Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.

Leo Tolstoy

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


In today's deal it is fortunate for North-South that South can open one spade in front of East. (If East were able to open one diamond, doubtless East-West would reach their cold game of five diamonds.) As it is, West does not have enough for the unusual two no-trump to show the minors, and North can then blow East out of the water with a jump to four spades.

The spade game appears very straightforward to make, when the defenders cannot arrange to take a heart ruff. West starts off with a top diamond lead, and you ruff, planning to draw trumps and claim. However the 3-0 trump break sets you back on your heels. You can draw a second round of trump if you want, but then you have to be careful. Suppose declarer ruffs a second diamond before playing clubs. If he does, then East will hop up with the club ace and play a third diamond, and now declarer cannot enjoy dummy’s clubs after drawing trump.

Declarer should realize that his best chance to make his game is that the defenders will not or cannot take a heart ruff. At trick three, instead of ruffing a diamond, declarer plays a top club from hand. East can win and does best to return a second diamond to force dummy to ruff. Declarer simply ruffs in dummy, unblocks clubs, then draws trump ending in dummy. He can now cash two clubs to pitch two losers and concede two heart tricks at the end.

Many people use a two-club check-back by responder here to investigate opener's shape in more detail. I'm not convinced that approach is correct with this hand. Given all the side-honors in the unbid suits and a balanced hand, a simple jump to three no-trump looks practical and gives far less away.


♠ K Q J 10 2
 Q 7 3
 7 6 5
♣ K Q
South West North East
1 Pass
1♠ Pass 1 NT 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 15th, 2014 at 10:34 am

Hi Bobby,

With some partners I play that NV Michaels and UNT can be quite weak, as here, so we’d reach 5D. Terence Reese would have been appalled at this (idiocies in the modern game, he wrote) but how do you think such bids should be used in terms of strength? Similarly, what are your views on jump ovrcall strength?



Shantanu RastogiJanuary 15th, 2014 at 11:52 am

Hi Iain

I dont think any North would allow you to play in 5D. If you could double 5 Spades is the best result you would get but that is infinitely better than conceding 4 Spades to NS. I agree with you on bidding UNT with this vulnerability. Even if one doesnt bid UNT at first turn West should bid 4NT over 4 Spades showing any 2 suitor at this vulnerability.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Iain ClimieJanuary 15th, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Hi Shantanu,

I sympathise but think that bidding 4N could rebound. Apart from partner wondering I could bid 4 but not 2, what if partner has a trump stack which my bid has exposed, so that declarer with (say) SAK9x opposite xxxxx might find a safety play instead of bashing down a top trump? The same concern applies to 2N of course, but bidding later allows the oppo to know more and judge better, in theory at least.

Bobby’s views on delayed action and when it iis sensible will be interesting.



Iain ClimieJanuary 15th, 2014 at 1:05 pm

PS South might dbl 5D to stop north bidding 5S as south has no aces but some defence – oops!

jim2January 15th, 2014 at 1:17 pm

It can get worse!

N-S realize they cannot beat 5D and bid 5S, only to have E-W bid 6D and get doubled there!

– S ruff
– AC
– xC
– S ruff (nothing better)
– C ruff
– S ruff
– C ruff
– draw trump
– AH
– H pitch on good club ….

Shantanu RastogiJanuary 15th, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Hi Iain

Taking action at 4 level is only suggested if you cant take action at 2 level either with UNT or with Michaels. Upto the bidding methods that you’ve. 4 level is risky as partner may unluckily have good spades and a five level bid may be phantom sacrifice. But by not bidding at all you are causing a swing against you. If Jump overcalls can start with 5-6 HCPs why cant Micheals or UNT.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Iain ClimieJanuary 15th, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Hi Jim2, Shantanu,

Looks like EW “wimped out” big time! Once again, bidding pays.


Shantanu RastogiJanuary 15th, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Hi Iain

You are right about some South’s may double and hence prevent North from bidding further. Very recently I had a swing of 14 IMPs in a national level swiss pairs event at Mumbai. When our 5 level minor suit bid was doubled by person holding singleton J of minor. I made 5 minor doubled contract when they could make 5 Major and on misdefense 6 Major. But I guess such doubles are in a minority.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobbywolffJanuary 15th, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Hi Iain & Shantanu,

You both are intelligently discussing one of a series of controversial subjects indigenous to bridge intellectuals who specialize in having opinions which through the years have vitally influenced our game.

Just how weak can a 2 suit TO bid be when NV vs. V? Al Roth invented the minor suit unusual NT bid, but he was vague when discussing strength, probably because he realized that if he advocated a large range e.g (s. void, h. Axx, d. QJ9xx, c. 98xxx to s. x
h. Ax, d. KQJxx, c. KQ10xx) partner, when not having an obvious hand e.g. a couple of defensive tricks (likely a defensive trump trick (QJx) which the opponents did not expect to lose, along with one of the minors might take a phantom save (down 1 or 2 but being able to defeat the opponents), against a very weak hand, but one which lent itself to great offensive potential.

On today’s hand EW can make 6 diamonds easily enough by establishing a 5th club in order to discard his losing heart, and yet by West not tossing in his gauntlet of 2NT at his 1st opportunity endangered creating an enormous swing against his partnership.

While I do believe that East should risk an early 2NT TO (for the 2 lowest unbid suits) I am against balancing with a 4 NT effort at his 2nd turn when partner was all set to use his defensive values (at least one trump trick) plus what would turn out to be other positive defensive values, but late action by partner came to the opponent’s rescue and, at a time in which they then knew what to do.

In reflection Leo Tolstoy’s great quote about time and patience may apply about many things including war, but, at least in some instances in bridge, are better off doing early while battling in bridge, before the opponents have exchanged enough information to use better judgment later on (in the bidding).

A simple rule to follow is that distributional hands, sometimes very valuable on offense, should be bid immediately with partner on the alert to not expect much (or anything) on defense. Will that theory work all the time? Am I kidding, of course, NO, but is it percentage? I do not know for sure, but my experience tells me YES.

An unseen disadvantage to what I just suggested is that if we do not succeed to being declarer (the opponents outbid us), be prepared for declarer to play the hand to his utmost advantage (at least against very good players).

Summing up, yes bid immediately, do not bid for the first time belatedly (a tactic which I consider vastly overrated), but be prepared emotionally to die with one’s boots on.

bobbywolffJanuary 15th, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Hi Iain & Shantanu,

I apologize for creating confusion by saying in the middle of the above that East rather than, should be, West, bid immediately.

I’ll try and have it corrected by our guru, miles away, but who no doubt at this time is fast asleep.

Shantanu RastogiJanuary 15th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Hello Mr Wolff

I’m not too sure (havent analysed fully) but can one make 6 Diamonds on diamond lead and continutaion ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobbywolffJanuary 15th, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Yes you can. You wind up ruffing 2 clubs in hand (establishing the 5th club) while ruffing 3 spades in dummy. You then return to hand with a high heart and draw the last trump, discarding a losing heart in dummy, leaving only the ace of heart and a good club in dummy for tricks 12 and 13. The great internal diamond spots ease your path to success.

On another issue, while I was writing my original post, Jim2 was also showing how to make 12 tricks in diamonds and you were properly bemoaning the idea of not getting into the auction with a distributional hand, while telling all of us what happened to you in Mumbai when your bold bidding enabled a big swing in your favor.

An advantage to the internet, not present when bridge players get together, is that we do not have to deal with the noise generated by the cross discussion.

Of course, the downside, as was here, is that certain descriptions are duplicated. Life is certainly not perfect, but still possibly better than the alternative.

Iain ClimieJanuary 15th, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Hi Bobby, Jim2 and Shantanu,

Many thanks for a really good day’s discussion, but spare a thought for east if west is cautious. Pass, dbl and even (especially?) bidding could all go horribly wrong. If west is a bit braver, it eases some pressure.


bobbywolffJanuary 15th, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Hi Iain,


You may have said it all, and may make closet conservatives, at the very least, a tad more aggressive.

IMO, players who have gotten out of line before, may, after a less than optimum result, have then been verbally abused by their partners, which, in turn, has resulted in their partners turning off the spigot.

If so, all bridge players should now be aware of the importance of becoming good compassionate partners, through thick and thin, if they want to get the most from the human who sits opposite him.