Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Tugging all day at perverse life: The indignity of it!

Theodore Roethke

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

* Four+ spades


In today’s deal West opened two hearts at one table, showing a weak hand with hearts and a minor. North, quite reasonably, chose to overcall three diamonds. East jumped to four hearts and when South passed it out, rather than doubling, that ended the auction. Worse, when North ducked his spade ace, West stole his game.

At the other table, on the auction shown, the defense to four spades did not tax declarer. West led the heart ace and switched to a club. East won the ace and returned a club, and declarer could lose a trick to the spade king before drawing trump and claiming the rest.

It is more difficult if the defenders play on hearts instead. Declarer has only one winning move now, which is to play a low spade from the dummy. Best is for East to duck this, and now declarer must play for the bad trump break and abandon trumps.

It is not good enough simply to try to run diamonds; (if he does, East ruffs and declarer overruffs, crosses to dummy with the trump ace and runs the diamonds, on which East discards all his losers. In the three-card ending dummy must play a black card, whereupon East’s hand will be high.)

Instead, declarer must overtake the diamond king with dummy’s ace and play a club, setting up the trick he needs while he is still in control. He can ruff the next heart in hand and revert to diamonds, after which East can score only his trump trick.

Assuming you play the forcing no-trump in response to an opening bid, is there ever a hand where you would be tempted to pass the response? Yes, and this is it, since your option would be to bid two clubs on a doubleton or to rebid those feeble hearts and promise six in the process. So does your partner have a sense of humor? Now might be the moment to find out…


♠ K 9 4 2
 K 8 7 4 3
 8 4
♣ A Q
South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT 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


Iain ClimieMay 9th, 2015 at 9:23 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, what are the range of options which the forcing NT bidder could have? I’d certainly sympathise if partner had already passed, but isn’t 1NT sometimes the first move on a fairly big hand, with pard just trying to extract information before heading off to a high level? It’s been many years since I played forcing NT (back in the late 70s and early 80s I played Precision with some partners) but I might try pass with a tolerant partner at pairs. At teams, I really don’t think it is worth risking the complaints from 3 different directions, to say nothing of the 10 IMPS or worse in the wrong column.



jim2May 9th, 2015 at 11:11 am

Flannery would have avoided this one, I think.

Jane AMay 9th, 2015 at 1:06 pm

So does playing semi forcing NT which is my choice these days. Makes this hand an easy pass. I do not play Flannery so that is not an option for me.

Bobby WolffMay 9th, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Hi Iain,

When playing what is now the most popular bidding system among the USA’s tournament bridge players, 5-card majors with a forcing NT response to a major suit opening, I really prefer a not so minor change.

Changing the forcing nature of 1NT to an “intended” force” thereby reducing the HCP range to no more than 12 HCP’s or 6-12 instead of 6-infinity.


1. Cannot be unlimited and therefore surprise partner with some game bid the second round or an obviously then 2nd round force which would imply, still a balanced hand but even perhaps slam being in the “air”.

2. It may intimidate some opponents while holding something like: s. Axx, h. KJ10xx, d. K10x, c. Qx and while sitting West hear South open 1S, partner pass, and North respond 1NT then overcall 2 hearts and have it go P, P, double, all pass and have North hold”, s. Jx, h. A9xx, d. Q9xx, c. AKx. together with South holding: s. KQ10xx, h.Qx, d. AJx, c. Jxx and go 3 or 4 down without knowing what hit him.

3. Being able to with length in partner’s major to basically psyche 1NT and then return to the major with perhaps after partner’s one spade opening: s. Q10xx, h. Kx, d, xxx, c. xxxx. However that is a double edge sword with the using partnership having it go 2 hearts over the forcing NT response, pass, 4 hearts and then the psycher nor his partner will have any idea what to then do with indecision a major flaw in that ruse. Furthermore if the original responder would have bid 2 spades his LHO may not have felt inclined to risk 3 hearts and a hand may well be stolen by the opening bid side, whether or not the opener has to bid 3 spades immediately or not to steal it. “Oh what a tangled web we weave ………….”

However, it isn’t always peaches and cream when the opener has a minimum and, like today’s hand has no convenient rebid and is deprived the right to pass.

With any balanced 12 to a non spectacular 14 such as s. Kxxxx, h. KQx, d. Q9x, Ax or a 4-5-2-2 minimum (and not to be playing a Flannery 2 diamonds, which I think is a plus convention instead of the not so preemptive weak two bid of 2 diamonds) simply pass and perhaps surprise one’s RHO who may have been trapping with the above likely overcall for fear of being over matched when partner is dealt a Yarborough.

The above strategy has come about from experience over a large number of years and I heartily endorse its use. However, totally loyal 1NT forcing advocates will challenge such a treatment as not percentage, but if so, simply watch what happens regardless of which method of 1NT forcing over a major suit opening you or they play and then that partnership should decide which version to embrace in the future: 1NT forcing or 1NT intended forcing.

With the new NF possibility the responder must limit raise with 3 of partner’s major and about 10-12 HCPs so that the major becomes trump instead of no trump. At least to me that is not a loss, but a basic break even.

Iain, little did you know that your thinking was way ahead of its time, and even without you opening your mouth about your intuitive feelings, you may have been right all along, at least I think you were.

Bobby WolffMay 9th, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, see above to find out that at least one very grizzled veteran thinks you are very right.

Bobby WolffMay 9th, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Hi Jane A,

Hoorah! Another sweet talker with excellent bridge intuition is also voicing her agreement.

Now all you have to do is take up Flannery and you will become unbeatable. And let all those weak two diamond bidders (the usual competition on this side of the pond) tell me just how many hands they have stolen with that too meek preempt allowing fairly easy competition and a then much better knowledge of how to play that hand or defend against it and especially on opening lead.

However there are other more valuable IMO options for that 2 diamond choice in some of the current alternatives with me not having enough experience to judge their value. For over 30 years I played a strong 4-4-4-1 (any) 17+ and when it occurred it was dynamite (meaning great) to find the right contract, but its frequency of occurrence was very low. Also its totally artificial responses took a lot of remembering, meaning repetitions and much practice, but a 2 diamond opening has been the most varied bidding choice for more years than I can count and will probably be so with Precision Club probably choosing the most valuable for its overall system to make up for minimum hands with short diamonds but still an opening bid, fairly otherwise balanced, (4-4-1-4, 3-4-1-5, 4-3-1-5, and 4-4-0-5). However do not play this bid unless playing the Precision Club.

Thanks Jane A for your always to the point experience.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 9th, 2015 at 5:16 pm


Of all the conventions we play, I have never felt more comfortable than incorporating Flannery and INTENDED Forcing NT into my repertoire. I can attest to the results achieved by opener’s good judgment in passing — holding a minimum balanced array of cards, knowing your side is unlikely to make a game opposite at best a bad 12!

And to my good friend Jane A. regarding Flannery: It has worked well for me. Try it. You’ll LOVE it!

Jane AMay 9th, 2015 at 9:34 pm

Thanks for the kind words, but I was the most beatable person in the room today. Just could not get it together but I guess we all have days when the think tank goes on vacation. I have yet to add Flannery but none of may partners play it either so it may be awhile. Seems like players either love Flannery or not! I see advantages and disadvantages, but the same applies to many conventions.

Thanks for the advice.

slarMay 10th, 2015 at 12:05 am

To me passing a known forcing bid is a good way to ruin a partnership. If you don’t want to play it forcing, don’t play it forcing. Part of the system is understanding that you might be stuck bidding a 3-card diamond suit or 2-card club suit. If you can’t handle that, play something else.

Last week I was dealt kx/-/axxx/kqt9854 and naturally partner opened 1H. What am I supposed to do with that? It isn’t good enough to force to game. We might have slam and we might have nothing. What’s the answer? 1NT forcing.

Bobby WolffMay 10th, 2015 at 12:42 am

Hi Slar,

Bridge hardly ever lends itself to huge percent solutions, usually doing this works for me, but doing that works for others and thus may work for you.

But I feel safe in saying that with your hand in question: s. Kx, h. void, d. Axxx, and clubs KQ10xxxx and having your partner open 1 heart, I would like to find anyone who may doubt that 2 clubs is the right bid.

Sure it may be a misfit, but this hand alone is a hand I would open 1 club and jump to 3 clubs over 1 spade, 1 diamond, or 1NT keeping strong diamond support in reserve, but hoping to possibly wind up in clubs with the hope of throwing my losing diamonds (if I have any) on some good major suit cards held by partner. I would even accept jumping to 3 clubs over 1 heart, but others may persuade me to not.

At least to me to worry about the misfit necessary to prevent this hand from being at least a game opposite a random opening bid by partner of 1 heart is to waste energy being so pessimistic.

My guess is after my 2 club response if partner then rebid 2NT, 2 diamonds or certainly 3 clubs I am only stopping short of at least a small slam in a minor if partner doesn’t have a black ace. Of course our partnership will have plenty of room to try and pin down our final contract, but if I was only allowed one bid, it would be 6 of a minor.

Perhaps I am beating this poor horse, but please tell me that your partners have not suggested you bid 1NT with that, no matter how forcing it is.

I do not mean to rant, but your comments are usually serious so I am taking it as such.

slarMay 10th, 2015 at 1:57 am

From my partner’s teacher, as relayed to me by my partner:
“For 11, he thought the bidding should go 1H-1N-2D-3C (showing 6C and top of your range)-3N. He didn’t think that your hand was strong enough for slam interest, but if you are you could bid 4C, which since you bypassed game, shows slam interest.”


Partner’s hand was AJxx/AQxxx/xxx/A

The good news is that while our bidding wasn’t ideal, we stopped safely in 4NT. Of the 24 pairs to play the hand (this was a STAC game with a wide variety of A/B/C players) only one found 6C (down 1 due to TOCM).

Next time I get a hand like this, I’ll just bid 2C.

CurtisMay 16th, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Re: the play of 4 S: After East ducks the first spade, are there any clues that suggest declarer should “play for the bad trump break”? Isn’t East holding Kxx more likely than Kxxx?

Re: the defense to 4 S: When declarer follows your suggested line, overtaking DK to play a C, it looks like East can defeat the game by rising with the ace and shifting to either major. What am I missing