Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

Winston Churchill

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


Signals to tell partner where your values lie or, as in this instance, don't lie, may also be interpreted by declarer, who might make use of the information for her own ends. In action in today's deal was British international Sandra Penfold, playing in the 2010 American Summer Nationals in New Orleans.

When North opened the bidding with two no-trump, Penfold decided against playing no-trump because of the lack of sure entries to her hand and jumped to five clubs.

West led the heart jack, and putting in the queen was a no-cost play for declarer. Had the queen held, she would have had two discards for spade losers from her hand, allowing her to take the ruffing finesse in spades to provide a painless route to her minor-suit game.

However, when East covered dummy’s heart queen with the king, declarer ruffed and at trick two led a club to dummy, on which West threw the spade 10. According to the defense’s methods, this denied spade interest. Taking full advantage of this knowledge, Sandra threw a spade on the heart ace, then called for the heart eight. When East played low, South discarded her second spade.

West won and could do no better than play a fourth heart, ruffed by declarer. A club to the king was followed by the spade king, covered by the ace and trumped. A third club to dummy allowed two diamonds to be discarded on the spades.

Hands of this sort are difficult to judge. Should you pass and try to go plus in two spades, or take action to protect against the opponents making a partscore or game? There is no 'right' answer, but I'd be tempted to raise to three spades to make my LHO's job far harder. He may think he is being stolen from and bid when he shouldn't, or pass when he should bid.


♠ A 9
 K 7 6 3
 Q J 10 9 3
♣ 10 5
South West North East
2♠ 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


Iain ClimieSeptember 7th, 2013 at 9:36 am

Hi Bobby,

West’s signal was particularly unwise as it won’t ever help. If South has the SA, she surely has at least 7 club tricks (based on the bidding), 3 spades and the HA. If East has the SA, he doesn’t need to be told what is staring him in the face!

The BWTA also raises a question relating to yesterday’s hand. Would you have re-raised to 3S as South rather than giving West a chance to double again and let East bid at the 3-level, perhaps directing the lead usefully?


Iain Climie

Bobby WolffSeptember 7th, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Hi Iain,

Your first admonition is as right as it can be and is similar to the phrase, probably coined during WW II 70 years ago and pertaining to the military in both Britain and the USA, “Loose lips sink ships”. In bridge, and in legal signalling, always remember that the opponents are listening to that communication
as well as one’s partner, and if West had both aces, down would go declarer when West after winning the heart, would merely get out with another heart and await the certain set.

However in regard to both day’s BWTA, while opposite the WTB in today’s column, it is good to put immediate pressure on the opponent’s by raising to 3 spades, since the opponents are blind flying (Air Force rather than Navy), having not entered the fray yet, but with yesterday’s hand, We, ourselves had a much better hand (though, I think correctly, not to be enough to try for game) but the opponents had already described their hands, possibly allowing us to stay safely at the 8 trick level, rather than chance which could turn out to be an unlucky 9 trick one, down 1.

Instead of the great and true World War II warning, we are left with only the wise bridge strategy of, while bidding and deciding that there is no reasonable game available, try to buy the hand at as low a level as we can.

I could be wrong, of course, (it happens almost every day), but what is a fella to do, but support his own judgment?

Thanks for all your wise counsel and support.

Shantanu RastogiSeptember 11th, 2013 at 10:50 am

Hello Mr Wolff

Sorry for posting late. I was away for a bridge tournament. In BWTA I would think blocking West by bidding 3 Spade should be matchpointish and depending on partner’s style. In modern bidding the pre-emptor may be very light so 3 Spade may concede a big penalty. Recently my partner ,with whom I was playing for first time in a national event consolation IMP pairs, opened 2 Spade with J9xxxx , with Ax I raised to 3 Spades with around 10 HCP and 4 or 5 carder Heart West doubled on which my partner raised to 4 Spades which was doubled and we went for 800. If I had passed 2 Spade we would have conceded 300 only. My partner’s opening bid was not discussed to be this light and his further pre-empt was very bad as our opponents couldnt have made any game.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi