the pretty impressive 7 card suit (not 6 and not a weak 7) should turn South’s mind to thoughts of game and 3 spades would be my choice which should, at least with my logic show 2 of the following 3 truths, a. a good diamond suit, b. 3 decent hearts, or c. at least a spade stop, probably the ace of king which might play better from partner’s side if he had the jack or the queen.

3. Partner’s probable choice (of course, depending on his exact hand) would be to test out 3NT, always the shortest and most direct course to game, but in this case since you (South) had the other 2 requirements, not help in spades, must then bid 4 diamonds, showing good diamonds and 3 decent hearts.

Partner is now in a great position to make the last mistake, by choosing the final contract (even if he might now pass). All bases are covered, our hands are now perfectly described and we will live happily ever after, at least while playing bridge, because our partnership has researched all avenues and arrived, or going to, the best contract.

While I’ll dream on with the result, your questions have delved into the secrets of our best partnerships who are on each others wave lengths. Just always make the bid which is deemed to be the most constructive and the whole body of bidding between the two wannabe great partners will theoretically, at least, reach the right contract and for the right reason.

Happy June 13th!

Iain ClimieJune 13th, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Thanks, Bobby, although I note the 13th isn’t even a Friday! I had my bad luck a day early though.

I held ‘xx J108xxxx none AKx last night at love all. LHO opened 1D dbl pass so I started with 2D (5H crossed my mind). Lho bid 3C and part bid 3H. Surely he can’t have wasted values or dead minimum I thought so blasted 6H. He had SJ10xx HAKQx DQxx Cxx and the spade pips weren’t enough even with SQ onside. If I’d managed to get into 6H though, my LHO would probably have led the SA letting it make. The S9 in either hand and it is near enough 50-50 – a shame.


Iain ClimieJune 13th, 2013 at 4:08 pm

That is SKxx, sorry.

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Hi Iain,

A bittersweet result, albeit more bitter than sweet.

My slightly considered opinion is that partner with his 4-4 minimum should have remained quiet over his RHO’s 3 club bid, allowing you, perhaps to eventually be the declarer, hoping for the ace of spades lead.

Usually his bidding or not bidding will not have a material effect on the final contract, but his hand just not justify a free bid, since he had what he is expected to have, but not any distributional advantages, although his doubleton club rather than doubleton diamond turned out to be an extra trick unless the spades were 3-3 and no original club lead.

Oh, and usually the nine of spades is only worth a shilling or two, but not on this hand!

Iain ClimieJune 13th, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I felt the same way, although perhaps I should have been a little more cautious. There are 13 diamonds out there somewhere and the opponents haven’t got them all so partner might have wastage. There again, he could have left it round to me, when I bid at least 4 hearts; it would be hard to blame him for bidding 6 with HAKQx if I tried the jump to 5H. Thanks for the sympathetic thought, though.

Jane AJune 13th, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

My partners and I play a Michaels bid as a weaker hand, one that we would not open, so we would have used Michaels after north opened one spade, especially not vul. We also play that the unusual two NT bid is stronger, a hand that we would open if given the chance. I know this is all a partnership agreement issue, but what do you like to do? Some play Michaels weak or strong and bid out the intermediate hands. I prefer to know sooner rather than later how good partner’s hand really is. We also stay with 5/5 shape so partner can try to make the right decision.

We are keeping you busy between this blog and the one Judy has going.

See you next week at the tournament. I will be working this one, doing the section top awards areas, so may not get to play much.

Thanks, as always.

Bobby WolffJune 14th, 2013 at 12:32 am

Hi Jane A,

You are right in that both Michaels (major and minor) and the unusual NT (2 lower unbid suits) are partnership affairs. Since I agree about getting in the bidding early I do not think strength restrictions are that important since, particularly NV, partner will try and find a fit right away. Bid em up and hope to find a fit which will interrupt the opponents and cut into their scientific bidding methods.

No one disputes that bridge is a bidder’s game and you believe in living the part.

See you next week!