Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

My true love hath my heart, and I have his,
By just exchange, one for the other given.

Sir Philip Sidney

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


At the 1999 World Junior championships, held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Italy dominated the qualifying round, with USAII and Denmark following closely behind. Norway and Israel were the only other contenders for the fourth qualifying place. The match between Israel and USAII appeared to have sunk the latter's chances, with Chris Willenken finding a nice play to pick up a game swing.

Both tables declared three no-trump after East had opened one club, but both Wests led a heart rather than a club. The Israeli declarer tried to maximize his chances in hearts. He ducked in dummy, won the lead cheaply in hand, then used the spade ace to cross to dummy to finesse diamonds. He could set up his long suit, but East could win his diamond king and establish the hearts, with plenty of ways to regain the lead. He still had a heart left to reach his partner, and set the hand one trick.

By contrast, at his table Chris Willenken focused correctly on the problem of entries to dummy; he was prepared to sacrifice the slim chance of an extra heart trick to increase his chances of getting to dummy twice and taking two diamond finesses. He put up the heart queen at the first trick, and when it held, he remained in dummy and thus had two entries to dummy to play on diamonds and take five tricks from the suit. That was enough for the contract.

Facing a reverse, we traditionally used to play a rebid of your suit as nonforcing and weak. The modern style is better; it uses a rebid of two spades as forcing for one round, and raises of partner's suit or preference to it as forcing. With a weak hand one agrees to play either two no-trump or fourth suit as artificial, fewer than eight HCP without five cards in your first suit. So a call of two spades here is just fine.


♠ A J 10 5 3
 Q 9 8
 8 5 4
♣ 10 8
South West North East
1 Pass
1♠ 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


Patrick CheuSeptember 2nd, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Hi Bobby,re BWTA, two spades here would be five spades and at least 7+? Could it be five spades and 5-8? Three diamonds?Seems your way is opposite to how I would play…2NT not forcing and 3D weak 5-8..4th suit GF..I am all ears..and not modern..regards~Patrick.

jim2September 2nd, 2014 at 2:11 pm

A club lead sure seems to make it tough to get nine tricks.

Patrick CheuSeptember 2nd, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Hi Jim2,On a club lead,declarer ducks K or QC,and if heart switch,goes up with AH,plays out AD and QD and upon winning the KD if East plays another Heart declarer has two hearts,four diamonds,one spade and two clubs(c finesse).If East plays a second club,on the second trick,declarer wins with the jack,and plays QD,forcing East to win the KD,for if Declarer plays out AD and QD and East wins the third diamond with KD and switches to KS,even if declarer ducks,East can switch back to Hearts,and West still has the fourth club for one off,no squeeze on West..U R right Jim,a club lead is more of a ‘poser’…ha ha.Regards~Patrick.

Patrick CheuSeptember 2nd, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Hi Jim2,correction,on a Heart switch after club duck on trick one,best to play QD not AD,to retain communication,loses if 10xxxD in West…

bobby wolffSeptember 2nd, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Hi Patrick,

We need to have you star in a new bridge movie, entitled “Thoroughly Modern Patrick”.

Over the last period of time, reverse bidding, and its many nuances, has produced the most inconsistent, scrambled and therefore troubled agreements among high-level bridge partners.

It therefore is worth clarifying what methods, thought to be, at least, possibilities to cover, or to consider, the widest range of hand types.

If a rebid of 2NT is played as one of the weak responses, a significant disadvantage then becomes the possibility (probability) of wrong siding that final contact (whether eventually playing either 2 or 3 NT). Therefore the trend has gone away from that and onto the 4th suit (weakness) wherein, since that suit will almost never be trump, will allow NT to be played from the right side.

Yes, to do so, will present a different heretofore consistent procedure of having an unbid suit always GF and unlimited, but the reason for doing so becomes apparent. I am not demanding you to do such a thing, but only giving you the reason why that other chicks in the barnyard are acquiescing.

The other contentious caveat has to do with the responder (on his second bid and response to a reverse by partner) returns to 3 of his minor or to 3 hearts after the strong hand has reversed into spades after opening in hearts. That should be played as forcing, therefore enabling responder to be unlimited by doing so that the eventual trump suit can then be established, enabling fluidity to flourish between the partners.

With that as a backdrop, the specific meanings of all the bids can then be worked out without too much rancor. I also prefer a rebid by responder of his major should also be a one round force, in order for the strong opener with 3 card support (an often held holding) to then, after now supporting, also establish that suit as trump for possible slam invitational sequences. e.g AJx, AKxx, AQxxx, x with 1D P
1S P 2H P 2S P 4C (splinter) or with AJx, AKx, AQ10xx, xx only 3S raise (but note the artificial forcing reverse with only 3 hearts) since that would likely be the expert choice. However, holding the AQJxx of diamonds and the same other 12 cards perhaps a jump to 4S would be more appropriate.

Yes, it is probably just that close.

If the above strikes you as just too much to remember, then I suggest you construct your methods around what you have been playing, but take the time, with your favorite partner, to discuss at least some of the details.

Good luck!

bobby wolffSeptember 2nd, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since while I was attempting to intelligently answer Patrick about reverse bidding, he has taken on the responsibility to answer your statement about a club lead making it very tough on declarer while playing 3NT.

I prefer to referee that discussion since there appears to be many variations. Experience had tended to warn me that you are always well prepared to back up your laid back suggestions. However, the referee is required to eventually name a winner in this game within a game, so I will adhere to that, but not at this very moment.

Patrick CheuSeptember 2nd, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Hi Bobby,thanks for elevating me to a movie star,even only for a few dreamy seconds one might…let’s not..if responder returns to 3H,presumably that can be 3carder?1D-1S,2H-3H?

jim2September 2nd, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Patrick Cheu –

There are lots of permutations, as you noted. For example, in your first sequence:

– KC ducked
– H switch to AH
– AD, QD
– JD won by KD

East could shift to KS instead of a second H. Declarer may not get that second heart.

At trick 2, if East leads QC declarer must not let go of the AD (as you noted). When East is in with the KD, East can now lead a third club to set up West’s 9C before West has expended the KH. Alternatively, East could lead the KS before KH is knocked out and, if declarer ducks, shift to the third club.

When I posted earlier, I had worked these and some other variations but quit when my head began to hurt.

jim2September 2nd, 2014 at 6:53 pm

By the way, the card that convinced me to quit was North’s 8D …

Patrick CheuSeptember 2nd, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Hi Jim2, Thanks for your response, QD first maintains a fluid position,not AD..this forces East to take second diamond and not the third round.If now East switches to the KS,declarer can duck one round! East cannot play a second spade so back to square one of heart or club.Cos declarer still has the diamond entry.Hence my earlier correction of playing QD first not the AD at once, the former only losing to 10xxx-KD split.No headache please, Jim,not on my account!:)

jim2September 2nd, 2014 at 8:12 pm

I did not say impossible, simply tough.

I think you said:

– KC (ducked)
– KS (ducked)
– QC – AC
– QD then JD if ducked

or its transpose:

– KC ducked
– QC to AC
– QD the JD to KD
– KS ducked


Patrick CheuSeptember 2nd, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Hi Jim,after KC duck,understood your sequence to be heart switch,AH wins now QD,and JD..and East wins KD,and if KS then declarer ducks.If you switch to KS on T2,declarer must win AS and play club to JC and transpose back to QD and JD…my comment as regards KS duck is based on your second transposition…not the first.Playing the Q and JD is the key to the whole hand if a club is led..I stand to be corrected by our host.

jim2September 3rd, 2014 at 12:04 am

I was working with Trick #2 non-H returns first.

Nonetheless, I think you just said:

– KC ducked
– KS to AS
– 10C to KC to AC
– QD then JD to KD

Now what if East

– 7C to JC

Declarer has 1S + 1H + 4D + 2C = 8

Defense has taken 1C + 1D but has KS and 9C ready to cash and the KH in the wings.

Patrick CheuSeptember 3rd, 2014 at 12:20 am

Hi Jim,What I meant was after AS,JC, then JH from declarer followed by Q n JD,need second heart trick for 9trks,should have made that clearer..If West ducks JH,declarer transposes back to diamond play,and if West wins the KH and play back a spade or club or heart then declarer can use East as the ‘stepping stone’ to dummy for his 9 trick later,I stand to be corrected…

jim2September 3rd, 2014 at 12:35 am

Playing the JH like that is a different line, just as not ducking the KS was. See why my head started hurting?


How would you play if East continues with the other club honor at Trick #2?

Patrick CheuSeptember 3rd, 2014 at 1:02 am

Hi Jim2, another point here if West wins the JH with kH and plays back a club,declarer wins the third club trick, and now must play AH,followed by the Nine of spades!or else East can win KD and exit in diamonds,declarer still has losing clubs!After QS East cannot play hearts(9 trk) or spades (9 trk),and if a diamond, declarer wins QD and plays AD and d to KD a la stepping stone. As to club on T2 see my first head hurts too,join the club Jim.:)

jim2September 3rd, 2014 at 2:23 am

Back when I made my first comment, I thought I could find lines to make 9 tricks, but some were quite odd, contrived, and double-dummy.

For example, if East continues clubs at Trick #2, declarer seems to prevail by leading the JH!

Between that and the 8D as a late board entry, I stopped and reached for the ibu

Patrick CheuSeptember 3rd, 2014 at 8:17 am

Hi Jim2,before I went to bed this morning after my last post at 1.02am,I did realize that the seemingly counter intuitive play of JH was the answer if a club was returned at T2,but by then…life’s other gift of sleep took hold…thanks for pushing the boundary on this hand..:0)

jim2September 3rd, 2014 at 12:46 pm