Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

O monstrous! But one half-pennyworth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack.

William Shakespeare

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


In today’s column we feature a deal from the latest book by Augie Boehm, a noted bridge player and pianist. The book is ‘Big Deal’– both a memoir and a teaching tool.

During the auction South made a cardinal error when he preempted then bid again in competition. He might have done better to open one spade, but having initially underbid, he endplayed himself into a later indiscretion. Of course if he had passed five hearts, North would have happily collected a sizable penalty.

Against five spades doubled, Boehm’s famous pianist partner Leonard Pennario led the heart jack. If South had routinely covered with dummy’s queen, East would have been compelled to win, and with an easy shift to his singleton diamond queen he would have collected his penalty of plus 300.

But when South didn’t cover with dummy’s queen, Boehm had a problem. Overtaking to shift to diamonds would work poorly if West held the diamond ace. If so, dummy’s hearts could be established for discards of South’s losing diamonds.

At trick one, Boehm therefore discouraged with the heart two. Pennario realized that Boehm must have both top hearts when his jack held, but he must have discouraged the continuation for a reason. He therefore accurately shifted to the diamond ace and gave his partner the ruff for plus 500.

Boehm comments sagely that average opponents usually assume an expert knows what he is doing, hence South’s sacrifice over five hearts. This is one of the reasons bridge experts often excel at Poker; play the opponents not the hand.

Despite your lack of fit for diamonds I would compete to three spades. Yes your red suits might argue for defense but your black-suit holdings have a lot of actual and potential tricks. Game might so easily be cold facing a hand with a void in spades!


♠ A Q J 10 9 3
 K 7
♣ J 10 9 8
South West North East
1♠ Pass 2 3

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 WarheitDecember 16th, 2014 at 9:51 am

If EW play 5H, it seems to me they’re only down one on the lead of the CJ. Also, although you say Boehm-Pennario collect 500, it’s only 300 (1H, 1C, 1D & a D ruff).

Iain ClimieDecember 16th, 2014 at 10:12 am

Hi Bobby, David,

If south does bid on, dbl makes more sense showing max and some defence although DK is probably dodgy. Aren’t EW making 5D though if west gets the clubs right? I wonder if E should compete with 4N rather than a unilateral 5H although west won’t realise Hxxx is huge, to be fair.

Any thoughts on this?



Iain ClimieDecember 16th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Also, there is a minor typo where it should state if South (not west) held the DA. This doesn’t detract from the interest of the hand, though, although what range of weak 2 was South playing? Calling it weak is akin to calling Godzilla a gecko.


SlarDecember 16th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

If I’m south I just open 4S and be done with it. I’ve got 6 tricks. What is the worst that can happen? I assume the South in this hand was playing Ogust or this hand is from a long time ago.

SlarDecember 16th, 2014 at 3:07 pm

The above comment refers to the auction hand, not the BWTA hand. On BWTA I’m not sure what I would do. A lot would depend on my opponents and the vulnerability.

Iain ClimieDecember 16th, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Hi Slar,

I sometimes bid like that too, and often get away with it. You have to be facing a partner who can see the funny side if it misfires, though.


bobby wolffDecember 16th, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Hi David,

Yes, it certainly appears that with the recorded vulnerability, 5 spades doubled should have only been minus 300 instead of the stated 500.

Regarding the defense against the theoretical 5 hearts, presumably doubled, the result would depend on first the opening lead, not necessarily the jack of clubs, and the actual specific play of the hand. Both the ace of spades and a trump are possible and with either lead, it seems likely to me that 5 hearts doubled will go down 2 tricks (500).

In any event I again apologize for the scoring gaffe, probably resulting because of our poor proofreading of an emergency hand moved up in the time frame to coincide with the publication of Augie Boehm’s recent book.

Thanks for your ever present “eagle eye”, especially your usually superior bridge analysis.

bobby wolffDecember 16th, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Hi Iain,

All of your suppositions, as usual, are on target.

Before moving to the next subject, let me repeat critical superior advice given to me so many years ago it might have been in the “stone age”. When asked a possible other name for an eight card suit or more, the answer should be “trump”!

And so it could be, when you point out that 5 diamonds, if guessed correctly, will make. Other vocal reference to the above caveat is the admonition to a player to never, or almost, lay down an eight+ card suit as dummy (as long as partner has not bid that suit first).

Yes, another proof reading error strikes home, and I, like most players, would shudder to only open South’s hand with a weak two bid, instead of the solid one bid to which this hand would surely qualify.

However, another elephant in the room (adding that animal to Godzilla and Gecko, a small lizard) might suggest what sometimes opening a weak two bid and then getting smartly jumped to game can do to the opponent’s judgment when cramped for bidding room (East bidding his relatively good 6 card suit, instead of raising partner’s suit with only a singleton queen).

Just perhaps, the above may suggest to the great unwashed (and inexperienced) bridge player, just how subjective our great game can be at times where being a tough opponent rather than a punctilious consistent, to be counted on partner, may result in more spectacular results, achieved by the simple genius of legally wrecking havoc on erstwhile excellent opponents.

Different strokes for different folks is a valid, but controversial subject, in order to rate the real effectiveness of various so called “world class” players.

bobby wolffDecember 16th, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Hi Slar (with also reference to Iain),

Yes, your vote for 4 spades gets there as fast as possible, and although sometimes that bid will impede your partnership from an exchange which in time, will produce a better contract, or with even worse luck be doubled and set, it definitely makes it difficult for the other 3 players, at a ratio of 2 to 1 in your favor.

Also, I agree with the factors you consider in making a bidding decision with the BWTA.

Whoever can doubt the fun present (in spite of the added intensity), when attempting to play excellent bridge with three other worthwhile players at the same table. And especially FTF instead of what is becoming more and more popular, online.

Yes, keeping bridge alive among the novices and what could be called loveable but not intense serious players, is vitally necessary, but what about the group which represent the spectacularly best mind game ever invented extolling the wonders which constantly lead to incredible mental non-violent, off-the-charts competition?

Without the above, the simple game of bridge loses all of its electricity and allure, signifying, not enough positive, to save.

LorraineDecember 16th, 2014 at 6:47 pm

What does BWT A mean?

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 16th, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Hi Lorraine,

I can tell you. Bid With The Aces. There is also
LWTA (Lead with the Aces).



Iain ClimieDecember 16th, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Hi Lorraine,

Bid With The Aces. You’ll usually find that one of the hands from the column is used as the basis of a different problem. I’d rather not admit how long it took me before I realised this!


David WarheitDecember 17th, 2014 at 4:03 am

So I have an eagle eye, do I. OK, there’s supposed to be a hyphen between “ever” and “present”. And boy, you should see me when someone splits an infinitive.

bobby wolffDecember 17th, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Hi David,

Guilty as charged and ever-present forcing me to see to.

bobby wolffDecember 17th, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Hi again,

But not to mention it, do I not see a question mark after I?

Shantanu RastogiDecember 23rd, 2014 at 4:39 am

Dear Mr Wolff

In BWTA how do you bid game against void if you bid only 3 spades ? Dimaond Ace looks to be right and West is a passer so why isnt a potshot at game ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi