Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Life teaches us to be less harsh with ourselves and with others.

Johann Goethe

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

*Artificial and forcing


The Spring Foursomes takes place over a single weekend bridge every spring in England. Most of the best British teams and an increasing overseas contingent take part in a double-elimination, format. This is a normal knock-out but one where you have to lose twice in order to be out of the main competition.

Today’s deal is from the first round of a recent event, where West chose an unfortunate low club lead against four hearts. Declarer now led a sneaky low diamond towards the king, hoping that it would hold, and that dummy’s other diamond could be discarded on a club. However, West rose with the diamond ace to play a second club, and declarer won dummy’s king.

Next came a trump to the 10 and ace, followed by another trump. West won his queen and was faced with the critical decision on the deal. When he compounded his earlier error by continuing with a third round of clubs, declarer took the club ace, discarding dummy’s diamond king, then ruffed a club in dummy.

Now, knowing West had long hearts and long clubs, he simply needed to work out how many spades West had. When he cashed one top spade and saw the queen appear (yes this would have been a fine false-card from queen-doubleton) he reverted to trumps. West could do no better than win his king and then give declarer access to his hand. That let declarer draw trumps, cash his minor-suit winners, and take trick 13 with a top spade.

Your partner's negative double shows four hearts and at least 7 HCP. Where you have a little extra shape, and a suit you want to introduce, you should generally be guided by the idea that with any reasonable excuse you can bid one level higher than you initially intended, but not two levels. Here your 5-4 pattern with values in your long suits makes a call of three hearts just about acceptable.


♠ 8 2
 A J 6 4
 Q 3
♣ A J 6 3 2
South West North East
1♣ 1♠ Dbl. 2♠

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 18th, 2014 at 10:05 am

Hi Bobby,

I know hindsight is easy, but surely it makes more sense for West to lead a spade here – he knows his partner has very little, but may reasonably hope for two trumps, the DA and a trick in the wash. It was a little unlucky for the club to run round to the AJ, but hardly a huge surprise. The SA is unlikely to give declarer much he can’t get for himself anyway.



ClarksburgDecember 18th, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Good morning Mr. Wolff,
In BWTA, South’s style in this part-score battle looks about as intense as it gets.
Would your recommended competitive three-over-two bid apply at any form of scoring and vulnerability?

Iain ClimieDecember 18th, 2014 at 12:32 pm

SQ, not SA, for the typo.

bobby wolffDecember 18th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Hi Iain,

There is no logical way to disagree with you. The answer to why (West led what he did) is probably psychological, without proper thought and worse, somewhat random.

However in doing so, he created a learning experience for all bright up-and-comers to carefully file away, with the vital message to not get overconfident and take pains to play a perfect order of thirteen cards, which can only be accomplished, if begun at trick one.

More often than not, while attempting to play worthwhile bridge, especially in a meaningful tournament, Dame Fortune (there’s that temptress again) will seem to seduce a player (whether a declarer or a defender), to get off the wagon, be careless, carefree, or just sporting (possibly giving an opponent an unnecessary chance, as here) when he needs to be ruthless, if in fact, he wants to win every tournament.

The very best players (and only ones who deserve to be called world-class) exclusively adhere to that discipline.

So while you only pointed out what you thought to be a mistake in judgment, possibly instead could be deemed, by a very high level bridge community, as a sort of bridge death wish, which the unfortunate player needs to either change or, if not, be doomed to live a life without bridge rewards he otherwise might achieve.

Always thanks for your adept reporting.

bobby wolffDecember 18th, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Good morning Clarksburg,

A one word answer to you would be yes. However, there needs to be one added sentence, which, in turn, needs to stipulate that if East had passed instead of raising his partner’s overcall, then South should only venture 2 hearts, but, of course, be prepared to accept a continued raise to 3 by partner to game.

The fit is the thing (adding distributional points whatever way you choose), but doing so in a consistent manner proving to all you want to impress, just how much hands go up in value, depending on the specific bidding up to then.

Whenever a trump fit is guaranteed, hands jump up in value, not merely one point or two. However it would be too much of an overbid to jump to three hearts if East had not raised to 2 spades.

If, however, it had then proceeded only 2 hearts by you, but then 2 spades by West, pass, pass, back to you, a 3 heart bid IMO should then be offered by you. Going further, if after 2 spades by West, partner would raise to 3 hearts, whether you should either then pass or instead, volunteer 4 hearts is up to whether your partner is aggressive or conservative. If the first, pass, but instead bid game if the second.

Before you ask me back, if neither, but rather just perfect, than it is up to you to risk making the mistake, with probably a very small leaning by me, toward passing.

Your question is right-on, especially so since bidding in competition is so vitally important in often deciding who wins. Also, when consistently aggressive one usually learns more and faster about difficult declaring, if only, because he subjects himself to be thrown into the cauldron more often than his counterpart.