Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

But far more numerous was the herd of such
Who think too little and who talk too much.

John Dryden

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


In today's deal, West may be strong but his honors are not put together well. While he has a maximum for a bid of two diamonds, a two-level overcall should show a decent hand. When the auction gets back to him at four spades, it would be very dangerous to act again.

Having said that, East has the right shape if not the high cards to consider bidding four no-trump over four spades to show the unbid suits.

Assuming West leads the diamond king against four spades, many declarers will put up the ace. East will ruff, and play a club through for a quick one down. South will claim to be unlucky, and probably no one will say anything more (unless North is the pedantic sort). However, a nitpicker in the North seat will tell declarer that it was ‘obvious’ that diamonds were 6-0; and even if they were not, what harm could it do to duck the first trick? Even if East had a diamond all along, with West on lead at the end of trick one, the best he can do is cash the club ace before dummy’s clubs go away.

Is that all there is to it? Not at all! East might leap to South’s defense and tell North that it would not have done declarer any good to duck the first trick, since East was planning to ruff his partner’s winner and find the club shift. After that, no one should have anything more to say.

You are far too good to pass now, but you do have a choice of calls. The question is whether to bid no-trump yourself (and if so, at which level), or to cue-bid three clubs and then follow up with a call of three no-trump to express doubt. Since three no-trump will surely play better from your partner's hand, I'd go for the cue-bid.


♠ A J 6 5 4
 A K J 3
♣ K 5 2
South West North East
1♠ Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 2♠ 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 GiurgeuJune 5th, 2014 at 11:14 am

On BWTA, let’s say North has an invitational hand in supoort of spades. With West’s pass, is it better for North to show it by cue-bidding 3C or by jump-raising to 3S? I guess my question is more about the efficiency of the jump raise as a preemptive bid in this situation.

bobby wolffJune 5th, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Hi Mircea,

With the BWTA, I am glad you brought up this subject.

1. Defensive overcalling (DO) is not the same as opening the bidding (OB) and responding.

2. The major difference is that DO’s are limit bidders, since even change of suits, such as the 2 diamond response is (or should be) NF.
An example: Kx, xx, KQ108xx, Jxx. South, the overcaller, should try 2 hearts, in case there is a fit: K, Qxxx, KQ108xx, Jx, but after a return to 2 spades (very likely only a doubleton) it perhaps becomes an overbid to bid again.

3. DO’s should only be in search of finding fits (8 cards between them) and lacking that should seek safe harbors with low level contracts. After all, once an OB has been made, the bidding, will almost always mean that your side is unlikely to have a game, unless a fit is definitely established or a key stopper has been found, enabling a solid long suit (DO) to run for daylight with the first 9 tricks in NT. Therefore if the partner of the DO has Kxx, xx, KQ109xx, Jx he should either raise spades immediately (my choice), or if he did venture 2 diamonds, then jump in spades (not just a simple preference when partner rebids 2 hearts since the mere preference reeks of only 2 card support.

4. Do not worry about gadgets such as jump raises, but rather negative inferences present when a NF change of suit prevents partner from showing his primary support. Sure weak jump raises can be played, but other bids do not lose their negative inferences either.

Thanks for asking, since the above is important in the cauldron of correct technical bidding (not played nor probably properly understood by the casual player who often is led to believe that when opening the bidding, with the normal approach forcing principles, as against DO is relatively the same when, of course, it is very different.

angelo romanoJune 5th, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Hi Bobby, is four no-trump over four spades showing the unbid suits for sure ? Couldn’t be “choose between 5D or 6D” or “big clubs with diamond tolerance” or even RKCB ? Can one imagine a choice between unbid suits at the 5 level ?

As to the play, when declarer ducks the DK I’d never imagine he can have one diamond, so I’d never ruff it expecting to win; but if West has spades QJ and not the actual holding, ruffing with the S8 promotes a trump!

bobby wolffJune 5th, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Hi Angelo,

If East ventures 4NT over his RHO’s 4 spades it, in the absence of that partnership’s discussions, a very mysterious bid.

Since there could be different meanings according to need in any one specific hand. It is possible that all East needs to know about is number of aces in order to decide on how many (usually partner’s suit) e.g x, AKxxxx AJxxx, x, with partner holding either 0, 1, or 2 all possible. He also may have: void, Kxx, Jxx, AQJ9xxx and as you suggest, emphasizes clubs but also allows partner, in the absence of club acceptance, to know that you have, at least, partial support in diamonds.

Regarding your suggestion of the two unbid suits, that option doesn’t have any appeal for me, since it is unlikely that those 2 suits will have many high cards in them (witness all three players before your turn have spoken), so that, while once in a while being a bell ringer, is off my charts as a possibility.

Angelo, it is a question of frequency which should determine what to play and frequency is determined, not by great card technicians, but rather by very experienced good players who have been there, done that.

It may be something like the proverbial Ponce de Leon discovering the “Fountain of Youth”, but the question then remains, what does one do with such knowledge and what bad happens later?

Although you didn’t ask my opinion, I think one of the first two options noted above should be the partnership choice.

Herreman BobJune 25th, 2014 at 4:53 pm

… East could ruff his Partner’s Diamond King….