Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

We are all strong enough to bear the misfortunes of others.

Duc de La Rochefoucauld

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


In today’s deal from the 2002 McConnell teams semi-finals even three hearts has no play on accurate defense. So when one table stopped low and one bid game, you can guess who picked up the swing, right?

In the match between an American and a Dutch team, East had the first problem, when North passed the one heart opener. I fancy two clubs myself, expecting to bid spades later. And note that not only does the deal belong to East-West in clubs, but you also get partner off to the right lead. However, after the American East doubled, West sold out to two hearts and led a top diamond; now the only issue was the second overtrick.

In the other room where Irina Levitina was declarer on the auction shown, the 10th trick was far more important. The auction suggests that North-South may not have been on entirely firm ground as to whether responding one notrump with the North cards was expected – or maybe as to whether the three heart call was forcing – but note that here too East had passed up her opportunity to get partner off to the right lead. When Wietske van Zwol led a top diamond, Levitina won and drew two rounds of trumps before playing a diamond back. It was very tough for van Zwol to work out to duck – though I suspect it might be the percentage play. When she took her queen, declarer had two homes for her spade losers. Had West ducked, she loses her diamond trick but gets two spade winners in return.

There is a straightforward choice here. You can make the call to show a second negative – which should be either two no-trump or three clubs, depending on partnership style. (For what it is worth, I prefer three clubs here.) Or you can jump to four hearts, suggesting trump support but a bad hand – no ace or king and no singleton in a side suit. I marginally prefer the latter route, but it is close.


♠ 9 5 3
 J 8 7 3
 J 9 5 4
♣ J 2
South West North East
  Pass 2 ♣ Pass
2 Pass 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


slarSeptember 29th, 2015 at 4:45 pm

In BWTA I’m not sure how this is a close decision. What could you possibly hope to gain with a second negative? Partner is showing 9+ tricks. You have 1 or 2 to contribute to the cause. You want to sign off in game. The last thing you want is for opener to tip off the defense by showing a second suit.

Save the second negative for hands that look hopeless in opener’s suit like if the rounded suits were swapped. If opener bids again then you could raise a minor or correct 3S to 4H.

bobby wolffSeptember 29th, 2015 at 6:01 pm

Hi Slar,

While I definitely agree with you about the responding hand too good to show a 2nd negative once the opening bidder showed hearts to be his primary suit.

Probably the comment about a close decision came about in order to show both the process used to show double negatives and the meaning of a jump to four hearts from two to deny 2nd round control of all suits, but usually at least 4 card support.

Sometimes we weave tangled webs.

jim2September 29th, 2015 at 10:40 pm

Also, it may depend upon partnership agreements. For example, can an already-limited weak hand make a sign-off bid when the strong hand remains unlimited? Answer is probably “yes” as the strong hand can still bid past game, but the loss of bidding room may not be acceptable in a sequence like this.

bobby wolffSeptember 29th, 2015 at 11:06 pm

Hi Jim2.

And that is precisely why a jump to 4 of a major by the weak hand shows no controls (lst or 2nd round) and at least 4 trump. Both of those features are usually very helpful in case partner is very strong but distributional:

For example:
S, AKQxxx
H, AKQxx,
D. Qx
C. void

He would know immediately that they are off 2 diamond tricks.

slarSeptember 30th, 2015 at 12:28 am

At least 4 trump? I thought you only needed 3. Do you have to have at least a queen or a side doubleton to jump to game in that case?

bobby wolffSeptember 30th, 2015 at 12:53 am

Hi Slar,

No, there are (with certain distributional hands) a decided difference between holding only 3 trump instead of 4+.

Those major differences concern themselves with enough trumps in dummy to ruff good side suits and at the same time then enough to draw trumps fluidly after the preliminary side suit is set up. The second reason is even more important since when and if the opponents also find a trump fit and apparently are taking a sacrifice, it often becomes critical for the strong hand to count the defensive tricks and then calibrate the gain vs. loss ratio in knowing what to do.

Of course, much depends on the distribution of the opponents, but it certainly is helpful to know one’s partner has at least 4 of the strong bidder’s long suit.

A random queen held by either of the opening bidder’s side is usually only valuable on defense, and that extra although not forbidden can make a big difference.

However that involves itself with the breaks of the game and we can only provide so much consistency in the bidding, but not without at least some risk.