Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing.

Duke Ellington

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


Although this was a flat board from the 2009 European championship, it was certainly not dull.

In our featured room North should surely have heeded the warning signs of West’s sequence of bids, which surely suggested fair values with a heart stack. But in three hearts doubled, neither the play nor the defense was sparkling. West led the club ace and switched to a diamond to East’s ace. Declarer won the diamond return and played the spade jack to the king and ace. He now cashed the spade queen and ruffed a spade with the seven. West overruffed and declarer had to go two down, for minus 500.

Declarer should have ruffed the third spade high. Say West discards a club; now declarer ruffs a club and plays a winning spade, discarding his last diamond. West can trump, and play a diamond, but declarer ruffs and plays his last club to escape for one down.

In the other room the English defended two hearts doubled, and David Gold showed how the hand should be defended. He led a trump at trick one, and declarer won with the four in his hand (a rare event!) and played the club jack. West carefully went up with the ace and switched to the heart queen, his third good play. This was the only sequence of plays to ensure the defeat of two hearts, though in practice when declarer lost his way, he managed to go two down. No swing!

Facing a passed partner I would jump to three clubs to make my opponents' task of finding a fit more difficult. Somebody has quite a lot of hearts, and since my partner has already passed, I'm guessing it is West. Whether he will be happy to find a heart contract is more difficult to predict.


♠ 10 9 8
 A J 10 2
♣ K Q 10 9 8 6
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


Michael BeyroutiApril 16th, 2014 at 10:32 am

Dear Mr Wolff,
do you advise for or against opening 3C with the BWTA hand in second position vulnerable against not? I had this hand Monday night at duplicate and opened 3C. My lho bid 3H, passed out. My partner had a diamond stack and a few points. She said she didn’t act because of my preempt. We got a zero. Sure he went down one, but all other N/S pairs were in a diamond partscore making 4 or 5.

Michael BeyroutiApril 16th, 2014 at 10:46 am

Sorry, I should have specified that my diamonds were KJxx. My partner had six to the A-Q. I do not remember the rest of her hand.

bobby wolffApril 16th, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Hi Michael,

1. I am a great believer of making life difficult for good (especially very good) players, by preempting (taking everyone’s bidding room available) since, in some way, I am a cynic about just how good (even at the top level) generally honest real experts can play, when they have to guess at relatively high levels without having a “free run” at the lower levels.

2. However, with the conditions you named, unfavorable vulnerability and after RHO has passed, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to preempt with a hand similar to the BWTA hand since one of the opponents has already limited his hand, making it likely that your side will eventually name trump. After all, bridge is still a game of percentages and if you figure to have as good or better a hand than your RHO then the hand will more often belong to your side rather than to the opponents.

3. Consequently I would open only 1 club and await developments and, on this hand, if our partnership bidding is good we should, like your explanation, reach a diamond part score and get a better than average board.

4. I have no qualms about opening less than ideal hands at the three level, because of the hoped for likelihood of disrupting opponents, but when the conditions are like they were with you, the percentage of success goes down by doing so.

5. I hope I am giving good advice and perhaps I am unjustly influenced (biased) by the result, but I think the logic discussed is valid and should normally be applied.

6. Good question, possibly an educational opportunity, but in any event we all learn (and get better) with the exchange of bridge logic, together with real life examples, so thanks for your question, if, for no other reason, than others may read what has been said and find an application for the concept.

Michael BeyroutiApril 16th, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Thank you for your answer. I should have signed: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and let you choose one! Now I know…