Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 19th, 2013

Show me a good and gracious loser and I'll show you a failure.

Knute Rockne

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

*A four-card major

**showing spades


The auction in today's deal featured a convention called Puppet Stayman. After North asked for four- and five-card majors, South's response denied a five-card major but promised at least one four-card major. North now bid three hearts — the major he did not have — so that if South held four spades, the strong hand would become declarer. South could now jump to four spades to end the auction.

When West leads the club four, South calls for dummy’s 10. Plan the defense. The knee-jerk reaction for East is to insert the jack, to ensure two club tricks if partner has led away from the queen. But is partner likely to have led from queen-third — a dangerous lead around to the hand that is known to hold at least half the points in the pack?

More importantly, there is no sure way of beating the contract if partner has the club queen, as you can see 17 points in your hand plus dummy. So if partner has the club queen, he can have no other significant values, and there will be just three tricks for the defense.

Accordingly, you must hope that the four was a singleton. Rise with the ace and give partner a ruff. And, to ensure that West returns a heart rather than a diamond to secure a second ruff, carefully play back the club jack, a heavy suit-preference signal for hearts, the higher-ranking of the remaining plain suits.

East's auction shows 18-20 or so with a diamond stopper, but it does not guarantee an especially powerful holding in that suit. You really have no special clue as to your partner's shape, but leading the diamond nine looks as good as anything — and if it is wrong, you could hardly be blamed!


♠ J 9 2
 Q 8 7 5
 9 4
♣ J 9 3 2
South West North East
1 Dbl.
Pass 1♠ Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 NT All 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


Patrick CheuSeptember 2nd, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Hi Bobby,a minor point perhaps,as regards five card puppet,after 3D by opener,responder can bid 4C showing both majors and slam interest and 4D both majors and game interest only.Would you play 4C and 4D differently perhaps?In the hand above,the JC is unequivocally asking for a heart,whereas the 6C allows declarer the opportunity to muddy the waters with the 9C,and West may go wrong..regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffSeptember 2nd, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Hi Patrick,

Without any where near full consideration let me offer the following:

1. 4 clubs with both majors andslam interest seems inferior to 4 hearts showing both majors and slam interest, leaving 4 clubs and 4 diamonds as that suit, no 4 card major, but slam interest.

2. Then 4 spades can show, opposite 19+-21 about 12 HCP’s and 4NT instead a bit better, but with opposite 22-24, 4 spades showing about 9+ and 4NT a bit better.

3. Playing the above, a jump to 5 clubs is BW with whatever agreed as responses.

4. My reasons for the above, include not worrying what side to play it from since earlier computer simulation plus game experience indicates it matters very little, if anything.

5. No doubt other unusual actions such as 5D or higher should show something, but I do not feel like opening the lab to decide which.

6. Regarding suit preference signals (SP), the easier you make it for partner the fewer errors will be made and most of the time, particularly while holding the AJ, but playing partner for a singleton will suggest that the jack will not be worth holding for later defense so, yes it should definitely be used to signal SP, although I suspect a hand could be constructed by someone who doesn’t mind wasting his time in order to prove a point (which I do not think is worth proving).

If nothing else, high level bridge should be straight, ethical (no slow returns, but if so, partner is not allowed to now make a brilliant assumption based on the slow tempo) but practical and merely just trying for perfection, at least to me, will result in either poor ethics or more critical mistakes, and definitely not better bridge.

Your query has given me cause for too many opinions, which I likely do not share with at least other good players.

Patrick CheuSeptember 3rd, 2013 at 6:38 am

Hi Bobby,many thanks for your comment which is of great help to me.Best regards~Patrick.