Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 9th, 2013

I bend but I do not break.

Jean de La Fontaine

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

*Forcing heart raise

**Two of the five key cards, counting the four aces and trump king


Most of the rules in bridge have an underlying grain of sense to them. Equally, it is almost impossible to construct a rule where one cannot find an exception. A typical rule that is generally but not always right is the prohibition against giving a ruff-sluff. Today's deal shows when a defender can break that rule.

North-South had an optimistic but straightforward auction to slam, though North’s decision to set up a game-force with a relatively balanced hand persuaded South to overbid by using Blackwood, when perhaps cue-bidding would have kept the contract low. In general, the use of the Jacoby two-no-trump response should be restricted to hands better than a dead-minimum opening bid.

Declarer took the diamond king lead, drew trump, eliminated the spades, and exited with a diamond to leave West on play in the six-card ending. Before she led to the next trick, she paused to count out declarer’s distribution. South was marked with having started with 2-5-2-4 distribution, so a ruff-and-discard would not advance declarer’s cause — either the clubs were solid to start with, or there would still be a loser. Conversely, touching clubs might surrender the defenders’ trick in that suit if East had the club queen and declarer played for split honors. So West exited with the diamond 10, and declarer had to lose a club at the end.

You have the shape and values to bid one no-trump here. The bid of a major in response to an overcall can be made on a four-card suit but not one as weak as this, particularly when you have a sensible alternative, and certainly not after the negative double by your RHO, which suggests he has both majors.


♠ A 8 5
 K 10 8 3
 J 5
♣ K 9 7 6
South West North East
1♣ 1 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


David WarheitAugust 23rd, 2013 at 9:09 am

As bad as the contract of 6H is, note that if N’s clubs & diamonds are reversed, 6H is a virtual lock, giving even greater shine to your comment about the merits of cuebidding instead of blasting.

Iain ClimieAugust 23rd, 2013 at 9:50 am

Hi Bobby, David,

Although cue-bidding is more rational, David’s comment highlights that the quality of the secondary fit is crucial. Change North’s DJ to a small one and a club x to the CJ and the contract is quite different. Have you any advice for a good method of bidding after the initial reply e.g. whether to concentrate on shortages, features or on 2nd suits? It may be that diffe
rent approaches are equally valid provided they are well-enough defined.



ArunAugust 23rd, 2013 at 10:44 am

Dear Bobby

I have been a regular reader of your column for the last month or so and rue to myself why did I not come across them earlier. But I am catching up thanks to the archives.

I would like to offer a suggestion to make the column more valuable. When sensible – can the column be split into two parts – first he posing of a problem and then the discussion on it. The web pages make it easy to do such things which are harder to do in a newspaper format.



NotSureAugust 23rd, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I could see how she knew declarer had 6 minors, but how could she tell he was not 3-3? Where a ruff-sluff could help.

Iain ClimieAugust 23rd, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Hi NotSure,

East probably echoed in diamonds showing an even number. If South has CAx and DAxxx then the rest of the hand is just a cross-ruff, so West has to assume South has A??x in clubs. If South has AQxx he/she would have cashed a club to guard against clubs 4-1 before exiting, while the contract makes regardless in that case if clubs are 3-2 and east has only 10xx.


Iain Climie

Bobby WolffAugust 23rd, 2013 at 3:30 pm

HI David and Iain,

One of the advantageous features of what we do has become the quality of the queries and I, and the many readers around the whole world, rejoice in the to the point challenges these questions pose, hopefully enabling our potentially best and brightest to not only grow to love the game, but climb up the ladder quickly.

While I strive to directly answer the questions asked, my opinion is not always (at least close to 100%), shared by everyone in the upper echelons of bridge.

To respond with a GF of 2NT (trump raise) with that North hand would not be my choice since it is about (at least to me) a queen short. Also I do not prefer opening a balanced hand with only 11 HCPs in spite of the heart 10 which just barely does not justify it, although that caveat does not enter into today’s hand except to compare the raise with an opening bid (which it practically announces). If one asks me why?, I would say. once I do (and I have done so some years back) I would have shivers up and down my spine if partner then (as he did) take off.

However, I have no quarrels about selecting a 4 heart raise, although to do so sometimes paints a different picture of my hand, one which is more preemptive in nature, but I would rather take a small risk of missing slam in order to be sure to get to game (sometimes down 1) in order to be a tough and not predictable adversary to worthy opponents.

Summing up (at least to me), both partners owe a responsibility to each other to have adequate values when making a GF bid, reserving tactics to lesser non-slam type situations which have a much wider range of achieving success without tampering with our own slam bidding which, when top players get together, often determines winners and losers.

Finally, my preference is to do as South did and that is to bid slam (BW) after North’s chosen response, although, yes I could have cue bid (and no doubt wish I had), but, to me, the fault lies with North.

Finally, in answer to Iain, I, nor any of even great partnerships, can, even with relays, delineate both distributions and the exact location of where specific high cards may lurk. There is just not enough bridge language (bidding) to accomplish such a tall order.

Bobby WolffAugust 23rd, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Hi Arun,

Thanks for your excellent suggestion.

However, while I have sensational help in writing and getting my column produced for the newspapers, I handle this part of the world wide AOB network myself, together with the cooperation and work effort of the Master Point Press web site, which is enough of a time consuming task in itself.

Your suggestion is right-on and no doubt would be a clearer presentation, especially for educational purposes, but as of now, I doubt that I could devote enough time to it to prevent the gremlins and other little problem creatures from standing in the way of the extra benefits created.

Your task then becomes making sure you live long enough to enjoy what you suggest in your later years when such things are implemented. Since bridge is now in the schools in both Europe and Asia and hopefully in the next number of years joined in the Western Hemisphere as well, our game will take off and IMO be required for all students, because of the off-the-charts logic, psychology, and overall thinking it represents which has much application in many aspects of life.

Thanks for your creative thinking and be ready to help make what you suggest a reality, but in the meantime please have some patience.

Bobby WolffAugust 23rd, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Hi Not Sure & Iain,

Just echoing what Iain has said. East MUST give West the proper distributional (odd or even) signal so that he will not make a disastrous defensive play which will give that slam away. The reason I do not specifically say which diamond should be played is because there are now a large number of very good players who play upside down count (and sometimes attitude as well) so that whichever method you select will also be known by partner.

Jeff SAugust 23rd, 2013 at 5:58 pm

I have a couple of comments on this one (although I am late to the party…). First, even if East had signaled an odd number of diamonds, isn’t the diamond still the right lead? If South had been 3-3, the hand loses its interest, but it should still be set as it wouldn’t be a ruff-sluff in that case. (And if South had four diamonds, nothing would work anyway). Wasn’t the main point that whoever was forced to break clubs lost?

My second comment (and way too late as Bobby already said the same thing) is that I blame North for bidding 2NT although it is easy to understand he was trying to avoid ending in 3H. Bobby, of course, is far more creative than I am and I really like the idea of just bidding 4H directly. I would have probably bid 3H and hoped partner could go to game.

It looks like 3H would have worked out the same here (presumably after 4C, 4H), but I strongly suspect Bobby’s direct 4H bid will get a good result more often. But that is why he is writing and I am reading. And, hopefully, learning!

jim2August 24th, 2013 at 12:41 am

I am sorry to come in late here (even later than Jeff S), but I have a question on the BWTA.

What would Redouble show in this situation (instead of 1N)?

Phil CoxAugust 24th, 2013 at 12:51 am

Jean de La Fontaine is not to prose as Bobby Wolf is to bridge.

Phil CoxAugust 24th, 2013 at 12:52 am

Make that Wolff – sorry.

Bobby WolffAugust 24th, 2013 at 5:31 am

Hi Jeff S,

Yes, as long as the defense does not give a ruff and sluff when South has only 3 clubs, but rather West should hope his partner can have a good enough club holding to allow your jack to not give the whole club suit away (Q10xx would work) You are right in leading a diamond as long as declarer counts out to 4 clubs, which happens on this layout of the cards.

Regarding the bidding, my choice of 4 hearts only avoids overbidding with a GF (in this case the Jacoby 2NT) which shows 4 trumps and about the equivalent of an opening bid. And sometimes, although I hate to admit it, partner will pass 4 hearts, not thinking my hand is as good as the column hand and possibly miss a reasonable slam.

All in all though, I think overbidding in the 1st round will eventually cause that partnership to lose needed confidence for the future, but it is close, worthy of discussion, but not to be overly condemned.

Bobby WolffAugust 24th, 2013 at 5:36 am

Hi Jim2,

Redouble should be a slightly better hand and announce to partner that if he has a normal strength overcall (10 HCP’s) the hand will belong to our side. The subject hand is not far away, but when a declarative bid is available rather than a nebulous one (redouble) usually choose that bid just so you can then let partner make the next decision and blame him for whatever goes wrong. When one redoubles instead your partner will usually pass the TO around to you and then you, not partner will be responsible.

I speak with glib tongue, but like most jest, many a true word is sometimes said.

Bobby WolffAugust 24th, 2013 at 5:50 am

Hi Phil,

If I thought I was really good, my name would be spelled Wolfff). Was not Jean de La Fontaine a long ago famous French fabulist and, if so, you honor me with any kind of comparison?

However, that will not stop me from appreciating it and thanks much, especially so since my bridge team in the past has lost to the great French teams on several different important occasions and never by my team having bad luck, only, instead being out played.

Phil CoxAugust 24th, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Real good Bobby, thanks.