Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 15th, 2014

Fortune is full of fresh variety:
Constant in nothing but inconstancy.

Richard Barnfield

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

*Inverted raise


Today's deal saw North-South fall on their feet after misusing a common convention. When playing Standard American it is now popular to use the simple raise of a minor by an unpassed hand as forcing for one round, guaranteeing at least invitational values. A jump raise to three of a minor becomes preemptive (somewhere between weak and invitational, depending on vulnerability).

When North stretched to produce an inverted raise, and then raised hearts he had suggested a far better hand than he actually held. That partly (if not entirely) explains South’s precipitous jump to slam.

Needing either two finesses, or one finesse and an even break in hearts, South took care to explore the possibilities for an endplay. After the trump lead declarer won in hand, and cashed the spade ace, then a second high trump. Next came the heart king, the heart jack was finessed, a spade ruffed, and dummy re-entered with the heart ace for another spade ruff.

At this point South was down to one heart, one trump and three clubs, while dummy had two trumps and three clubs. It might have looked easy to ruff the heart and play on clubs, but had he done so, South’s luck would have run out. Instead South advanced the fourth heart. When West produced the queen, a club discard from dummy left the defender on lead. West now had to lead into declarer’s club tenace or furnish a ruff and discard — and either way, North’s second club loser had vanished.

You could argue that leading from the four-card suit is less likely to cost a trick than anything else, but I strongly believe that the heart lead is more likely to set the game. The point is that just finding partner with four spades may not be enough, while finding partner with a heart suit might be sufficient. The weaker your hand, the more likely it is that you need to hit partner's suit.


♠ 9 7 5 2
 Q 3 2
 10 5 2
♣ K 4 2
South West North East
1 NT
Pass 3 NT All 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


MirceaSeptember 29th, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Hi Bobby,

So playing Inverted Minors (properly), is North’s 3H a control bid promising first or second round control in the suit and suggesting slam?

bobby wolffSeptember 29th, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Hi Mircea,

No, since 2 hearts is a natural rebid by the opener, a raise to 3 hearts by the responder is merely a value showing bid, with 3 good hearts (holding a 4 card major was already denied with his 2 diamond response) and only asking partner to do something intelligent.

Since I do not like North’s original 2 diamond inverted raise (preferring a simple 1NT response) he, by so doing, trapped himself into making a distinct overbid at his next turn (with no short suit anywhere to be seen).

South merely was hoping for the best, when he then jumped to the diamond slam, but if Norths 3rd club had been a 5th diamond (justifying an inverted raise), a diamond slam would have been very good, perhaps near 85% to make with either rounded suit finesse onside or even hearts being 3-3 to throw the losing club away from dummy, (or of course a favorable club opening lead, although if after losing a heart finesse, a club back by East would force declarer to take a premature view.

Perhaps, with the theoretical hand, stripping the trumps and spades and then three rounds of hearts might be the best play, which works with Qxx in hearts with West or Qx with East regardless of the location of the club king.

As always much to consider in both the bidding and play.