Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

The signers of the Declaration of Independence had chutzpah. Don't ever aim your doubt at yourself. Laugh at yourself, but don't doubt yourself.

Alan Alda

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


The Yiddish word "chutzpah" has come into fairly common usage in the English language. It roughly translates as "cheek" — but that is does not quite do justice to its implications. The best illustration of chutzpah I know is that of a person who murders his father and his mother, then throws himself upon the mercy of the court as an orphan.

Today’s hand comes from the teams event at the 2012 Australian Gold Coast Congress, held in Surfers Paradise. In action was the Irish International pairing of Tom Hanlon and Hugh McGann.

After a bidding sequence in which South, Hanlon, bid hearts naturally, he came to rest in three no-trump. West led the diamond jack, which Hanlon won with dummy’s ace. If both minor suits broke 3-3, nine tricks would be there for the taking. But there is no more than a 15 percent chance of that happening. An alternative approach would be to try to build three spade tricks. But when in with the ace, surely West would find the heart switch.

Would you care to guess which card declarer called for from dummy at trick two? It was the heart king. East won, and not wishing to assist declarer in establishing heart tricks as it appeared he was angling to do — after all, South had bid the suit — shifted to a club. South won, then played on spades. On taking the ace, West continued with clubs — and Hanlon had his nine tricks.

The simple answer is to make a take-out double rather than bidding two diamonds. Yes, your diamond suit is strong, but your hand is really worth only one call, with the heart king not pulling its weight. Best is to double and let partner describe his hand. If you bid two diamonds and the opponents raise hearts, you may feel obligated to bid again. That would be a lot of bidding here.


♠ Q J 10 4
 A K Q 8 5
♣ 9 8 5
South West North East
Pass 1

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


jim2March 5th, 2014 at 12:12 pm

In BWTA, will you pass a two clubs response?

Iain ClimieMarch 5th, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the play hand, what would you have led as west?



bobby wolffMarch 5th, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Hi Jim2,

Obviously if a pair is playing equal level conversion, e.g. bidding 2 diamonds over partner’s 2 club response, after first making a TO double, not showing extra values, it is probably the percentage action to bid it, but if not playing that treatment, we must pass 2 clubs and, at the very least, await developments.

FYI, I usually do play equal level conversion shows a better hand, so I would need to pass 2 clubs.

There are positives and negatives whichever method a partnership plays, so take your choice in judging what you want to play.

bobby wolffMarch 5th, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Hi Iain,

At the risk of being thought of as a result merchant, I think I would lead a heart, because of the J9 combination and, of course, the 5 card suit. The lead of the jack of diamonds does not appeal to me since it is very conservative and just assumes we do not want to give any tricks away and wait for our needed 5 tricks in order to survive.

I cannot say for sure what the chances are for one opening lead decision or the other, but the heart lead, at least to me, has a better chance to find partner with the right holding to make it work.

What is your choice? No doubt an unfair question, considering that I am looking at the whole hand. Declarer’s bold play of the king of hearts at trick 2 won the day, but I am not at all sure that it should.

Iain ClimieMarch 5th, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’d like to say I’d try a heart but my autopilot would probably be fingering the club 2. Definitely not a diamond although a spade is an outside bet if needing a swing at IMPs.


jim2March 5th, 2014 at 2:56 pm

In BWTA, would you also pass one notrump?

bobby wolffMarch 5th, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Hi Jim2,

If the 1st board of a long match, yes I would, since I think that is the percentage move.

However if I was behind later, I would bid at least 2NT and likely 3NT in hopes of a swing which may be determined by a poor opening lead and, of course, the all important layout of the rest of the hand. My bid, in no logical way, is made with the expectation of an easy make, just a way to be in a different more aggressive contract than our opponents, holding the same hands at the other table.

At least to me, tactics when good players play each other, is a full step more important than technical play.

What say you?

Bill CubleyMarch 5th, 2014 at 5:56 pm

“Money won is twice as good as money earned.” Paul Newman to Tom Cruise in The Color of Money, sequel to The Hustler.

Technical skill has its merits but nothing beats swindling the opponents to make or set a contract when it should go the other way.

By the way, are you ever going to publish my slam hand on April 1 or Halloween?

bobby wolffMarch 6th, 2014 at 1:55 am

Hi Bill,

My memory is failing me and I do not recall whether your hand is in the mix (next 4 or 5 months) or not.

To be safe, assuming the hand is instructional, please send it to me again and I’ll research it.

Sorry for the uncertainty, but that is the nature of my business, keeping in mind that quality of hand and presentation takes priority.

Again, sorry for no better news from me.