Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking spaces.

Will Rogers

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


In today’s deal South received a spade raise and then a somewhat optimistic jump to game facing his three-heart call, which was initially just a game try. I have no problem with North’s raise to two spades, but I would not accept the game-try here.

North’s third call persuaded South to take a shot at slam when Blackwood revealed that his side was not missing any keycards. Indeed, slam turned out to be quite playable.

West had a natural lead of the diamond jack; cover up the East and West hands to give yourself a realistic problem, and see if you can do better than the player at the table.

What South actually did was to win the diamond king and draw two rounds of trump, then take a heart ruff in dummy. But now he was locked on the board, and when he tried to cash dummy’s diamonds, the 6-2 break in diamonds was fatal, since East ruffed in, leaving declarer with two spade losers.

The key to the deal is that because of the issue with communications on the hand, you must win the opening lead in dummy. Cash the spade queen then the heart ace-king and ruff a heart low. Now you cash the spade jack, and use the diamond king as your re-entry to hand. Then you can draw trump, and use the club ace as an entry to dummy to throw one of your club losers on the good diamond in dummy.

You have no reason to be ashamed of this hand – yet. If you do not compete to two diamonds, you may miss out on a partscore. By bidding, you help to push your opponents higher, though the risk that your partner may play you for a slightly better hand – or suit – is not negligible. Still, bidding is more fun than passing, isn’t it?


♠ 2
 Q 9 7
 J 10 9 8 4 3
♣ K J 3
South West North East
  1 ♣ 1 ♠ 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


slarMay 6th, 2015 at 1:37 pm

RE: BWTA I generally play new suits as forcing by an unpassed hand. If I was a passed hand I’d feel better about bidding here. As it stands I’d want another queen to bid and would hope for partner to reopen with a double. If he doesn’t then the deal might be a misfit.

Iain ClimieMay 6th, 2015 at 9:58 pm

Hi Bobby,

Today’s hand may not seem glamorous but it is a perfect demonstration of how to take extra chances which might slip by. 6-2 diamonds either way are covered, along with west having a doubleton heart and 6 diamonds, even if spades are 4-1. These extra chances really sort the good players from the rest of us over time.

I went from the sublime to the ridiculous in my last 2 sessions. Last night, a trump squeeze (albeit pseudo, rho could have got it right but thought I had a better holding in my closed hand’s threat suit), tonight every decision early on turned to manure in a weaker game. Fitting punishment for delusions of adequacy, and a reminder to play well instead of thinking I’m a good player.



slarMay 6th, 2015 at 10:34 pm

I agree with Iain. It is a very good hand. The way you play it might only matter 5-10% of the time but if you can think it through ahead of time, it will make a huge difference in your overall result.

Bobby WolffMay 7th, 2015 at 1:29 am

Hi Slar,

There is nothing wrong with playing a change of suit by the partner of the overcaller is forcing, but I prefer NF since I like to bid and think that by doing so, more good than bad things happen:

1. Find a surprise fit
2. Get the bidding up when the opponents eventually declare the hand so that more upside is at stake for the defenders.
3. Sometimes lead directing, (not in this case) but less than stellar opponents are more likely to misjudge their strength if both sides are bidding.
4. The declaring side will usually take more tricks than they are entitled to and the defense fewer since offense is easier than defense.

The other side is once in a while the weaker competitors are doubled for a number, but in actual play it happens less than most of us think.

Nothing specific, but perhaps something to think about.

Bobby WolffMay 7th, 2015 at 1:39 am

Hi Iain,

I am certainly not worried about you being cowed out of your due at the table but, what about “think strong and you soon become such”.

You represent (at least to me) a very tough competitor and match that emotion with a modest exterior. That, to me, is a tough combination for your opponents to deal with and my guess is that in the long run, your results will show up to be extremely positive.

Add to that your (my guess) constant active ethics and you deserve to have your name in lights.

Bobby WolffMay 7th, 2015 at 1:42 am

Hi Slar,

Don’t forget that if one has a long time partnership and both partners are very much above average and close to expert, even though proper technique (such as you describe) isn’t always necessary, your partner will notice your superior technique which is always important for continued partnership confidence.

ClarksburgMay 7th, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Further to SLAR’s comment and your response. This is an area where Partner and I are just now working out our agreements. We do play the new suit NF as you recommend here.
With the same start to the auction, how would you recommend the following calls by Advancer be employed?
1 single raise
2 jump raise
3 Jump in new suit
4 Double

Bobby WolffMay 7th, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

As an answer to your questions, let me attempt an annotated answer which, I hope, gives additional theory to consider which may or may not influence close decisions.

1. A single raise can be quite light ranging from on the high side a simple 10 point hand with balanced distribution (and even sometimes only honor one in partner’s suit) down to only 3 or 4 HCP’s with good distribution (4 trumps and a side singleton, usually in the opponents suit).

2. Although jump raises are not almost universally played as preemptive, while playing against very good players, I do not like to, nor do I, play them preemptive, but rather limit raises showing usually 4 trumps and a step up from a mere single raise (1-1 1/2) extra tricks on average. The reason being is that the opponents being good, will cause them, when they buy the hand (not so clear here with only the opener’s suit being raised instead of a new suit bid) to usually play the hand double dummy (eg. very well).

To me, there is a much wider range of poker situations in playing high-level bridge meaning when the opponents are always playing very well (often based on our so-called picture bidding) my results are not as good and the reason for it IMO is that the opponents are listening to my bidding to gain that advantage. However against average to below that players, then the preemptive style is much more likely to gain significant advantage and worth playing.

Should you adopt that style and play differently against very good players? No, I just suggest that you play that way all the time and you’ll get used to those methods and learn to do very well with them.

3. A jump in a new suit is strongly invitational, but not forcing (if partner has a minimum overcall such as: s. KQ10xx, h. xx, d. xxx, c. Qxx) I would pass partner’s jump to either 3 diamonds or 3 hearts. The only forcing bid would be a 3 club cue bid which might look like: s. AJ, h. KQJ10xx, d. AQJx, c.x and then after bidding 3 clubs would convert partner’s 3 spade return to 4 hearts, and in that way not totally rule out slam in the rare case that partner had a better hand than he so figured to have after an opening bid by the dealer. In other words an immediate jump is strong and highly invitational but not 100% forcing. With s. x, h. KQJ10xx, d. AKxxx, c. x I would merely just bid what is in front of my nose, 4 hearts. For those who want to get both red suits in, I suggest another game than bridge to get their attention.

4. Double is a responsive double indicating with the specific bidding involved in the BWTA example. s. Qx, h. KQ10x, d. AKxxx, c. xx as a very good hand down to: s. Jx, KJ9x, d. KQ10xx, c. xx. Both typical takeouts and asking partner to better describe his overcall requiring partner holding perhaps: s. KJ9xx, h. xx, d. KQx, c.Jxx to rebid 2 diamonds, assuming the opening bidder passes at his 2nd turn.

The above is always using bridge logic, e.g. comparing one’s first bid with what it often shows and then deciding on the 2nd bid according to what is the most likely overall 26 card collection.

I’ll be pleased to answer any follow up questions as almost a whole book can often be dedicated to many individual subjects often encountered..

Bobby WolffMay 7th, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Unfortunately for doing my proof reading after I put up my answer, instead of before, under 2 above, not should be now. Mea Culpa!

slarMay 7th, 2015 at 6:58 pm

I’ve been trying to work out the agreements here. It seems that there are four possible bids (preemptive, invitational+, forcing non-support, and non-forcing non-support) but only three bids available (new suit, cue bid, jump raise). The way I understand it, in Washington Standard cue bids show limit raises (or better) and jumps are preemptive. I like this approach because it often allows you to avoid the contract of death (3M). If you do that, how do you force if new suits aren’t forcing? If you use the cue bid as a general force, how do you distinguish game-forcing support from suit tolerance / waiting?

Generally what I end up doing is adapting to partner’s methods as long as they are reasonably coherent. They are usually amenable to suggestions that fill gaps, but not to outright changes.

Bobby WolffMay 7th, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Hi Slar,

What seems to be left out of my discussion are ways to preempt. How about just jumping to game in whatever suit?

When in partner’s suit it could be totally preemptive or perhaps some kind of trap, in case the opponent’s feel some kind of stealing going on.

For example after the bidding goes: with NS only vulnerable:
South: 1S. West: 2 Clubs, North: 2S. East, 5 Clubs with: s. void, h. Jxxxxx, d. xx, c. Qxxxx or with s. AKxx, h. xxxxx, d. void, clubs Jxxx
or instead East bids 4 hearts with s. J109x, h. QJ10xxxxx, d. void, c. x

At lower levels I do not like cue bids show a limit raise or better since when the opponents further compete and partner bids on even to the 5 level the cue bidder does not and will not know whether partner’s 5 level bid is expecting to make or, instead, be taking a sacrifice. From then, assuming that does not end the bidding the overcaller will stay confused and have no way to know what to do.

I prefer cue bids to be strong hands, usually with trump support but if not, good enough for a GF in his suit or if early enough in the bidding once he cue bids and then bids another suit, partner is now forced, enabling the cue bidder to now bid another suit.

There are other things to say, but the main focus is that a cue bid is a strong hand and not ever a limit bid with perhaps extras. That relatively new idea will soon fade out when good players start to realize that if the opponents further compete valuation becomes a very difficult problem.