Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 16th, 2014

One must be something to be able to do something.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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


**Takeout; hearts and a minor


Today's deal from the match between Sweden and Italy in the Yeh Bros. Cup shows both sides using unconventional bidding methods. Antonio Sementa's double of the spade-showing one-heart call showed hearts and a minor. Had he simply held hearts, he would have bid two hearts. His partner Giorgio Duboin now drove to game, doubling for takeout at his next turn to speak, and then, when confident that he was facing short spades, forced his partner to pick a minor at the five-level.

Sementa received a spade lead against five diamonds, and took an uncharacteristically long time to play to trick two, seeing the problems with late entries to his own hand. Eventually, he led a trump to dummy to run the heart queen. West, Fredrik Nystrom, won and also took his time before playing ace and another diamond.

Declarer won this in hand, passed the club jack, covered all around, finessed in hearts, then set up the hearts by ruffing with dummy’s last trump. Now he ruffed a spade back to hand, cashed his long heart, and finally took the second club finesse for his 11th trick. Even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer.

Yes, the cards did not lie unfavorably, but it was up to Sementa to take advantage of the position. In the other room South played four hearts on repeated spade leads, and the defenders could set up a force to defeat that contract.

The range for a call of one no-trump goes from 8-13 points, though you may upgrade a minimum opening bid to a call of two no-trump with a decent stopper and a source of tricks. This hand is emphatically one that you should not upgrade. You can see that it will prove hard to develop the spade suit, and your lack of intermediates argues for caution. One no-trump is more than enough.


♠ A
 A 10 7 5 4
 Q 8 6 5
♣ J 6 5
South West North East
1 1♠ 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 ClimieMay 30th, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Hi Bobby,

A stray thought on BWTA, although it would only apply at pairs with a tolerant partner and opposite players who routinely reopen – what about passing 1S. True, I look silly if partner has 15 or more, but marginal games opposite a slightly weaker hand may fail. LHO could easily place his partner with spade length (possibly true) and far more points so this lurk could result in a fair penalty (200, 300 or 500 opposite partner’s possible 11-12 pts) or even 1S xx with an overtick if RHO with spade length places his partner with some of my high cards. Is this worth a shot or just too eccentric?

I liked the Tuscany reference from Horatius (by McCaulay, I think) but that poem contains some bad advice for bridge. “For how can man die better than facing fearful odds for the houses of his fathers and the temples of his gods.”. A bad way to bet, no matter how brave!



bobby wolffMay 30th, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Hi Iain,

It has been a long time since I practiced remaining quiet and then pouncing. I remember doing it some, many years ago usually when after partner has opened, RHO then doubled and I had a good defensive hand (10+ with quick tricks and shortness in partner’s suit), but instead of redoubling I merely passed. Back then I was occasionally rewarded with the TO doubler raising his partner’s take out suit, thinking (because I passed) that his partner had a “little” something, e.g bad bridge. Therefore the size of their doubled contract increased by a trick, but as bridge bidding has improved, at least from my experience, these opportunities have lessened to the point of almost never.

Your suggestion, though with pretty good chances of working, apparently run a somewhat greater risk, since good players now open very light (10+) and would now quickly pass a possible reopening leaving our side to likely miss a game, which in today’s column BWTA, could easily happen when partner would choose to jump to 3NT or 4 spades or just even raise to 2NT, over our 1NT response, not to mention, on a lucky day, to rebid 2 hearts.

All of the above is not to say that your tactical pass will not work, but, in answer to your question it probably depends on the nature of the competition and how aggressive they are.

No doubt the game of bridge and its judgment have improved the world over with Europe currently showing the way because of its getting bridge into the school systems of many countries. The USA should envy them and follow suit, but that remains to be seen and, at least up to now, has not begun to happen, causing some of us to be disappointed in what to expect.

Horatius’ quote, though very brave and inspirational, is fortunately, as you comment, not meant for bridge but probably for wartime, allowing bridge players a longer life to enjoy our game.

However, sometimes losing at bridge, particularly at an important championship, can feel a lot like dying, but even worse in the respect that chances are, that, unlike dying, one will have to experience it all over again and again.

angelo romanoMay 31st, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Hi Bobby, which spade did East play on the lead ? Is it absolutely certain that S7 comes from Q 10 8 7 so he can play low? because if West can later continue spades, I think the hand becomes even harder, isn’t it ?

Bobby WolffMay 31st, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Hi Angelo,

I assume East played a low one since West being marked with 4 spades for his initial jump and, of course not underleading an ace, spades could have have been continued, after winning the heart king and still declarer would ruff, take the club finesse, then the heart finesse, and leads another low diamond which, I think, paralyses the defense.

Yes, I guess that by defending that way it would make it more difficult, but still the declarer would get home with the contract.

We just got the report which said that West continued with ace and another diamond, so space requirements required us to not waste words.

Thanks for keeping us on our toes and off yours.