Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

A vein of poetry exists in the hearts of all men.

Thomas Carlyle

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


Today's deal comes from an inter-state match in Australia, and features a wide-awake play by the defense.

The final contract was three no-trumps, when South made an extremely practical call at his first turn to speak. On lead, Ron Klinger tried the club jack, and dummy’s queen won as East followed with a discouraging eight, playing upside-down signals. Declarer tried a spade to the king and ace, and Klinger exited passively with the spade nine, taken by declarer’s jack. A low heart from hand came next. Klinger rose with the heart king and played a third spade, taken by the queen.

Now came the critical moment, when declarer led dummy’s diamond two, planning to duck the trick to West, and come home with four diamond tricks, and five top side-suit winners. But sitting East, Bruce Neill was aware of the possibilities, and he could see that if declarer had the diamond ace and jack, South would be planning to take the avoidance play by inserting the jack, so that his own queen would be dead.

Accordingly he needed his partner to hold the diamond jack, so he flew up with the diamond queen, insuring that he could regain the lead later, and play a club through. This way declarer could come to no more than eight tricks.

Of course had Klinger started with the doubleton diamond jack he would have dropped the jack under declarer’s ace, to make sure East could subsequently get on play in diamonds.

You really don't know where to go on this hand; one possibility is to rebid two no-trumps, but it might be a better spot played from your partner's hand (if he has the spade queen for example). Since you cannot raise either red suit, and rebidding clubs seems unnecessary, maybe you should bid two spades, as the fourth suit, to get partner involved in the decision of whether to play no-trump.


♠ A 9 3
 K 10 8
♣ A J 10 7 5 3
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1 Pass
2♣ Pass 2 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


jim2December 23rd, 2014 at 4:35 pm

On BWTA, I must confess that I would bid 3H. After all, my failure to rebid 1H over 1D practically denied four hearts. Also, a 4-3 heart fit may be our best spot with my diamond singleton (to help pard ruff and set up his suit) and both black aces (to guard against an early tap).

TedDecember 23rd, 2014 at 5:54 pm

On BWTA, does 2S make any statement about your spade holding (stopper or partial stopper), or is it strictly temporizing? What would you bid with 953 K108 A AJ10753?

Also can 2H be assumed to be natural? If instead North is simply forcing and showing a heart stopper, a heart raise could make things very awkward for him.

bobby wolffDecember 23rd, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt, a raise to 3 hearts, even with holding only 3, should rank pretty high with choices. However, I prefer a better diamond holding to do that such as Ax, KQ,or KJ with only a mediocre doubleton spade (the unbid suit) such as Qx or Jx.

In other words, I would envision 4 hearts to be the best game contract when, instead of a cross ruff, diamonds can be established (or already are, of course, with my fitting holding).

Entire cross ruffs for game contracts (making 10 tricks) are difficult to forecast, although they are certainly possible.

Obviously, I agree with you that partner will know you probably do not hold 4 trumps because of your failure to rebid 1 heart, although when holding, A, xxxx, Qx, AK10xxx I might (would) rebid 2 clubs, not 1 heart. However many players would still rebid 1 heart with that hand.

Yes, my whole hand pattern becomes important when making this type of decision, certainly including, as you mention, envisioning the declarer’s play. However, to repeat, I think successful cross ruffs for 10+ tricks are rarely available.

bobby wolffDecember 23rd, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Hi Ted,

Your question needs a sophisticated answer and I will attempt to give one.

No I would definitely not bid 2 spades, while holding only 3 small. My answer to Jim2 would apply to this choice and my diamond Ace, although sadly singleton would cause me to raise hearts with only 3 since partner still could venture 3NT, but would then be responsible for a spade lead based on only his holding.

When partner bids 2 hearts, it starts out being natural (4+), but there certainly are difficult to navigate hands which do not include 4+ hearts, e.g (1) xx, AQx, KQJ10xx, Kx or (2) xx, AQx, KQxxxx, KQ where in order, both 5 diamonds and then 5 clubs become the best game contracts opposite your proposed hand.

On (1) over a 3 heart raise certainly 4 diamonds becomes the next bid, raised to 5, but on (2) of course 4 clubs should then come, also raised to 5.

While discussing these hands the proposer always can suit the hands to what he knows to be the best contract (done here), and bridge (in the form of Dame Fortune), being too smart (and too devilish), often furnishes unpleasant surprises, but still, if done randomly (hoped for here) and with no particular agenda, these discussions should usually bear successful fruit, or, at least ones which could pass muster.

Thanks for your question, and not to worry, since partner is deemed (or should be) a big boy (or girl), let him, after you now make what you consider your best bid, the next decision.

Time will then allow both of you to judge whether you are or are not on the same above average, bridge wave length.