Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 7th, 2014

It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.

John Wooden

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

*Spades and hearts

**Diamonds, GF


The swing that arose in today's deal resulted from one team's aggression in both rooms. At one table South opened two no-trump with very little excuse, and North bounced to six diamonds. East closed his eyes and guessed to lead a spade, giving declarer a discard for his heart loser. But when he played the trump suit in normal fashion, he had to go down a trick.

In the other room West stretched to show his two-suiter, and got his opponents to slam the correct way up. Worse was to follow from his perspective since he had a horrible lead problem. It is rarely correct to lead an ace against six no-trump. But eventually West started with ace and another spade, which turned out to do no serious harm, declarer winning in hand as East gave count.

West’s two-suited bid had given declarer a very good idea of his general shape. He knew 10 of that player’s cards, but what was his minor-suit pattern? Declarer set out to find out more, cashing two rounds of clubs ending in dummy. When West followed suit, declarer knew 12 of West’s 13 cards, and it was now a 4-1 shot that he had a singleton small diamond rather than the bare jack. Accordingly, declarer ran the diamond 10 next. When it held, he unblocked the diamonds, crossed to the club king, and ran the diamond suit. He took tricks 12 and 13 with his heart and club winners.

With the cards apparently lying badly for declarer, you might elect to go passive here with a club lead. I am not convinced about this. My instincts are to try to set up or cash diamond winners for our side before they go away on the clubs, one way or another.


♠ K 7
 Q 10 3
 K 9 6 4
♣ 10 9 6 4
South West North East
Pass 1 NT Pass 3
Pass 3♠ Pass 3 NT
All 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 ClimieApril 21st, 2014 at 9:54 am

Hi Bobby,

The ghost of Terence Reese will be saying “I told you so” here, as he was a great critic of weak two suited overcalls. To be fair, I agree with you that bridge is a bidders’ game and the nuisance value of such bids, and their ability to find cheap saves, exceeds their losses especially at pairs. Once in a while, though, they rebound horribly as here.



Michael BeyroutiApril 21st, 2014 at 10:18 am

Dear Mr Wolff,
I think the final contract in LWTA must be four of a major. Otherwise, South is about to lead out of turn against 3NT declared by West!

Iain ClimieApril 21st, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Hi Michael, Bobby,

On LWTA, imagine the quoted hand is North so now cards lie well for declarer. Presumably the attacking diamond lead is now even more tempting.


bobby wolffApril 21st, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Hi Iain and Michael,

Yes Iain, you bring up an interesting bridge point which Terence Reese, during his dominance, often espoused against the use of weak defensive distributional hands claiming that they often allowed the declarer to score up his contracts because of the “tells” in the bidding.

In order to assess that complaint one must also realize that by interrupting the communications of the much stronger side, it sometimes either leads to good sacrifice bidding (and in rare occasions) even making a high-level contract, but even more likely to destroy a free ride by their opponents and preempting their bidding space, often causing them to miss judge their final resting spot.

No real concrete answer to who is right and who is wrong, but my vote again is cast in favor of being aggressive defensively, instead of wimpy, especially today when high-level partnerships, if left in an unobstructed auction, are much more likely to get to the best contract than they were 50 years ago.

On the other subject Michael, my significant gaffe of South, instead of North, being on opening lead now, similar to what Convention Disruption (either not knowing or forgetting the meaning of a bidding convention) does at the table, renders bridge to have stopped and no alternative solution for their opponents to be able to save the bridge on that hand, almost always resulting in what could be called a “train wreck”.

I apologize for committing such a thing and appreciate being informed as well as agreeing with Iain’s comment about the opening lead, assuming it was North, since now the hand looks like it is breaking well for declarer, so aggressive leading is usually the better choice for taking more defensive tricks.

At least, we can salvage some knowledge from my inexcusable mistake and my thanks to both of you.

Mircea GiurgeuApril 21st, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

I would really appreciate your comments on how to bid this hand at teams, both red. North is the dealer. Opponents are silent except East doubles if North makes a control bid in clubs.



Mircea Giurgeu
Kitchener, ON

bobby wolffApril 21st, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Hi Mircea,

How about: North South
1 D 1 H
2 NT 3 H
4 C (Big Raise) 4 D (Cue)
4 S (Cue) 5 C (Cue)
5 D (Cue) 5 S (GS Cue)
5 NT (GS Try) 7 H (Accept)
Pass except at pairs, perhaps consider 7NT.

Many sequences would get there and not to would be a probable disaster against a good team. East’s double of North’s first cue bid in clubs makes it easier for the club void to bid 7 since it would tell him that there will not be much wastage in clubs.

Jeff SApril 21st, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Mircea’s bidding problem is an interesting one. It seems that, oddly, S might find himself in a better position that his partner to judge 7NT. Using Bobby’s bidding sequence, after 4C doubled by East, can South with his club void, take control with 4NT? Or would that have a different meaning in this sequence?

It seems that once South is in possession of the fascinating intelligence that his partner has not only the three missing key cards, but the QH as well, he need worry only about his three spade losers. One will go away on the AC, a second most likely on a black K as it seems hard to build a N hand that does not have at least one black K (and nothing says S can’t just ask on his next bid). That just leaves one loser that can go away in a variety of ways with little or no risk.

Maybe it is sheer fantasy, but what fun it would be to bid 7NT with a void!

bobby wolffApril 21st, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Your letter proves beyond any doubt, that you are, indeed, a real bridge lover.

Actually North, by his 4 club advance (cue bid and a big raise) would show 3 hearts, probably the queen but at least Kxx which, barring Qxx offside (a very small percentage) would solidify trump. As you adequately discuss, that the 13th trick can come from many sources, especially since East wanted a club lead, partner will have his strength where it will likely be useful.

Never forget, as some sometimes do, that nothing in bridge is foolproof and though playing the game for well over 60 years, it still provides surprises not remotely expected, so all we can practically do is make percentage bids and plays (at least in our opinion).

I loved your last line about the “fun” it would be to bid and make 7NT easily. Finding a partner who thinks and feels about the game as you do, sometimes takes experimentation and, of course, time, but when it occurs, that bonding will last a long time and bring plenty of joy.

It is not usually an option to bid regular (or KC) BW while holding a void, but you might convince me that after the double of 4 clubs it becomes the right action, especially if playing matchpoints and therefore, NT becomes a consideration.

Your love of the game will allow the above to happen, if, and when, you are ready for it.

jim2April 21st, 2014 at 11:03 pm

In the offered bidding sequence for Mircea’s hand, that 3H call troubles me. Is it even forcing?

As an alternative, what would 4C mean? I might bid it, expecting it to mean extra heart length and short clubs (self splinter facing 2 or 3 hearts in support). Thus:

1D – 1H
2N – 4C
4D – and off to GS

bobby wolffApril 22nd, 2014 at 12:32 am

Hi Jim2,

When asked to bid a hand, I need to assume that the partnership is playing what I think are standard bidding procedures and, in this case, most experienced pairs (not playing Acol) have ways to sign off after a strong 2NT bid (often a jump as in the suggested sequence), and Wolff Sign-off, 3 clubs instead would demand a 3 diamond response and then a 3 heart continuation would require partner to pass. There are of course other ways to effect the same thing, but only in Acol would a partnership consider 3 hearts not to be forcing.

Then when the 2NT bidder does not either raise to 4 hearts or prefer 3NT (both standard type rebids, usually depending on whether opener has 2 or 3 hearts) when opener then bids 4 clubs it should (and is) regarded as a cue bid and a stronger bid than merely a simple raise to 4 hearts. Remember the 2NT rebid has denied a singleton somewhere and somewhere between 17+-19 HCP’s.

Your proposed start could also get the job done, but I tried to add more of the current type of bidding wherein the earlier bids are (at least supposedly) slightly better defined.

Slam bidding, a marked American weakness 40+ years ago, has since improved and science has entered the building which a top partnership must encompass or not expect to match up equally with the best world partnerships around.

Finally, I originally came from the same bridge school you learned from, but, at least around the world, slam bidding has improved and is worth delving into.

Mircea GiurgeuApril 27th, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Mr. Wolff,

I apologize for not thanking you and your fellow commentators Jeff and Jim sooner for your help. All your comments and insights are very helpful and highly appreciated.

At the table we failed to bid the grand and consequently lost the match by a few IMPs (at the other table they also didn’t bid it but they had us for a few overtricks on the remaining boards).

Me and my partner are much smaller caliber players but eager to improve, so I’m not embarrassed to ask here where would I find the best resource for learning as much as possible about your Sing-off convention? I’ve doing a bit of google-ing around but couldn’t come up with anything satisfactory. Do you have a book or some other material that would explain it in greater detail? In my opinion they key bid in your sequence allowing 7H to be reached relatively easily is 4C (as well as West’s double)

Please let me know.