Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

Ill fortune never crushed that man whom good fortune deceived not.

Ben Jonson

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


Today’s deal comes from the finals of the McConnell women’s teams. In one room Judi Radin responded one spade to one heart as North. That got Valerie Westheimer to a reasonable spot, but it warned Kerri Sanborn to lead a club. Westheimer might have drawn one round of trumps, but she actually led the spade 10 to the spade king at trick two, and Irina Levitina won and returned a spade. Westheimer rose with the spade queen – hardly an unreasonable play, was it? Sanborn ruffed and returned a club, and now Westheimer ruffed, and crossed to dummy with the heart ace to take the diamond finesse. When that lost, the hand fell to pieces; she emerged with seven tricks, and can hardly be said to have done too much wrong.

In the other room Rozanne Pollack led her singleton spade against four hearts, of course. East put in the spade jack and declarer, Jill Meyers, won and tried the spade 10. Pollack ruffed and led a trump, and Meyers won and cashed a second heart, finding the bad news. Then she led her last spade; had East ducked this, Meyers would have had to play the diamond ace followed by the diamond queen to ensure her ruff – which she might well have done, given the fact that West clearly had 10 minor-suit cards. But East took the third spade, and the hand was over. In fact Meyers could take the diamond finesse for an overtrick.

I would not feel embarrassed to keep the auction open with a call of one spade. I am at the one-level and already a passed hand; my partner won’t get overly excited by my responding here, and it makes life far harder for the opening bidder to come back in when he has a marginal action. If you pass here, he has a far easier re-opening decision.


♠ K 6 4 3 2
 A 6 3
 7 2
♣ 9 4 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ 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


LeonSeptember 30th, 2015 at 9:28 am

Hi Bobby,

2nd room: After winning the first trick with the spade queen, I think declarer should have played diamond ace and small. Ruffing two small diamonds in dummy is all that needs to be done…..

I think the play in the first room was good (but unlucky).
Here you could also start with diamond ace and small, but I like better to establish the necessary spade trick first.


bobby wolffSeptember 30th, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Hi Leon,

In the 2nd room if East wins the third trick with the jack of diamonds and then leads a low spade and West after ruffing merely leads another diamond, 4 losers are created for the defense: 1 diamond, 1 diamond overruff, 1 spade and 1 spade ruff.

Lessons to be learned:

1. When faced with a choice in the bidding as North thought she was, it may be less informative to her worthy opponents for her to merely raise to 2 hearts instead of bidding spades, resulting in Kerri making it more difficult for her opponents by leading a club (the unbid suit) rather than a more revealing singleton spade. The enemy is always listening!

2. The defense must always be planned with beating the contract in mind and then doing what it takes to give the maximum chance to defeat that contract (here, duck the 3rd spade preventing the fluidity necessary to waltz into a make).

The defense was dealt a chance (unfavorable diamond position for declarer), but they then needed to take advantage of that, if given a chance and South, with the opposite responsibility needs to guess the right diamonds to play in order to succeed.

Iain ClimieSeptember 30th, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Hi Bobby,

What was the bdding in the 2nd room as it isn’t actually given? I suspect 2 passes then 1H (P) 2H (P) 4H, but did West bid a weak UNT or similar?



LeonSeptember 30th, 2015 at 1:01 pm


You are right, I missed the threat of the diamond over-ruff.
What is (according to you) the best play after winning trick one with spade queen?


jim2September 30th, 2015 at 2:34 pm

In the Lower Slobbovian Grand National Teams, the ladies came to bid, so Lena heard the West at her table throw in an Unusual 2N.

North doubled to show spades, East bid 3C, and Lena decided to put her pard at the helm so that she could ruff spades in the short hand and have trump as entries to the closed hand.

East led a club, won on the Board (perforce), the closed hand was entered with the AH, and a small spade was advanced. East rose with the AS and led another club, tapping the dummy.

Declarer cashed the QS and started hearts, and the best East could do was score three trump tricks.

jim2September 30th, 2015 at 2:35 pm

“… ruff clubs in the short hand.” (sigh)

slarSeptember 30th, 2015 at 4:54 pm

As a tangent to BWTA, I’ve found myself nearly discarding 1D overcalls because they have no preemptive value and the opponents can usually out-bid you anyway. I feel that I have had better success bidding 2D with any sound overcall (a hand that I would bid over 1S given the position and vulnerability) because it forces the opponents to establish their fits at the 3-level. (BTW, you have helped convince me to make my 2-level overcalls sound, particularly when vulnerable.) Anyway, this allows me to reserve the 1D overcall for unsound hands like a Kxxxx or AQxx suit and less-than-opening-strength which seem to at least have some lead-directing value.

Do you think this is a productive approach?

bobby wolffSeptember 30th, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Hi Iain,

I surely think your guess of the bidding going, 1H P 2H P 4H is correct since only EW were vulnerable and West was nowhere near strong enough to jump to 2NT for the minors.

Therein lies the difference in result, which is often brought about by the chosen bidding.

bobby wolffSeptember 30th, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Hi Leon,

I will only pretend to know what I may think is the best play, first the queen of hearts passed, then the nine of spades toward the dummy, in hopes of making West think twice.

He should know that his partner could not hold the ten of spades since he woulda, shouda played it instead of the jack if he held it at trick one. Then West should trump the nine of spades, but then would be out of trump (best defense) to continue another.

A tricky hand which demands good defense to have a chance of defeating the declarer.

bobby wolffSeptember 30th, 2015 at 7:34 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, this hand does offer the possibility of different bidding sequences. However, and at least for me, anything different than a simple raise to 2 hearts (if Lena wasn’t going crazy as West) is clearly the only decent response, unless, of course, if NS were playing 4 card majors, but even, if so, I would still bid 2 hearts and let partner make all future mistakes, at least on this hand.

bobby wolffSeptember 30th, 2015 at 7:44 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, I agree except for a couple of useful tidbits.

1. Still a 1 diamond overcall should be made with a normal hand, almost opening bid strength (because of being vulnerable) and

2. Make a jump overcall show about slightly more than an opening bid and a preferred one loser suit with, of course good intermediates, presumably KQJ98x or better. and an ace and king or an ace queen combination on the side.

Productive is as productive does meaning I would tend to overcall RHO’s 1 club with 1 diamond, holding s. xx, h. xxx, d. AKQx,c. Jxxx
non-vulnerable to just get the lead when LHO turns out to be the declarer (likely a good chance to happen). Also I would do it vulnerable holding 1 more diamond or even AKJxx and little else.