Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Some say be careful what you wish for. Well, I'd be more wary of not wishing at all.


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


** Three-card support


In this deal from the Morehead Grand National Teams Championship Flight at Philadelphia last year, both defenders found the same winning play (both ducking). The featured defenders are Chris Compton and Bart Bramley.

Against four hearts Compton started with the diamond king, switching to the spade three at trick two. Declarer won in hand and played the diamond nine. Compton covered with the 10, knowing his partner was going to ruff. Bramley did so, returning the heart jack to dummy’s ace. Now declarer played the club ace, fetching the king from Compton, followed by the club seven. Bramley, with no trumps left, inserted the club eight, and when South covered, Compton ruffed and played his last trump to defeat the contract.

A trump lead always defeats the contract, but declarer could have succeeded after Bramley ruffed and returned the heart jack. After winning the heart ace in dummy, declarer should play as follows: ruff a diamond, play a spade to the ace, ruff a diamond, lead a club to the ace, ruff a spade, exit with a low club. From there, declarer cannot be prevented from taking three trump tricks in dummy for the contract.

However, once declarer embarked on the losing line by cashing the club ace and continuing the suit, Compton needed to get in to play a second round of hearts. Bramley made it easy for Compton by not trying to win the critical trick. Protecting your partner from error is never a bad idea.

It looks natural to bid two spades, but when your partner doubles for takeout, suggesting extras, that is not really enough. Your partner has at least three spades in this auction, so your choice is a jump to three spades, or going all the way to game. I choose the former, mainly because I don't want to discourage partner from reopening light in the future.


♠ Q 10 8 6 2
 J 4
♣ Q J 9 8 2
South West North East
1 1 2
Pass Pass 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


jim2August 7th, 2013 at 10:58 am

Does declarer know who has the third trump?

West asserted 3 spades, is known to have 6 diamonds, and appears to have had a singleton KC (KQ bare is possible, but restricted choice suggests otherwise). So, yes, I think declarer pretty much knows West has the last trump.

So, why didn’t South decline to cover East’s 8C? Also, Bramley’s play was excellent, but if he had not played the 2C under the AC, it would have been even better! Playing the 2C under the 7C would have prevented declarer from ducking East’s 8C cover and forced West to ruff.

jim2August 7th, 2013 at 11:03 am

On BWTA, how would North bid a 2-5-2-4 hand? Or, a 1-5-3-4? Simply bid 3C?

Bobby WolffAugust 7th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, you are 100% correct in what East could have done (somewhat spectacularly keeping the deuce of clubs, if for no other reason, than to toss the deuce to partner as a toast to trump it and lead another), however his partner should easily do it either way since it is so clearly correct, although still depending on what is held in clubs by both South and West to be the ultimate determining factor.

BTW, the new scheme of things at high-level play of bidding one under suits, may and probably will gain in adding bidding space to those bidders, allowing more accuracy in eventually choosing final contracts, but in turn will make reporting hands much more confusing and less transparent for up and coming students of the game, but this ever changing world to more science and technology in almost everything will just make both learning and the education which goes with, more challenging.

The answers to your appropriate BWTA questions are both no, although instead of North, my guess is that you mean South. With 5 hearts and 4 clubs (in either of the distributions of 2-2 or 1-3 either way in the pointed suits, South should rebid hearts since partner surely has at least 3 hearts and to then, after bidding hearts first (a major suit) and then reverting to clubs (minor) should never show 5 hearts, but rather only 4-5 (as here) or 4-4.

Iain ClimieAugust 7th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Hi Bobby,

A point with bidding “1 under” – after 1D X how does the next hand show hearts as 1H shows spades? What do Redbl and 1N mean, while 2D is hardly a pre-emptive barrage so can it be used differently? Also, don’t some players use the “under 1” approach without interference too?

Can you recommend any sources
on such bidding? I don’t want to play it but might need a defence.



jim2August 7th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Actually, I DID mean North.

That is, I presume North has 5 hearts for the 1H overcall of 1D. I presume also that North has support for at least one black suit for the reopening double. However, North would seem unlikely to have as many as 4 spades because a first round double was not made (e.g., North does not have something like 4-5-2-2).

However, North might well have 4 clubs (though not 5 as a second round club bid would have been chosen over the reopening double with a second 5-card club suit). Thus, the N-S best fit may well be in clubs, not spades.

Thus, I was trying to see how you would have expected North to have bid if holding a 2-5-2-4 or 1-5-3-4 hand. In other words, can I rule out those holdings because North would always have bid 3 clubs with a 4-card suit? If I cannot rule out those North holdings, I would be reluctant to leap about in spades. Instead, I might bid clubs, and then bid spades over a heart rebid by partner. Perhaps something like:

— 1D – 1H – 2D
P – P – D – P
3C – P – 3H- P

If I CAN rule out a 4-card club suit, meaning North must be 3-5 in the majors, then the spade bid answers in BWTA would seem more attractive to me.

So, how would North have bid a 2-5-2-4 or 1-5-3-4?

Bobby WolffAugust 7th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Hi Iain,

While I am far from an authority on this subject, I would predict redouble would show hearts, eschewing redouble to mean what it heretofore has meant as a good hand, often with defensive values.

Obviously these types of changes takes getting used to which, in the early stages of development means a significant advantage to those who opt to play this way. Not necessarily undeserved, but nevertheless an advantage, both in a greater understanding of the development of auctions, but the judgment within, which then manifests itself in better final choices. For old fogeys like me, and I suspect many others who have learned bridge bidding a different way (which is a rather large number), while attempting to keep up with the now extremely different meanings of bids, their tempo variations in adjusting, will likely give information to the opponents when they wind up declaring the contract, a double edged sword for the new mavericks, which will eventually taper off with time.

A more important consideration which should now be immediately addressed by our administrators, but, my guess, is they haven’t even begin to consider it yet, are the ethics questions which are sure to arrive, when an opponent does study over an artificial bid (now often) and partner now perhaps leads (or bids) that suit.

Will leeway be given for such actions or will TD’s and committees treat those possible ethical violations with a harder hand and, if so, will consistency be achieved. Unless they are now considered, decided and announced, expect a chaotic response among our contentious bridge players who will undoubtedly be divided in their opinions.

I am somewhat embarrassed to answer your question about sources for learning and/or defense since I, at this time, do not know where or when and am not at all sure that any worthwhile books, pamphlets or even educational discussions on that particular subject are even published.

“Little by little we may do great things” but sometimes it may take longer than perhaps it should.

And, BTW, what say you and the other bridge scholars on our blog site. I have great confidence between our group, that good, consistent and worthwhile opinions will be respectfully presented.

Iain ClimieAugust 7th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Thanks for the info – if I find out any more sources then I’ll circulate them. Best regards, Iain.

Bobby WolffAugust 7th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Hi Jim2,

Sorry for my gaffe, since I thought you were referring to the artificially discussed in the column hand, not the normal meaning of the double in the BWTA.

Yes, with the BWTA, a reopening double by the 1 heart overcaller, should typically be either a 3-6-1-3, 3-5-1-4, distribution with 4-5-3-1 and 4-6-2-1 reserved for either Michaels or with the second one merely to rebid 2 hearts which will most times shut out a possible spade fit.

Concerning Michaels, IMO it should be used more flexibly than many judge, often with only 4 spades, but understanding that when partner has 3-3 in the majorsor even more so 2-2, he should always (or almost) choose hearts to bid because with 5-4 in the majors instead of 4-5, spades should usually be overcalled, instead of using Michaels.

I doubt if books on that subject go deep enough into why that MUST be done for success, otherwise too many unplayable contracts will result. However many authors understand that what we are now talking about can be, and often are, discouraging thoughts to beginning bridge players, which, in turn may slow down their interest in the game.

Then, it follows that, yes clubs need to be bid with 1 or 2, 5, 2 or 3, 4 distribution with x, AQJxx, AQx, KQ10x an example of the strength required to make such a bid with only a 4 card suit. Of course with x, AQJxx, xx, AKJxx, 3 clubs would also be my choice.

Again, I apologize for the confusion in my first answer.

Iain ClimieAugust 7th, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Hi Bobby,

Apparently BBO (Bridge base online) has some bridge discussion forums (fora for the picky? I can’t recall the latin) including one on non-natural systems. This may shed some light on the matter.



Bobby WolffAugust 7th, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for your update.

Good luck in your new position as investigative bridge reporter for non-natural systems.

We are in good hands, especially if the hands we are dealt are distributional enough to annoy our artificial bridge playing adversaries.