Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Great abilities are not requisite for an Historian… Imagination is not required in any high degree.

Samuel Johnson

East North
Neither ♠ 7 6 4
 Q 8 5 2
 K 7 6
♣ Q J 8
West East
♠ J 9 8 3 2
 10 4
 Q 8 2
♣ 10 4 2
♠ K 10
 A K J 9
 10 5 3
♣ 9 7 6 3
♠ A Q 5
 7 6 3
 A J 9 4
♣ A K 5
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


Yesterday's deal from Augie Boehm's excellent new memoir, Big Deal, saw a successful bluff. Today's deal shows Boehm also using poker skills, but this time drawing the right conclusion from the 'tell' that only an expert can detect.

At the table the auction went as shown, but Boehm sensed that East had flickered before passing, and inferred that he must have been contemplating doubling three no-trump, to call for the lead of dummy’s first-bid suit, hearts. This conclusion was one Boehm drew at his own risk — if he was wrong he would have had no recourse.

At the table West led a low spade, and Boehm captured East’s king with his ace. To make the contract, Boehm apparently required East to be dealt queen-third in diamonds and West three small diamonds — no better than one chance in six. The normal line of play would be to lead to the king and finesse the jack on the way back.

But now remember East’s ‘tell’. He was surely favorite to hold both top hearts, as he would scarcely consider doubling three no-trump with less. The spade king was already known, and if he had also been dealt the diamond queen he would have opened the bidding. Thus Boehm posited West with the diamond queen. Reasoning this way, Boehm decided on a backward finesse — leading the diamond jack and planning to run it, finessing against the diamond 10 in East if necessary. In fact when West did not cover the jack, Boehm let the jack ride; result, happiness!

The three club call is forcing (it makes sense to play everything but a pass of two no-trump as setting up a game force here, in the absence of any conventional agreement). The issue is whether to show your three-card heart support or make some other rebid. Despite the weak hearts I would bid three hearts and let partner decide what to do – he knows much more about our hand than we do about his.


♠ A Q 5
 7 6 3
 A J 9 4
♣ A K 5
South West North East
1 Pass 1 1♠
2 NT Pass 3♣ 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 ClimieDecember 17th, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, would you push on over 4H after your 3H? Give pard x KQJxx xx Q10xxx and I want to be in 6 although these are perfect cards. If I bid 3H, though, he’ll surely bid 4 so is 3S then 4C over 3N) a better shot to make a try below game level? The hand is so strong in controls, I think I ought to pass on the good news.

There again, could he have 4H and 6C?



bobby wolffDecember 17th, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Hi Iain,

While it is indeed possible that your control rich dummy will provide an adequate play for slam, your given hand, admittedly a good fit, is somewhat lacking, since even with two 3-2 breaks in the rounded suits or if 4-1, the 4 being in the manageable hand, it still looks to be at best a 35% endeavor since, of course a winning spade finesse also is necessary.

However, since bidding is the subject, and captaincy comes into play, once when one limits his hand (2NT rebid) he theoretically appoints his partner captain with the then duties of only answering his partner’s questions and thus allowing his less card rich partner to guide the decisions.

If done otherwise, bridge chaos in the form of too many decision makers loom, with often fatal results.

Of course, if partner, after listening to your 3 heart preference would then continue on with a 3 spade or 4 diamond cue bid, then the strong hand can come to life with a cue bid of his own (perhaps 4 clubs over 3 spades and 4 spades over 4 diamonds) in effect to inferentially show his huge fitting club cards.

Simple? sort of, complicated?, maybe, but orderly?, right on, with any other process cumbersome and not likely to be successful.

And think, no mention of my convention of 3 clubs after partner’s jump rebid of 2NT to start the beginning of a sign-off. All that under the heading of players who do not play Wolff sign-off are entitled to live, too.

Iain ClimieDecember 17th, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Thanks Bobby, although I’m treating the spade finesse as much more than 50%. Given modern bidding habits, this could be dead wrong!


bobby wolffDecember 17th, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Hi Iain,

Mea very culpa! I didn’t see the spade overcall.

Age must be taking its toll since your hand now becomes perfect for your explanation with the king of spades, if anything, even more likely to be on side. The reason being, since a spade overcall without a major honor (in this case, K) is tantamount to a horrible practical mistake concerning getting partner off to the wrong lead against any contract played by South (except and only perhaps, 3NT).

Iain ClimieDecember 17th, 2014 at 4:24 pm

No worries, as even Homer can nod. As your Latin is still alive and well, I wouldn’t worry unduly. Could we even tweak the language for bridge advice e.g. Cave pre-emptor? Sorry, terrible joke albeit sound advice.

Iain ClimieDecember 17th, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Or even caveat pre-emptor if LHO has a trump stack and plays penalty doubles.