Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with someone else.

Mae West

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


At the Dyspeptics Club, some rubber players appear to regard it as bad bridge etiquette ever to appear to be thinking. As a consequence, when you are declarer, however elevated the level or challenging your prospects might be, the metaphorical car horns start blaring from the defenders if you should weigh up your prospects for more than the most minimal length of time.

Fortunately that was not a problem for South in today’s deal, since he has never been known to cater for any chances except the most obvious in nature. Declaring six hearts here, he won the opening club lead ,drew trump in two rounds, then cashed the spade ace, crossed to the heart queen, and finessed in spades, cavalierly conceding one down when the finesse lost.

While South was claiming bitterly that the only finesses that ever won were his opponents’, North took a look at his partner’s remaining cards and remarked that his complaints were as inaccurate as they were inappropriate — and that the cards had actually lain very well for him. Do you see what North meant?

Best play is to win the club lead, then take the heart ace and lead the heart jack to the queen. Then lead a diamond toward your jack. If East has a doubleton diamond honor or the diamond king-queen, as here, you have 12 tricks. Otherwise you would have to fall back on the spade finesse, but you have in the process significantly improved your chances to make your slam.

Since your partner must surely have a decent hand in high-cards, the question is whether he forgot to make a takeout double the round before, or has a trump stack, and West stepped out of line. I'm going to pass and either West or I will be taught a sharp lesson. Yes, partner might have a light takeout double — but East's initial pass argues against that.


♠ 9 8 6 5
 7 2
 K Q 9
♣ 10 9 6 4
South West North East
Pass 2 Pass 3
Pass Pass Dbl. 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 ClimieSeptember 9th, 2014 at 10:09 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, I started trying to construct some plausible hands and had a bit of trouble. Assuming North would have bid 2N with a good 15 plus and a fair or better H holding, it must be 14 or a poor 15 while east presumably has around 10 pts with a doubleton heart e.g. Jx. This suggests west is playing around e.g. With an 11 count and only 5 hearts e.g. Kxx KQxxx x K10xx or similar, while part has maybe Ax A109x Axxx Qxx or similar. The only other possibility I can think of might be pard holding 1444 or 1453 and deciding not to bid 2N, but it is all a bit odd.

Do you know what was held at the table?



Iain ClimieSeptember 9th, 2014 at 12:19 pm

PS I don’t know about etiquette, but the number of times I’ve made a really unfortunate bid or play after protracted thought suggests thinking can be overrated!

jim2September 9th, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Iain –

The BWTA hand is the East hand in the column.

jim2September 9th, 2014 at 12:46 pm

I tried to come up with a plausible layout for the BWTA, just as Iain did, but I largely failed. There are 35 missing HCP split among three hands and one passed and the other made a bid supposedly showing no more than about 10 HCP.

Partner must have the best hand at the table, but did not act over two hearts despite knowing that might be the final contract, since I already passed.

If I were challenged to come up with an actual layout, I would have East-West vulnerable with West having psyched with a 4-card suit. Perhaps West intended to run to a real suit if doubled, but was dissuaded by East’s raise.

One other possibility is that no one has done anything strange, but pard is simply sniping for a +200 on a part score deal.

Iain ClimieSeptember 9th, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Hi Jim2,

I can see the BWTA hand has been copied from the east hand in the column, but it has migrated to south for BWTA – or am I having a funny 5 minutes?


MirceaSeptember 9th, 2014 at 1:35 pm

for my own curiosity, I calculated the odds of success for the line of play suggested in the diamond suit in the column hand (honour second or KQx(xx) with East). It is around 35%. Nice, instructive problem (at least for my level).

MirceaSeptember 9th, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I would add to Jim2 and Iain’s comments about the BWTA hand that it is the ultimate example of TOCM ™ (i.e. moving from East in the column to South in BWTA), lol

Iain ClimieSeptember 9th, 2014 at 2:09 pm

When I first started reading this column, it took a while before I realised that BWTA used a hand from the column. My powers of observation have kept opticians in business and contributed to various mishaps and injuries over the years.

Bill CubleySeptember 9th, 2014 at 2:14 pm

There are often hands where you cannot make a takeout double because of shortness in a suit.

Consider S x H AKQ5 D Axxxx C KJT and your RHO opens 1 Club. You cannot double, nor can you bid 1NT. Bidding diamonds can be very dangerous with 3-4 trump losers.

If partner doubles their spade fit, then this hand is a good hand which could not act on the first round of the bidding.

I expect on the problem hand that there is a trump stack and a very good hand with short spades.

Iain ClimieSeptember 9th, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Hi Bill,

Seems reasonable but you’ve got two hearts, which suggests someone has a diamond in the wrong place. On the hand you quote I’d either bid 2N if both red suits, 1D or even 1H, ready to claim the above. If partner had passed, so presumably doesn’t have 6 spades unless very weak, I might risk 1N but have apologies ready.


bobby wolffSeptember 9th, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

The BWTA problem is part of a philosophical discussion among scientifically good players
and therefore requires a combination of:

1. Proper bidding technique.

2. What is to them, logical bridge thinking.

3. Coping with a bold preemptive treatment, which though rarely used, is often talked about as a means to be effective, especially when behind in an IMP match or in need of a terrific result, late in a matchpoint contest.

BTW, it is our habit in constructing the column to usually randomly use a hand from the main theme directly into the BWTA (reference other columns), here, South, (from East).

In third seat and NV (particularly against V) but never shown with the BWTA in order to not overly complicate thinking for less than top players, let us deal with s. Jxxx, h. KQxx, d. xxx, c. Kx and having both players pass to him.

Some original thinkers may consider opening a weak 2 heart bid, in order to 1. steal the hand, 2. if not, suggest the lead, 3. muddy the waters, 4. be an extra tough opponent, at least for this hand. catching LHO (4th hand) with: s. Ax, h. A109xx, d. Axxx, c. Ax, leaving partner (East) with KQx, h. Jx, d.Jxx, c. QJxxx.

Would anyone seriously rebel against this NV partner to a WTB, raising 2 hearts to 3 in order to prevent a back in double by the once passed South? If not, as we now all know, this could be the 52 card layout around the table.

Finally, since, as first mentioned by Iain and then corroborated by Jim2, since North had first passed and then doubled back in, South (now the problem solver) needs to refer to his expert technique and understands that his very poor hand and relatively short hearts does not add up to partner making a normal back in TO double since with short hearts, he must have enough to have doubled the first time.

Since he didn’t, perhaps, if it doesn’t look like a duck, walk like a duck, or quack like a duck, by Donald, (Duck, not Trump) it is NOT a duck and thus by referring back to earlier learning, the hand North has is very much like the example hand given above.

Yes, this BWTA is like no other, but it can be used and would be by me, if I was a Dean of a bridge school in about the fifth or sixth year of an advanced group of bridge students who have taken to our marvelous pastime which has so many great lifetime advantages to recommend learning it.

I’ll now bridge it to you two, or to other bridge lovers, for further comment. No profanity allowed or otherwise I will duck out. What the duck?

Iain ClimieSeptember 9th, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Interesting but the myopic diamond, causing hearts to be 5522 or 6422 round the table is still an option. For the sake of Jim2 and myself, I hope not the D9!

bobby wolffSeptember 9th, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Hi Iain,

Your continued modesty is overwhelming, although very appealing, not to mention your comment about a very long think before coming up with a disaster is very consistent with what I consider a definite truism, “Think long, think WRONG!”

Also, your mentioned concentration lapses are to me, just a part of living a full, great life by interrupting idle unimportant thoughts about responsibility, health and wealth with rather profound thoughts about nymphs and trysts.

To each his own.

bobby wolffSeptember 9th, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Hi Mircea,

Thanks for your always kind words and for your mathematical calculations which suggested a winning line of an additional whopping 35% just by seeking an extra chance for success.

And yes, Jim2’s trademark illness of TOCM has come alive with today’s hand where East’s cards have all 13, migrated to South.

When you talk softly, usually apologizing about your level and yet are very sophisticated with your other bridge talk, could you be in actuality, a wolff in sheep’s clothing?

bobby wolffSeptember 9th, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Hi Bill,

I certainly agree with other possible hands you point out for North to enable and justify his belated entrance into the bidding.

Most all of them involve shortness in the other major and a powerful holding in the opponent’s proposed trump suit. All of us then should be cautioned to not equate this specific bidding sequence with: 1H P 2H P
P Dbl wherein this belated entry is usually the same shape as an original TO dbl, but a somewhat lesser number of high cards, but the same shortness in partner’s suit, therefore assuming the name of a balancing double (meaning a composite with one’s partner of the bidding up to then suggesting later entry into the fray).

BTW, Eric Rpdwell was the first to invent (at least in my recollections) the successful theory (at least to my ears) of a pre balancing double that should be made by the player who is short in the opponents suit at the sacrifice of what many might think as not enough HCPs against 1H P 2H then with Axxx, x, Axxx, Jxxx (and at all vulnerabilities) a TO double should be made or with xx, x, Axxx, KJxxxx 3 clubs should be overcalled. In other words, being short in the opponents suit is almost always an adequate recipe for entering.

jim2September 9th, 2014 at 4:25 pm

IIRC, at one time there were some bids that were illegal to psych.

Are there still any? If so, was/is a weak two one of them?

Iain ClimieSeptember 9th, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Hi Jim2,

In England there are limitations on strong 2s, whether direct or via Benjaminised Acol. The rule of 25 (HCP and cards in 2 suits) applies so KJ10xxx KQxxxx x none would be hauled up.

bobby wolffSeptember 9th, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

Thanks for what could easily be a very topical question and thus subject.

I’m not great at remembering the difference between what was being considered to be barred and when that thought had been taken more seriously and thoughts of regulation and penalties for non-compliance had been discussed.

At least to me, as distinguished from others, is what I consider the intent of why the bid is chosen. If it is considered the best available bid (with that hand) and not for nefarious intent (conning the opponents) then it should be allowed. If not, then not!

Yes, it is a fine line, but Iain I agree with you that your 6-6 with only 9 HCP (failing by 4 to meet requirements) should be hauled up, but that rule is not complete, but should be determined by someone very familiar with both our high-level game and the mindset of likely perpetrators of too much of a desire to win (by any, what they hope to consider legal ways) to make the key decision.

Strong 2 bids are usually a deterrent to competition and often for good reason. But when the reason or reasons include intimating their opponents it is, at least to me, not healthy for it to be allowed, although some hands, even 13 of a suit could be allowed since it is so unusual who is to say that someone only wants the possibility of an eventual double to his grand slam so that he should not be barred from starting low.

True, it is a fine line, and in the distant past there were enough actively ethical top players, who also loved the concept of our game and wished for it the best and to be played by fair minded ladies and gentlemen who did not have, even a touch of, larceny in their souls.

When a declarer or a defender exercises his skills to pull off a brilliancy nothing but good emerges, showing off both the player and the process, but when an action (usually bidding is tempered by either intimidation or what could be considered malicious conniving the game, above all, loses too much of its majesty. It is timely to say that a risky psychic bid (possibly deceiving one’s partner as well as the opponents) is not at all an actively unethical effort.

Few will agree with what I have said, but, at least to me, they are forgetting why bridge is such a great form of competition. To do otherwise is the equivalent of steroid use in physical sports or bribing in others, no-nos suffering huge penalties and, to me, is only second to stealthy cheating in bridge. which no one will ever condone (except perhaps the culprits themselves).

Sorry for the long winded response, but there are many points to be considered and if I have only won over 1 recruit (especially a worthy and intelligent one) I will consider it worthwhile.

bobby wolffSeptember 9th, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Hi Jim2,

Sorry for not answering your specific question above, but WTB’s can be wide ranges (even 4 card suits) and thus some psychic normalcy will be challenged. However there are very few absolute direct strictures on psyching except with the ACBL, to psyche a conventional bid (probably also mostly applied to unusual types of conventions with only IMHO a WTB is not really a convention to be applied here) are not allowed to be psyched.

The reason being is the unfamiliarity to the innocent opponents who probably have no idea of the cunning or possibility of such of those same partnerships.

In other words, application is the key word and although some may think unfair and cause for possible bias, to do otherwise is to be Ostrich like (burying one’s head in the sand).

Iain ClimieSeptember 9th, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Hi Bobby, everyone,

Just a quick word of thanks for all the instruction and entertainment over the last two days. Was the number of posts in that time a record for 48 hrs?


bobby wolffSeptember 9th, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Hi Iain,

It well be a record, but even if it isn’t, as long as most of us get something out of it, it will be like a snow scene, when the action warms up, the more fun it gets.

But don’t anyone get shy about questioning some of the bridge that is suggested, which is only intended to present different views so that the majority involved can then decide for themselves what bridge theories to embrace and which to not waste time.

There are many views stated and since all partnerships, including ones which haven’t yet formed, will have their own personalities and, of course, then their own experiences.

All aboard for destinations unknown , but always intending to explore the best our game has to offer. Keep asking questions and giving views since without which, none of us will be sure which ones to pursue.

Thank you Iain for appreciating what I am always delighted to discuss and expect to continue far into the future.