Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 8th, 2015

Lucky to touch it, a shilling a day!

Rudyard Kipling

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

*Better than a preemptive raise to four spades


There were contrasting fortunes in today’s contract of four spades, from a team game. One declarer saw all the possibilities, and exploited the lie of the cards, one relied on good fortune, and got the result he deserved.

One declarer won the heart lead to play trumps at once. He ruffed the next heart, drew the last trump, and tried to drop the diamond jack-10. When the diamond honors failed to put in an appearance he ruffed the fourth diamond, planning to duck a club to West if he could. Alas for him, East remembered to split his club intermediates, and now whatever declarer did, he had to lose three club tricks, and the contract.

In the other room when West led the heart king against four spades, declarer won the ace and ruffed a heart in his hand. He then led a trump from hand. Had West ducked, declarer would have stripped off the diamonds and endplayed West with the trump ace. Seeing this coming, West flew up with the spade ace and returned a trump.

Declarer now played the top three diamonds pitching one club from dummy. Then he continued with the losing diamond nine and pitched another club from dummy. West was allowed to win the diamond jack, but was now endplayed and had either to give declarer a free finesse, or a ruff and sluff. Either way, South was home in his contract.

I have a secret hankering to bid three spades as a fit-jump (promising five decent spades and club support) but this is not a standard agreement so I must find a different approach. Here a simple call of two spades should be natural (and indeed some play it as forcing). I’d expect four spades to be the easiest game to make here if I can find any sort of spade fit; the club support can wait. So two spades it is.


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


Mircea1May 22nd, 2015 at 11:38 am

Hi Bobby,

What is the best use of the 3NT response to an opening bid of 1M (opponents are silent)?

bobby wolffMay 22nd, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Hi Mircea,

That bid, like an opening 2 diamonds, has had, through the years, a variety of uses.

Seemingly, at least to me, although I have not participated seriously in the last period of years, seem to think that a substitute for the old tried and true forcing 2NT (13-15+) balanced hand with at least one sure stopper in every suit e.g. (s. xx, h. KJ9, d. AQxx, c. QJ9x) is possibly the percentage choice.

Since 2NT is now often used as a GF major suit raise (giving as much room as possible for later slam exploration), then a former classic NT type hand with a fairly tight high card point raise, with tenaces galore (KJs, KQ10s, AQs, and Q109s).

A good question for that partnership to follow is that what should a 5-4-1-3 or 5-4-3-1 minimum hand then bid and the answer would have to be pass. To then be consistent the responding hand should then not have 3 in partners major suit, nor 4 of the other major.

However even that admonition could be tempered by using (as I prefer) a 2 diamond opening to show Flannery 5 hearts and 4 spades, minimum opening, therefore allowing the responder to bid 3NT over a 1 heart opening while holding 4 spades.

Is that choice perfect? No, not even very close, but everything considered, probably the better, lesser of evils one. Particularly so while playing matchpoints, where it is often better to give your worthy (sometimes) opponents as little opening lead information as possible.

Of course, after a 3NT response, the opener’s return to 4 of the major is a sign-off and other bids show enough distribution to either be in the slam zone or at the least as a random 5-5-3-0 type hand. A then response of 4 of the major would normally be honor one, another suit would be a cue bid in support of the openers 2nd suit, a mere raise only a minimum but likely at least 4 of that suit and 4NT as a minimum but the other two suits at least doubly stopped and likely not with the ace.

By analyzing the above it is then easy to recognize that it will not be often to be dealt a pure enough hand to use the 3NT response to begin with.

Yes while holding s. QJ10x, h. xxx, d. KQ9, c. KQ10 I would respond 3NT to a 1 heart opening.

To be funny, sometimes a declarer can make 9 tricks, or at least come close, with stoppers alone, but have 4 losers in a trump contract. Partner holds: s. Kx, h. KJxxx, d. Ax, c. J9xx.

Do not ever underestimate the power of Dame Fortune, the fickle lady who deals the cards. When peers collide, she is in control and will often determine who wins.

ClarksburgMay 22nd, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Maybe this is already covered implicitly in your answer, but how about:
1M > 3NT to mean 13-15 perfectly flat 4333 with three trumps, i.e. little or no chance for an extra trick at either major, so let’s play in NT.

slarMay 23rd, 2015 at 3:03 am

I’ve been instructed to use the 1M > 3NT to show a balanced 13-15 with either 4-3-3-3 or 4-4-3-2 distribution (no likely ruffing value). Partner will pull to 4 with 6+ trump or bid something else to go towards slam. That seems pretty reasonable to me.

bobby wolffMay 23rd, 2015 at 4:34 am

Hi Clarksburg & Slar,

Nothing really wrong with either of your approaches. However, having to be strictly 4-3-3-3 instead of 4-4-3-2 with the doubleton being in partner’s major seems a little restrictive. However if the opener is 5-4-3-1 with a small singleton it works out nicely to be able to convert back to 4 of the major, knowing you’ll catch 3 trumps in dummy.

Still, I do not like those horrible opponents knowing my distribution from the get go, with only the 4 card suit unknown, causing me to slightly prefer, say 55% to 45%, to also allow the right 4-4-3-2. (eg. s Q108x, h. Qx, d. AJxx, c. KQ9) although, no doubt, that choice is somewhat blind flying, but truthfully, winning bridge at all levels is combining good technical play with very experienced bidding judgment and like poker, not to be stereotyped.

HerremanAugust 24th, 2015 at 9:41 am

After the double, a popular treatment in France is 3NT-Lebel, to show a splinter….