Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Dream what you want to dream go where you want to go, be what you want to be because you only have one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do.

Nishan Panwar

S North
None ♠ K 8 6
 A K J
 10 9 3
♣ K 10 4 3
West East
♠ 9 4
 10 9 3 2
 A K 4
♣ 9 6 5 2
♠ 7 5 3
 8 7 6 5 4
 Q J 8 5 2
♣ —
♠ A Q J 10 2
 7 6
♣ A Q J 8 7
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 2 ♣ Pass
3 * Pass 3 ♠ Pass
4 ♣ Pass 4 ♠ All pass

*Splinter-bid: short hearts, agreeing clubs


At the Dyspeptics Club South has been experimenting with some of the modern conventions, despite North’s cynical comment that he would do better to master the art of crawling before trying to learn how to run sprints.

Today’s deal was an example of South putting into practice a modern gadget, whereby he showed a good club raise with short hearts by jumping in a suit where a simple bid of that suit would have been forcing. The partnership reverted to spades, and South – who had no diamond control – eventually settled for game. His four club call was in the hopes that North could co-operate, perhaps with the diamond ace instead of the heart ace, when six clubs would have been a highly desirable spot.

Having settled in four spades, South received a top diamond lead. When East discouraged, West shifted optimistically to a heart. Now declarer could draw trump, and discard his second diamond loser on the hearts.

When North asked a not-soinnocent question “Did we miss anything?” it was East who commented grimly that somebody had missed something – and it wasn’t North-South. Do you see what he meant?

South’s revealing auction had suggested at least four clubs. The only way that West could have set four spades was to find his partner with a club void. After a club shift at trick two West has the diamond entry to deal his partner a second ruff and defeat the game. This defense might cost an overtrick, but it was surely the only shot to beat the game.

It is rare that you can be confident with a hand this good that the correct percentage action is to pass as soon as decorum permits. You are far short of the values for overcalling in no-trump. And if you double for take-out you may well find your partner suffering in a 4-3 fit with no high cards and a bad split against him, doubled, to boot. Your partner can still balance if he has the right hand.


♠ K 8 6
 A K J
 10 9 3
♣ K 10 4 3
South West North East
    Pass 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


Iain ClimieJuly 2nd, 2015 at 10:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, how much stronger would you want to be for 2N? The SQ extra would be enough for me but what about the SJ and would you regard that card as much better than an extra J elsewhere? If you had an extra heart, even with. 3433, would you stretch to a double.

On the main hand, east missed a chance. A low diamond discourages, a high one encourages and the Q shows the Jack, suggesting an underlead. So what would the DJ mean with the 109x in dummy? It can’t be DJx or south has 14 or 15 cards, so such a totally irrational-seeming signal should perhaps say “we can beat this pdq partner” and west should rise to the occasion as a heart can’t help or be requested. A nice day at the club for South for a change.



Bobby WolffJuly 2nd, 2015 at 11:25 pm

Hi Iain,

Your rhetoric refers and thus talks about finding ways to win rather than to accept losing. Not necessarily at matchpoints, (no meant offense to that game, but just commenting, since only an overtrick could be at stake) but instead, at what I consider the real game of bridge (rubber or imps).

Although, since the venue of this game is at the Dyspeptic club, one could never expect much different, but even the ethically played deuce of diamonds at trick one by East should resonate at the table, similar to the baseball park in Mudsville when the “mighty Casey was advancing to the bat”. That simple deuce should not only describe not to continue a diamond, but also imply that there are greater fish to fry with considering another suit.

Whereupon anyone but “dumb Dora” should snap to and realizing the bidding (South’s splinter bid in hearts) can only show exactly a void in clubs and not a singleton, (unless it was the unlikely ace) leaving West with a diamond entry in which to complete the overall set of the “hated” opponents.

Legal signals play a large part in all aspiring bridge partnership quivers, without it, our marvelous game is seriously handicapped in exchanging the information necessary to win the bridge war.

And now returning to your first question, I would chance 2NT with only the KJx in spades instead of just the king. It is only one more point, but likely the equivalent of one more trick (averaging about four points) and, of course your KQx is even more to the point (please excuse the pun). Lacking that key card (note the jack or queen of spades, being only doubleton with partner, likely is of little help) meaning good bidding judgment is more than just looking at one’s hand, counting its points and then deciding what to do.

Being realistic and on the actual hand, I could tolerate an original take-out double from South, although certainly dangerous. Frail heart rarely wins fair lady, similar to wimpy attitude winning bridge contest.

In these days of many and often preempts, sometimes we have to lower our standards in order to gamble it out with our worthy opponents. And without a 2nd spade stop in hand, I much prefer to take that gamble by choosing a less dangerous action, double.

Yes, we all should be aware that both the road to Hell and overbidding at bridge are sometimes paved with good intentions, but to compare the two after being doubled and set several at the bridge table, at least one doesn’t have to be in proximity to a man in red with a pitchfork in hand. Of course, after such an experience, partner may not be smiling, but at least we will have a next hand to play (at least in most cases of normal tempers).

David WarheitJuly 3rd, 2015 at 3:18 am

What you say regarding Hell and bridge I’m sure applies to almost all of us, but John G. Bennett would certainly disagree with you.

Bobby WolffJuly 3rd, 2015 at 5:33 am

Hi David,

Being so involved for so many years with many phases of bridge and its lore, obviously I had heard about the Bennett murder case, but not until you took the time and trouble to post what seems like a very valid newspaper account of the important details, complete with the last 60+ years of Mrs. Bennett’s life.

Thanks for allowing anyone who is interested and, of course, access to this site, to get a heavy dose of whatever is needed to be brought up to date on this true life experience. It wasn’t until not too long ago that I imagined the whole case was fictionally manufactured in order to promote the excitement of bridge.

As Bob Hope would have surely sung, “Thanks for the Memories”.

Iain ClimieJuly 3rd, 2015 at 10:35 am

Hi. Bobby, David,

A salutary reminder that bridge can be taken too seriously or, as a Scottish football manager once said “Football’s nae a matter of life or death; it is far more important than that.” I managed a slight faux pas at my current club early on by saying that I’d played with X at university. Sharp intakes of breath until we established that the X I’d played with (a common name) was different to the X who’d been a club member but is now serving life for murdering his wife and fellow club member.



Bobby WolffJuly 3rd, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Hi Iain and David,

Yes, bridge is in fact taken too seriously, especially with the mere social players, who make up the relatively large numbers who play our game around the world and often on a daily basis.

However, like others sports and competitions the Scottish football manager’s description probably nailed its importance and perhaps so since, being more a mental competition than a physical one, many feel it is a reflection on one’s basic intelligence, when in fact, IMO, it is only a test of a certain type of random bur versatile logic, which needs much experience to compete and also the right partner to do it with.

This other world imagination necessary is a probable blending of numeracy logic applied to the playing of cards in the right order with a major touch from the bidding (or passing) information available of blending the knowledge gleaned to the number of tricks eventually taken.

The above is, of course tempered by the location of the opponent’s cards and the skill necessary to both know where those unseen cards are located and the perfect way to time the play.

Enter lady luck to have the final say, but whatever the result it does have the effect of making pairs (and teams-of-four) feel superior or bite one’s tongue, also inferior.

Our game is open to players who are leaders and pillars of the community all the way down (Iain’s interesting story) to murderers and plunderers.

Perhaps those varieties of people and often unknown to others help make bridge a “game for peace” since the respect given is not to the “good looking”, “most successful” nor even the “wealthiest” but rather to the group who are regarded as the best players around. And those “best players” can come from any background and any country, not restrictive to anything other than bridge talent, always developed, since the bridge acumen born with, 100% needs to be cultivated, impossible (IMO) to just flow naturally.

David WarheitJuly 4th, 2015 at 4:41 am

The article I mentioned refers to the book The Devil’s Tickets by Gary Pomeerantz (2009) which provides the complete story of the Bennett murder. It is useful to remember that Ely Culbertson owed very much of his career and fame to his discussions and writings on this case. Read the book; it’s fascinating!

Bobby WolffJuly 4th, 2015 at 5:16 am

Hi David,

The Devil’s Tickets just made my bucket list.

All these many years I thought the Bennett murder case was some kind of fantasy, at best.

Thanks for the insight.