Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 1st, 2014

There will be … time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate.

T.S. Eliot

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


Today's hand comes from Ulrich Auhagen of Germany; you can treat it as a problem by covering up the East and West hands. It is a play challenge in six spades, after East has opened with a weak two hearts, and South has made a strong jump overcall of three spades.

With an inevitable trump loser, you seem to need to find a squeeze on West. And since East partly controls clubs, you have to find a way to isolate the club menace in West — no easy task.

The secret is that after taking dummy’s top hearts, pitching a club, you must ruff a heart back to hand immediately, then cash the spade ace and king. Now take the club ace, finesse the diamond, and ruff a club to hand before exiting with a spade. Those of you who play chess may see some resemblance to a helpmate. The point is that West now has the choice of immediate concession by playing a diamond or, even more painfully, isolating the menace against himself by playing a club, so that he becomes the only player to guard clubs. This means that he will be squeezed in the minors at trick 11 when the last trump is led.

The key to the hand is to ruff dummy’s heart at once; if you delay, the timing is wrong. West can exit with a third heart on winning his trump trick, and you can no longer isolate the club menace, so East will keep clubs and West diamonds.

Whatever your opinion is on the right minor suit to open with 4-4 in the minors in third seat (everyone has an opinion, but nobody agrees with anyone else), it is almost unarguable that you should bid the suit you most want partner to lead. Here, opening one diamond is sensible; bidding one club is masochistic, since if partner leads away from a club honor, he rates to lose your side a trick.


♠ 9 8
 A K 5
 A Q 4 3
♣ 10 7 6 4
South West North East
Pass 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


Mircea Giurgeu, Kitchener ONMay 15th, 2014 at 10:39 am

Great hand (main article) although it seems to me that it belongs more to Geza Ottlik’s Adventures în Card Play than real life. I could be wrong but the the newly discovered Theory of Card Migration makes me think I’m not.

Anyway, my question is about BWTA. Am I to understand that if the minor suits are reversed I should open 1C in 3rd?

Bobby WolffMay 15th, 2014 at 11:17 am

Hi Mircea,

Yes, Geza’s Adventure in Card Play did offer similar hands, often giving the defense a Hobson’s choice of how they allow the declarer to make the contract. Jim2’s unique creative disease, TOCM, does give pause for thought by emphasizing the importance of taking pains
to secure the contract, while always fearing the worst.

Yes, I am suggesting that partner’s opening lead is often very important in getting the defense (God forbid that we cannot buy all contracts) off to the right start. All that is given up is what usually does not happen, the rebidding of the other minor (this time with only 4-4 and a minimum opening bid opposite a passed hand). It is also worthy of note however, that sometimes opening one’s weakest suit does also get the opponents off to the wrong start when our side winds up playing the hand.

So one sometimes has to give a little to get, but what else is both true in life as well as in bridge, and who has the foresight in bridge to know what is going to happen after your hand chooses what suit to open? I know, I do not.

jim2May 15th, 2014 at 11:59 am

That’s a tough hand. I might make it inadvertently, but not by knowledge of technique. (And I won’t even talk about how at my table East would have seven hearts instead of six … with spades 2 – 2 all along ….)

On BWTA, would you raise a 1H response to two? Would you bid 1N over 1S? Pass 1NT? What about after a 2C response?

Bobby WolffMay 15th, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Hi Jim2,

You not only have to deal with TOCM tm, but you are condemned to playing against opponents who lead low from doubletons without announcing it. That is what is costing you bridge glory, living through your malady being common knowledge and the opponents jumping to take advantage of it. You definitely deserve better!

With the BWTA, I would like to pass 1 heart (since most of my partnerships, through the years, have opened fairly light, allowing our side to sometimes play at lower levels than others, and not tempting each other to get to the dreaded three level, seriously jeopardizing our plus score). However, against aggressive opponents, I would raise to 2 hearts, hoping partner will pass close hands.

I would rebid 1NT over 1 spade, because of my doubleton, but if I was 3-3-4-3 I would pass. I would certainly pass 1NT and not give any consideration to 2 clubs (1NT by partner over my 1 diamond, especially after passing, but almost anytime, can have a 4 card major suit but one which looks NTish (balanced and quacks).

Again over 2 clubs, since my side opens light, I would pass that also, knowing most would raise to 3 clubs, which only advantage would be that when I do raise, partner can expect a little extra. My partnerships try to understand that passing close to opening bids is not our style, since it is just too dangerous to pass close openings since, especially when playing against excellent players, it too often, once having passed , when it gets around to you next time the level of bidding has gotten at least one level too high to chance coming in, (the opposite of what Roth-Stone used to claim).