Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill

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


West led the heart queen against four spades, and East was on the ball when he overtook this and returned a trump. With sure heart winners in hand, and the knowledge that South had at least four hearts, this was the indicated line of defense. When declarer continued in his search for heart ruffs by winning the trump and playing on hearts, East won the trick and led another trump. Declarer won in hand, ruffed a heart, took a heart discard on the diamond ace, and finessed in clubs. Unlucky! The finesse failed and there was still a heart to lose.

As the cards lie, South had missed his chance to make the hand at trick five. Had he taken the club ace and followed up by leading another club, it would have given South his 10th trick in due course. But this line would have failed if East had been able to win with the club king and lead a third round of trump.

The solution that involves less risk is to try the club finesse earlier, at trick three. If it wins, there is no problem for declarer in giving up a heart and ruffing a heart for his 10th trick; if the club finesse loses, West has no more trumps to play as the cards lie (and if the spades are 2-2 the contract is still secure).

As the cards lie today when West takes his club king and returns a diamond, the clubs can be unblocked, a heart eventually ruffed, and the club jack enjoyed for the game-going trick.

Many points are lost by passed hands overbidding – be it as responder or overcaller – in an attempt to make up for lost time. Here, with no heart fit, respond one no-trump, perhaps preparing to invite at your next turn. Don’t hang partner by jumping in no-trump. He opened in third seat, so let him pass with a minimum balanced opener and you won’t miss anything – except the chance to go for a penalty.


♠ K J 9
 8 5
 A 8 6 4 3
♣ Q J 7
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 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


A.V.Ramana RaoSeptember 1st, 2015 at 10:50 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
I think that Declarer can prevail adopting the following line too.
He wins the trump in dummy at second trick , pitches a club on Diamond A , plays a club to A and returns a heart. Now East has to return another trump but declarer is in control. He wins again in dummy and takes the ruffing finesse in clubs ( Now he knows for certain that W does not have trumps) & irrespective of the result of the ruffing finesse, he can arrange to ruff a heart in dummy and enjoy another club trick for the game

jim2September 1st, 2015 at 12:24 pm


I like that line!

bobby wolffSeptember 1st, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Hi AVRR & Jim2,


We finally all agree at least once per year, but sometimes we are required to wait till September to have it occur.

Thanks AVRR for making it happen at the earliest date possible.

slarSeptember 1st, 2015 at 7:39 pm

I have two questions that might be good candidates for your Sunday column.
1. What does it mean to double an opponent’s cue bid of your suit, showing a limit raise or better? For example 1D (1S) p (2D); X.
2. In the absence of prior discussion, are conventional defenses to NT on over a NT overcall? We happen to play Landy where 2C after an opponent’s 1NT opener shows the majors but we didn’t know what 1D (1NT) 2C meant.

Iain ClimieSeptember 1st, 2015 at 10:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the bidding problem, would you consider 2D even though TOCM might give partner a 4513 hand with poor hearts?



jim2September 1st, 2015 at 11:19 pm

I know I did.

bobby wolffSeptember 2nd, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Hi Slar,

1. A double of a 2 diamond cue bid (opener having opened 1 diamond and then LHO overcalled with his partner now showing strength) it is possibly played differently by various partnerships, but then skipping to what we would both think at least fairly high-level competition, I would say that the double should show a good diamond suit, worth rebidding such as AQJ9xx or better encouraging partner to raise diamonds (if given the chance and for sure lead a diamond if eventually on lead). The only other alternative is to show a very general good hand, perhaps 4-4-4-1 with of course shortness in lefty’s overcall. On frequency (usually a deciding factor) I favor the first. but with: s. AKJx, h. x, AJxxxx, c. Kx and after opening 1 diamond and hearing it go 1 heart, P 2 diamonds I would then bid 2 spades and think unkindly of someone who wouldn’t. Often RHO’s cue bid is based on great trump support with a twinge of trying to intimidate their opponent’s out of competing.

2. In the absence of discussion, 2 clubs by the partner of an opening bidder (different suit opened) and then a strong NT overcall, bids are just noises with desires to play exactly what is bid, e.g with your example s. x, h. xx d. Qxx, c. KJ10xxxx being a classic example:

3. FYI, there is a good convention called Mitchell-Stayman (named after its inventors) wherein after partner opens a minor followed by a strong NT overcall a single raise in that specific same minor shows a major suit takeout (classically 5-5 but with some flexibility). The thought is that rarely will the responder to the opening bid have support for partner’s minor suit when RHO does overcall 1NT, but with much more frequency will have both majors but will need to know which major, if any, partner may have. After all the bid of 2 sparts is currently not legal. Also I think that the raise of partner’s opened suit should be the major suit TO since an independent suit like clubs (in this case) should be free to be overcalled naturally.

bobby wolffSeptember 2nd, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Hi Iain,

No, I wouldn’t simply because at least IMO one doesn’t really need to be inflicted with TOCM for partner to be very short in a minor as part of his values for a relatively weak 3rd seat opener.

In other words partner on the bidding mentioned is more likely then the percentage table will suggest for partner to have only a singleton in the suit bid and, if so, some minor tragedy will develop as opposed to the underbid of 1NT but also encouraging partner to bid again unless he holds a relatively balanced minimum even sometimes with a singleton honor in one of the suits. As you have known for years there is a huge difference between A9xxx and AJ98x(x) when at least TOCM is possible.

bobby wolffSeptember 2nd, 2015 at 4:58 pm


Think of the blessing you sometimes possess in being able to exclude yourself from conventional bidding disciplines because of your known malady.

Mind you, players are not standing in line trying to be afflicted with TOCM, but in the post-mortem, often you may be advantaged, at least with more sympathy than others.