Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 3rd, 2014

But with the morning cool repentance came.

Sir Walter Scott

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


The bridge columnist who originally reported this deal did so as a kind of mea culpa, airing his sin and hoping for forgiveness. Of course, I will not tell you who it was, but the deal does involve an interesting mistake — and have you noticed that is really the only sort of error that bridge experts make?

The deal, from the later stages of a world championship, featured matching mistakes. Against three spades, West led the club king and ace. When everyone followed, she continued with a third round of clubs. Had East discarded a diamond on this trick, South would have been doomed, but instead she ruffed with the six. This mistake was duplicated at almost every table where three spades was declared.

South overruffed with the eight and too quickly played a spade to dummy’s jack, after which she could not recover. It should have been obvious that the first spade lead needed to come from the dummy, but first she should have knocked out the diamond ace. Say West continues with a heart. Declarer wins in the dummy and now plays a spade to her king. If West follows, life is easy, but if she shows out, South is still in control. She cashes her other top diamond, ruffs a diamond with the jack, then takes the remaining high heart and ruffs a heart. Now declarer ruffs her last diamond with dummy’s spade 10, and East is powerless. Whatever she does, declarer must make two of the last three tricks.

To get both your suits into play, bid four no-trump now. This cannot be Blackwood facing a passed partner. Instead, it is an extension of the unusual no-trump, indicating 6-5 or 7-5 in the minors, letting partner pick where he wants to play.


♠ —
 6 4
 A J 10 7 3
♣ A K 9 7 5 4
South West North East
1♣ 1 Pass 4

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


jim2January 17th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

In BWTA, what should South bid with a holding that has the pointed suits switched?

bobbywolffJanuary 17th, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

Clearly and without fear of contradiction, 4 spades. To not bid one’s second suit is usually a serious error since finding a fit in one of two suits is very likely instead to only possible.

Add to that the likely possibility of having a double game swing against you and the error of omission only grows. Keep in mind that your partner could have a total Yarborough, only 5 little spades and 2 little clubs and your hand would probably be cold for 4 spades and the thought of passing is just way too dangerous, even if all it accomplished is pushing the opponents one higher and thus 1 down.

Bridge, as you and a few others know, (especially the high-level kind), doesn’t really go deep enough into the power of distribution, leaving it up to the experience of the player to learn and thus understand that as he goes along. My guess is that in an expert game playing IMPs that the result may be a push with both NS’s scoring up +790 and both EW’s merely shrugging their shoulders, implying falling for what most everyone else would also fall for. The reason being is that even with only 6-4 many NS’s would also chance 4 spades, but to not nearly as successful a result.

Of course, the above only emphasizes how serious a bridge disease TOCM tm really is, when you will only catch 3 or fewer spades and 2 or fewer clubs, making your adventure potentially disastrous.

Only kidding, but not 100%.

BryanJanuary 17th, 2014 at 5:58 pm

In the suggested line where declarer leads K diamonds after overruffing,
What happens if west leads a forth club and east pitches a diamond?

TedJanuary 17th, 2014 at 6:42 pm

In BWTA, had the opponents overcall been Spades rather than Hearts, would 4NT still show the minors, or would it show 2 places to play with longer Clubs?

bobbywolffJanuary 17th, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Hi Bryan,

Good question, but my perfunctory analysis (meaning it hasn’t been thoroughly checked out) suggests that if dummy now throws a diamond away and ruffs it in hand and then leads a top diamond he will (in the fullness of time) be able to ruff his remaining small diamond in dummy with an honor and get home simply because East has run out of cards to tap declarer, when in with the trump ace.

Please check it out and thanks for writing.

bobbywolffJanuary 17th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Hi Ted.

No, a 4NT bid after overcalling clubs specifically shows diamonds as a 2nd suit and even after a 2 club overcall, a raise of opponents major by his partner, followed by 2 passes, even then a 2NT balance shows usually 4-6 in diamonds and clubs which has shown over time to be more valuable (hence more frequent) than a natural NT bid inviting partner to raise to 3NT if he has an undisclosed trick (usually an ace, but could be a fitting club card or even what he hopes is a working king) e.g. Kx (in the suit the opponents have bid and raised, Ax, Jxx, AKQxxx.

In other words nix to that hand and yea to:
s. x, h. xx, AQ10x, AKxxxx.

To show the other major in that type of sequence it can (should) be done with a 4-6 hand which takes away the penalty meaning, but adds a possible other major contract in the mix.

Yes, high-level bridge needs much preliminary discussion between two talented bridge players who are attempting to form a 1st class partnership and no stone should be left unturned, a condition which unfortunately turns too many prospects down when having to consider.

bobbywolffJanuary 17th, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Hi Ted.

In that last example, please add a balancing double which shows the other major rather than a penalty oriented effort.

TedJanuary 17th, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thank you for the above. Very helpful.

The sequence I was intending to ask about is

1C 1S P 4S

Could this be used to show either Clubs and Diamonds or Clubs and Hearts? A 5D response would be pass or correct.

angelo romanoJanuary 17th, 2014 at 9:45 pm

How can East know that South hasn’t another club, and discarded CQ after seeing the J ? the 2NT could be with 5 clubs. I think West after AK shouldn’t continue clubs but switch to hearts

bobbywolffJanuary 18th, 2014 at 5:07 am

Hi Ted,

4NT should show clubs & diamonds, (likely 6-4) while double would show all three suits, but partner should pass the double with a non descript balanced hand.

Big danger to try and have 4NT show either diamonds or hearts since with -2-2 in the minors partner would always have to bid 5 clubs anyway and even with 2-2 (or 3 or 4) in the minors with 3 hearts he has to bid 5 clubs anyway, therefore rendering that method unplayable.

bobbywolffJanuary 18th, 2014 at 5:22 am

Hi Angelo,

East certainly cannot tell whether South has a club or not, but killing the potential discard could make the key difference since West has no way of knowing the 52 card layout, particularly what East has in trumps. A heart switch is unlikely to help, but there are holdings where killing the discard now is necessary such as declarer having 3 little hearts and one less diamond or two less diamonds and one more spade.

The construction of possible hands of both East and declarer and have them fit the bidding (and, of course, the cards played up to then) is sometimes critical to success and requires concentration. Here it seems right to now kill the club trick established since East’s trump holding will be shown up on the first trump lead, allowing declarer to more or less play double dummy from there. Also declarer saw East’s signal in clubs and will know what to do once he gets the lead.