Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

When is the perfect time? Who can say, but probably somewhere between haste and delay — and it's usually most wise to start today.

Rasheed Ogunlaru

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


In the play of the hand it is generally sound technique to leave the best prospect till last. My experience has been that if a suit is breaking at the start of the hand, it will still be breaking toward the end of the deal; and even the best defenders sometimes let the wrong things go early in the play.

In today’s deal when South opened a strong no-trump and North raised to game, West led the club queen to East’s ace. South ducked the club return but won the next, perforce, East discarding a spade. There are now eight top tricks and the ninth could come from any of the other three suits. The best suit to play on is not diamonds but hearts, and declarer duly led a low heart to dummy’s 10 and East’s jack. Back came a low spade, taken in hand.

There was now time to test hearts for a 3-3 break. When the suit broke 4-2, South threw East in with the fourth round of the suit and East exited with the spade queen, on which West followed with the 10.

Declarer now knew that West had started with five clubs, and East appeared to have begun with five spades — the clue being his spade discard at trick three. Accordingly, South decided West had a doubleton in each major and thus four diamonds. So he continued with the diamond ace and queen. When both opponents followed, he finessed against West’s diamond jack for his ninth trick.

What defense do you have when the opponents open one no-trump? No matter what convention you use, the number-one priority is to be able to show both majors with a method such as Landy, where a call of two clubs is artificial and shows the majors. As a passed hand I would act — if necessary bidding two spades, should two clubs not be available to me for the majors.


♠ Q J 8 5 2
 Q J 8 6
 5 2
♣ A 6
South West North East
Pass 1 NT Pass 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


ClarksburgNovember 20th, 2013 at 10:30 am

Mr. Wolff,
In BWTA, supposing North had held the same hand, would the same actions be appropriate?

Jane ANovember 20th, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

I play Landy but try to be as disciplined as possible so as not to deceive partner. I know it is better to hold 5/5 in the majors when using a system designed to show majors, especially with a weaker hand, but isn’t it better to hold five hearts and four spades rather than the other way around? I was taught that one should hold the fifth heart rather than only four. Bad advice? The last two times Landy has come up with my partner and me, we have held 2/1 in the majors. I got to play a four/two spade fit. I did not make it! Stuff happens.

Thanks, as always.

bobby wolffNovember 20th, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Good question and the answer is a resounding, NO.

Reasons being:

1. East was yet to speak and the distribution of the subject hand 5-4-2-2 with only 10 HCP’s is not strong enough to act before the unknown hand, East, (at that stage) had not yet declared himself as to strength. After he passes 1NT, denying an invitational or better hand, it becomes much safer to enter the auction.

2. And extremely important, at least to me, is that, in this special case, the distribution of 4-5 (in the major suits) is tons better than is 5-4, simply because if partner is 3-3 in the majors, probably one of the most frequent distributions (although a guess, perhaps up to 20+% of the time) we need to play our 5-3 rather than our 5-2 fit and partner with 3-3 is asked to choose hearts first so that the discipline necessary within the partnership will allow both partners to know what to expect. Add the above to the possibility that partner is 2-2 in the majors (perhaps around 10+%) with 9 cards in the minors and it becomes even more important, if for no other reason than to possibly ward off the penalty doubles which will definitely be in the air.

3. Holding 5-4 in the majors and wanting to compete (as any red blooded tough bridge competitor should be) I would probably opt for bidding 2 spades rather than the possibly more common expert choice of the major suit takeout. Nothing wrong, at least to me, of having one’s own opinion of what the winning percentage action should be.

bobby wolffNovember 20th, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Hi Jane A,

Obviously when I answered Clarksburg, I had not yet read your comment.

Although you have had two sad experiences with the major suit takeout you have been exposed to what others need to also learn.

Some situations such as 2-1 in partner’s hand cannot be helped even by agreeing to bid hearts first with an equal number. Perhaps it would have been possible to magically get out in 2 diamonds by venturing that bid instead of choosing a major with 2-1 or even passing 2 clubs with 6 of them instead of responding to what partner is expecting.

All of that is part of the game which has often been said, particularly by me, that “bridge is in control, not the players” since when Dame Fortune (a fickle and devilish type of a lady) actually deals the cards.

Thanks for recounting your experience and when you say “Stuff happens” are you sure that first word is exactly what you mean, although the more descriptive word starts with the same letter.