Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it's the only one we have.

Emile Chartier

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

*Artificial limit raise in spades


Counting is one of the most important exercises at bridge, but sometimes you have to combine the exercise with a fair amount of inference and conjecture. Inferences may be drawn from what the opponents have or have not bid.

The 1999 World Junior Teams were held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the semifinal match between Israel and Italy, a match won comfortably by the latter, the eventual tournament winners, both tables made four spades, but the Italian declarer, Antonio Mallardi, had the tougher task.

He had reached four spades after the Israeli East had the chance to double an artificial club call. On a club lead to the ace, East found the accurate switch to the diamond jack, threatening to set up a winner for the defenders in that suit. Declarer won the diamond in hand and drew two rounds of trump. Now it looks to be a blind guess as to how to play the hearts, but there were inferences from the fact that West had led a low club that he did not have two of the top three honors in that suit. Since East, a passed hand, apparently had six decent clubs to the ace and queen, plus the diamond jack, he had no room for the heart ace or he would have opened the bidding. So Mallardi led a heart to dummy’s king for his 10th trick.

In the other room East had pre-empted in first chair so the heart guess was considerably easier to work out.

Although you have only a nine-count, your fifth trump and your fit for partner's suit suggest you are just worth a game-try of two spades. This is a help-suit game-try, asking partner to bid game with a maximum or with a suitable spade-holding. Partner should assume you have length but not strength in spades. You are closer to a bid of four hearts than to a pass.


♠ J 8 7 2
 K J 7 6 5
 A 7 3
♣ 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


David WarheitSeptember 3rd, 2014 at 9:27 am

5C is a very good safe against 4S (down 2, -500). Seems like W should have bid 5C; what thinkest you?

Patrick CheuSeptember 3rd, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Hi Bobby,is there another bid for North’s hand other than 3C(artificial limit raise)?Does this bid show a singleton club?North’s heart suit could be useful,if South was slam minded and double fits came to light much earlier in the bidding,had South’s hand been different from the one above.Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffSeptember 3rd, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Hi David,

I thinkest not.

On this hand, it was determined by a successful guess in hearts, usually meaning that it was not much better than 50-50. However on this hand, another cogent reason for guessing it right, although not mentioned, was simply, would East have suggested leading a club if he had also possessed the heart ace?

Add to that the possibility that East did not nearly have the club length he suggested, perhaps only AQJx, but did not want to miss an opportunity to help his opening lead partner with his task. East was a passed hand, and although West did have some offensive values, were they enough to make the nine tricks he needed to make to offset the vulnerable game?

As an extra caveat, what about the possibility of NS’s diamonds being 4-2 instead of 3-3 meaning their game would be easier, but what about -800 for EW on a diamond ruff.

Sacrifices are very much a part of winning at bridge, but to take them IMO, needs much more evidence of their viability than does this hand.

Thanks for your thought, which, no doubt will occur to other duplicate lovers, which in turn leads to important discussions on how to decide these everyday bridge problems

bobby wolffSeptember 3rd, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Hi Patrick,

Every partnership needs to have a major suit limit raise available which features 4 trumps and invites to game and this one prefers 3 clubs to 3 of that major.

Not too far out, except most prefer 3 of the major, having greater preemptive range and, of course more easily remembered since it is more widely played and therefore more popular.

An advantage of 3 clubs is that there then becomes more bids available in order to glean more information to game or even slam, but in the long run, the preemptive value of 3 of the major will probably win the popularity contest. Also, of course, this partnership would have to give up the use of 3 clubs of being very strong in clubs and GF, but that is not common and of little loss.

Yes, I agree with you and do not prefer to use 3 clubs their way, but some like vanilla instead of chocolate. BTW, it also allows a lead directing bid which sometimes can become fatal to the declarer and to that add the “dog which did not bark” meaning when an opponent does not bark double, then the opening leader is also warned off that lead, in favor of one which could turn out to be better.

Much luck involved, but overall the bridge education could be, “loose systems, which feature artificiality, sink contracts, more often than realized when opening leads then become more deadly”.

Iain ClimieSeptember 3rd, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Hi Bobby,

Is there a further argument against the save (even if east had opened 3C) due to the 2 small spades? The possibility of partner also having 2 seems quite strong whereas west holding 3 spades would give more confidence that east was short. In similar vein, a holding of 3 small in a suit opened on the right should be a warning unless LHO raises. It is all too easy to work out how the defence might start.



bobby wolffSeptember 4th, 2014 at 12:03 am

Hi Iain,

Cliches which come to mind are “Just win, baby”, and “KISS”, keep it simple, stupid. There are more ways to win than just to bid in a timely fashion.

Here, when South holds a great spade hand, thus an above average offensive hand but woefully weak on defense, it would be his job to play this poker part of our game well in order sometimes to get the opponents to do the wrong thing not once but twice.

Normally the above is asking too much, but some of our opponents are transparent enough to be victims. Often the result creates tops out of bottoms, but unfortunately sometimes, the reciprocal.

Yes, holding 2 in the opponents suit is too often a death knell but here, since North has shown 4 card support, South knows he will only glean either 1 or even possibly no spade tricks while defending clubs.

The main lesson to be learned is that the opponents, as well as partner is listening to the entire bidding, so when that fact is apparent the sooner a partnership gets to game, without too much information divulged, the best chance for a good board.

However when the stronger hands also have good defensive values, plus not too long combined trump suits, sometimes psychology should point to enticing the opponents into taking very expensive saves. If you will excuse me, “Just win, baby”!!