Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

All men are liable to error; and most men are, in many points, by passion or interest, under temptation to it.

John Locke

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


Today's deal, from the semi-finals of the American trials 15 years ago featured a remarkable consistency amongst the four defenders sitting in the East seat. Put yourself in their position and see if you can do any better.

At all four tables South reached four hearts after West had opened the bidding. South won the top spade lead and played a diamond to the ace and a heart to the queen, then ducked a heart to East’s jack. Should you play a third round of spades, assisting in the elimination, or try a club?

Best is to play a club, trying to take partner off a later endplay, so long as his clubs are as good as K-J-7. If you exit passively with a spade, declarer ruffs and takes a losing diamond finesse, then ruffs the next spade and runs the club 10, covered by the jack and queen. Now he cashes the diamonds, forcing West to throw a spade, and finally a third heart endplays West to lead a club at trick 12. At one table East did find the club exit, but declarer put in the seven, and the game came home.

However, all four tables had already missed the critical play on the deal – which was to unblock the heart jack under the queen, a play that experience has shown me to be one of the hardest “routine” plays in Bridge. If you do unblock, it allows West to cash his second heart trick, and exit in spades. Now declarer must go down.

It feels right to raise to three diamonds, not so much because you expect a diamond game to be excellent but more because this is a courtesy raise. Your club holding argues that partner will be short there – and the possibility that four hearts may be a playable spot seems quite a reasonable one.


♠ 4
 K 9 7 6 4
 A 7 3
♣ 10 9 7 5
South West North East
1 Pass
1 2♣ 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 10th, 2015 at 9:55 am

In BWA, I absolutely agree with the 3D bid, but for me it has very little courtesy and a whole lot of panic. WHERE ARE THE SPDES/ Seems to me that EW have either 9 or 10 spades, but maybe my 3D bid will keep them quiet.

Iain ClimieFebruary 10th, 2015 at 11:01 am

Hi David,

Where are the high cards too? Pard can’t be that strong, so east has some points but hasn’t raised clubs, doubled or over called 1S on the first round. Also, west bid 2C rather than double so could well be 4-6 in the black suits. Someone could be heading for a nasty surprise (is pard 4-1-6)2, for example) but it won’t be us in 3D.



bobby wolffFebruary 10th, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Hi David,

While I wholeheartedly agree with your concern about the spades, experience should suggest to us, that since worthy opponents (if indeed they are) not already in the bidding, are being conservative, because both their hands are relatively balanced with as many losers as possible.

In other words, approximately the same number of high cards as us, plus, as you deftly mention, of course at least 9 spades, but perhaps diamonds 2-2 and hearts 3-3. Next time you “table up” and then for the following couple of months try to keep tab (in tournament play copies of the hand records are often available for later inspection) and, if the above thought has not come to mind earlier, it will, in spades, after checking, be as on target as possible.

One further thought to consider and a pet beef from me is that while holding, s. Axx, h. Axx, d. KQxxxx, c. x and after opening 1 diamond and hearing partner respond 1 heart, think it is terrible bridge (but promoted for many years) to rebid 2 diamonds instead of 2 hearts. At least to me, unless holding a balanced 4 triple 3 one should raise partner’s major rather than seek the safety (at least he is taught and thus closes his mind) of the 6 card suit keeping the major suit fit secret.

All will notice that with normal breaks, 4 hearts will be laydown and anytime both opponents pass the first round will be conclusive evidence (at least to me) that the hearts are very likely to divide 3-2 (perhaps 95% instead of the book 67%). True, that despite the raise this partnership may have trouble reaching game, but getting immediately raised in the long run will encourage that suit to be trump far more often than a meek other rebid.

The above conversation has extended well beyond the original subject, but no harm, I hope, no foul.

jim2February 10th, 2015 at 3:20 pm

The BWTA hand would be so much more interesting to me if it had been real, rather than a made-up auction using one hand from the column.

As mentioned by both previous folk, no one seems to have spades or HCPs.

I just checked again and still see just a singleton in the South hand. Pard would surely have wanted to bid 2S over 2C (instead of rebidding diamonds) with four spades, as it is easy to lose a 4-4 spade fit otherwise. West would seem to want to double instead of overcall with both black suits.

This seems to leave East with at least six spades, and a hand unsuitable to overcall 1D or preempt over it, or even mention spades in a competitive auction.

Yet, if East is that weak and South has only 7 HCPs, then West and North must hold about 30 HCP but both have made just minimum bids.

Note also that pard did not raise hearts, either, which hints that any second suit is likely clubs.

So, perhaps pard is 3-1-6-3, East could be 6-3-3-1, and West could be 3-4-1-5.

Like I started, though, it would be cooler if this were a hand from an event.

bobby wolffFebruary 10th, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, any way this hand is analyzed should suggest a 3 diamond raise. Again, emphasizing what could only be an argument against, yes with a poor fit and especially an unlucky lie of the cards, 9 tricks may not be there in diamonds, but if so, the lesser minus for going set in diamonds may more than offset a spade game (or even a part score) bid and made against.

Until tournament bridge came along and after auction bridge gave way to contract rubber bridge (80+ years ago), not that many players took the game seriously enough to delve deeply, consequently if one side went set they probably just felt they bid too much rather than doing quite well to leave a lesser minus (duplicate bridge awakened many and quickly).

bobby wolffFebruary 10th, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

You bring up still another, at least to me, very interesting subject worth exploring.

In my comment to David I attempted to touch on truths while playing, but perhaps not thought to be either entertaining or educational enough to be in books, which will not now be excluded since bridge has now taken, around the world, to school learning and committed for many years.

My take on your discussion is exactly a continuation of what I wanted to throw on the bridge table, the logic or perhaps melody of a bridge auction.

Details now are not necessary, but your type of thinking will now reach many would be great (but still years away) players who eventually will join the winner’s circle in events all the way up to and including World Championships.

Oh, if I was only about 30 years younger would I feast on just seeing it happen. That is, for many other countries other than the USA who, at least at this time, do not appear even the slightest bit, interested.

bobby wolffFebruary 10th, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

On a totally unrelated subject and because of my attempted investigation of the AOB column gone awry, do you remember the January 24th, 2015 column in your newspaper, shown here on February 7, 2015 and whether or not it had the totally distorted bidding when it appeared in your local newspaper.

If I can determine that, I can then pinpoint the source of where to look to make sure those aberrations do not happen again.

I sincerely appreciate your effort in helping me.


jim2February 10th, 2015 at 6:17 pm

I am sure I read it then, and do not recall any such display problem, but that is not true confirmation.

Checked my local paper on-line, and its archive is spotty and does not include that date. It goes back about 10 days.