Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Ours is a culture that dances on the edge of ephemerality. If our servers slept for too long or if we left our iPads unplugged for too long, we'd wake up like Rip Van Winkle to find all of our book culture erased.

Jason Merkoski

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

*Weak, with spades plus a minor


This week's deals all come from the Asia Pacific tournament held this time last year in Fukuoka, Japan. Today's deal was also my favorite play of the tournament. It came from the women's teams in a match between Australian and Japanese squads. While the Australians had played the North-South cards in three diamonds down one, Junko Tsubaki, sitting South, was more ambitious.

East’s decision not to double the final contract of three no-trump was doubtless based on having seen her partner’s opening bids before. The defenders led three rounds of clubs. Declarer won the third, crossed to the diamond king, then took the percentage play when she finessed the diamond 10, unblocked the diamond ace, went to the spade king, and ran diamonds, pitching a spade and a heart from hand. As the last diamond was led in what was about to be a four-card ending, declarer had produced an intriguing squeeze on West, an ending that Terence Reese has elegantly defined as a winkle.

West had to keep two spades and one club, and when she came down to the bare heart king, declarer led a heart from dummy. East could not rise with the ace and crash her partner’s king, so she ducked and let West cash her heart and club. But that player then had to lead a spade into declarer’s tenace and concede the rest.

It was 12 well-deserved IMPs to the Japanese team, on their way to a 24-6 win.

Don't be tempted to go looking for the gold at the end of the rainbow by bidding on. Here you cannot afford to invite game, facing a partner who was only able to bid one spade at his second turn. Your partner rates to have a minimum hand — and do not be surprised if he also had an awkward hand with just three spades, unsuitable for a call in no-trump.


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


Jane AOctober 5th, 2013 at 1:07 pm

West must be a little bit crazy to make that kind of opening bid vul with such poor cards. Three clubs doubled looks juicy to me. I think I would pass that bid, hope for the best knowing the suits are not splitting well, and lead trumps every time we get in. “What would Bobby do”?

Bobby WolffOctober 5th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Hi Jane A,

The enigma of it all is that everything you say is true, but bridge being the riddle that it is, sometimes rewards aggressive actions without what a rational person would suggest doing. Even 3 clubs doubled being easily defended is not in the cards. Of course, an opening club lead should be made, but leading from 4 to the jack is not all that attractive, and what if partner has what she might think of as a perfect balancing double, being void in that suit and having great support for all others, only to find that partner has converted it to penalties with only 4 to the jack. And even then EW will take a number of tricks, approaching making the contract, because of the favorable location of the distribution dealt on this hand.

What I am trying to say is that I DO NOT endorse such weak bids (particularly while vulnerable) but sometimes they ring the bell, with the reasons being:

1. It is harder to defend than to declare, particularly so with a blind opening lead.

2. Since the level of bidding has been raised immediately, the opponents will have a more difficult time finding both their best suit to be trump and judging the level to which they land.

3. Our current improved scientific bidding methods are therefore interrupted and more guesswork enters the building.

4. Bids like these weak 2 suiters (and while vulnerable) are dangerous but the danger also applies to their opponents who have to deal with them.

5. All of the above does not change my mind as to the long range effectiveness (or lack of) these destructive actions may result, but also I do not relish having to guess my way having them thrown at me.

6. In no way are they antithetical to the ethics of the game, since no private understand (at least I would hope) exists between the “wild” opening bidders, only a desire to legally interfere with their opponents (especially above average ones) attempt at gliding to the right contract, by being given free reign to exchange information starting at the one level.

The above is merely my experience in dealing with such things and while not wanting to relegate my partnership to a game of tops and bottoms does not appeal to me, but in my self-interest, need to develop ways of handling them in case my opponents have different motives.

As to how I would handle today’s hand, my answer would lie in who was doing it to my partnership and then, at that time, decide how to combat it, by bidding out, or stopping off to instead double them. If doubling is my choice, then I have to suffer through our opening lead and then guessing (without much to go on) how to continue.

Thanks for raising this type of discussion which every aspiring partnership should learn their general approach to how to cope with such aggressive tactics used against them.

TedOctober 5th, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the topic of interfering bids, in a recent Regional pairs event, my partner dealt and opened 1H. RHO overcalled 1S and I held:



I passed, partner bid 2D (he was 1552) and the hand passed out making 3D. Once the auction started 1H 1S is there any way to convince partner that I want to play in spades?

At the table I was concerned that it was a psyc (it wasn’t, but I’d have made 3S rather easily), but could think of no way to “expose” it.


Bobby WolffOctober 5th, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Hi Ted,

Perhaps over your partner’s 2 diamond rebid you could (and probably should) jump to 3 spades which could only mean spades, since anything else would be illogical, because your original pass allowed your partner to pass the hand out in 1 spade.

I would have thought my RHO was psyching, but, although wrong, partner should pass and we would score up +140.

TedOctober 6th, 2013 at 12:57 am

Hi Bobby,

Thank you. That makes sense, although I can imagine the look of horror on my partner’s face as he tried to figure out what convention he’d forgotten.