Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Few are qualified to shine in company, but it is in most men's power to be agreeable.

Jonathan Swift

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


On an unopposed sequence Gaylor Kasle declared six hearts as South. (It might be better not to ask why, but it involved North's missorting his hand). He received the spade queen lead, and he won the king and drew four rounds of trump,while East pitched a couple of diamonds and a couple of spades.

Now the simple analysis might be to assume that since West has four hearts and East none, West (who must hold the club king to give you a chance) is more likely to have the doubleton king than four clubs to the K-10.

However, Kasle saw there was no need to commit himself at once. He carefully found out more about the hand by playing ace and a second diamond toward the queen. East took his king and declarer saw the spade nine discarded on his left, after some thought.

Now the odds in clubs had changed dramatically. Since his LHO had started with five red cards and his RHO with six, the odds favored the double finesse in clubs rather than playing for the doubleton king onside — and that is what Kasle did, by running the club jack. When it was covered, he crossed back to hand to repeat the club finesse against the 10 to bring home the contract.

Here a call of two no-trump describes your values precisely. There is no reason to do more; your partner is not marked with real clubs — he could easily have a balanced minimum with just four clubs. However, the more clubs he has, the fewer values he will possess, given his pass at his second turn. It is easy to imagine that a club partscore might be your safest spot — but let your partner judge that for himself.


♠ A 2
 A 10 8 6
 Q 10 6
♣ J 9 8 2
South West North East
Pass 1♣ 1
1 2 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


Michael BeyroutiDecember 31st, 2013 at 12:26 pm

On this hand, winning the lead with dummy’s spade king was a farsighted move to keep an entry to the South hand. Otherwise, when East wins his diamond king and returns a diamond, declarer can run the club jack, covered, and the lead will be stuck in dummy…

jim2December 31st, 2013 at 1:08 pm

On BWTA, should North raise hearts with a minimum 4-3-2-4?

bobby wolffDecember 31st, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Hi Michael,

I appreciate both your analysis and your attention to detail.

Obviously the hand today had much for the declarer to decide, such as playing ace and one diamond rather than two finesses through West, which without the bad trump break, probably be the percentage choice, since the honors (K & J) are more likely to be divided than both in the same hand and if no honor shows up after leading to the ace and then back, declarer has an extra decision to make, but with the trumps 4-0 I can appreciate and agree with declarer’s decision.

A difficult contract, the result of overbidding, but when that happens we all need to guess everything in sight.

bobby wolffDecember 31st, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, I would raise partner with a 4-3-2-4 minimum, although partner, at least in my partnerships, will not be assured he will find 4 trumps in dummy, so that if he bids on, he cannot rebid hearts with only 4, but rather bid either another suit or NT which unless later denied, merely asks whether I have 3 trumps or 4, with of course the values to bid on. I may be playing a 4-3 fit at the two level, but that, to me, is no problem at all and likely the right contract.

I also do not like “support doubles” since when made, with the original responder then retreating to another suit or NT he is giving much too much information to the worthy opponents, which they will use against him in both their bidding judgment and their defense, if your side winds up playing the hand.

And if you do not think that is important, I beg you to think again, since it often comes up. Possibly missing a 4-4 spade fit is unlikely since partner should have doubled 1 diamond with 4-4 in the majors, no matter the strength of his hand, assuming he had enough to bid the first time.

jim2January 1st, 2014 at 2:03 am

The reason I asked was that E-W have announced an eight or nine card fit. This means that North must have nine (or ten) black cards. Since North would surely have introduced a five-card spade suit at the second chance, this leaves North with a 4-2-2-5 pattern (or one similar with six clubs).

This would appear to argue for South bidding three clubs over two diamonds, rather than two notrump which risks three diamonds coming back around with South never having supported clubs (beyond the notrump bid assuring no singleton or void).

bobby wolffJanuary 1st, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, the facts you give (assuming, perhaps too optimistically) partner will support hearts with a 4-3-3-3 minimum with 4 in any non-heart strain are on target. However, it doesn’t deal with the entire problem.

Since game in NT is two tricks less than game in clubs, you will likely be the only one who is in a position to offer that possibility and what better time than now. In no way will 3NT always make and 5 clubs go set, but it is pretty well time honored by experienced players that in order to get to NT someone has to bid it, especially during the second round of bidding and in a competitive sequence. Obviously Q10x opposite a low singleton or doubleton does not guarantee a stop, but my early bridge education, for better or worse, suggests heading in that direction if my hand warrants it. True the overall bidding has suggested that partner likely has 5+ clubs, but that, in turn may be enough to produce nine fast ones, once we stop the diamond lead beginning.

Also, since the bidding is not over, if partner now offers 3 clubs, I would reply with an ubiquitous cue bid of 3 diamonds, which will invite partner to make the next mistake.

One thing to learn from this is that I bid a lot, go set a lot, try to run toward daylight, but sometimes get lucky.

jim2January 2nd, 2014 at 12:54 am

You are the expert and world champion, not I.

With that said, I “heard” North pass and looked at my meager collection and concluded that it was a part score hand. As such, 3NT was not in the picture, and I figured +110 at three clubs with chances for +130 was better than trying for a pin-point landing at +120 while risking what would happen after three diamonds with clubs never supported.

bobby wolffJanuary 2nd, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Bridge itself sees to it that having titles does not change the cards, necessarily make better decisions, nor for that matter, do better than other less decorated competitors.

Your prime reason for choosing 3 clubs is a good one, and if only that goal is involved, I agree 100% with you (although again Dame Fortune can be insidious and deal partner a 4-3-3-3 minimum, with the wily opponents in a 4-3 or perhaps 5-2 fit). Add that possibility to the sometimes value of at least, attempting to run toward daylight, and my conclusion in either at matchpoints or IMPs the risk is worth it, if our eventual contract is either scored up legitimately (with a good guess here and there) or through the opponent’s error.

Of course, I sometimes forget the TOcm factor which, along with wintertime flu shots, Judy and I get innoculated to prevent.

I am not answering what would happen if EW would contest us with a 3 diamond effort, although, that to me would probably place partner with a singleton diamond and therefor long clubs, allowing my hand to be a great dummy for even a 5 club contract.

It is my optimism vs. your TOcm, a rightful winner, never to be crowned.