Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 17th, 2015

I am amazed that anyone who has made a fortune should send for his friends.


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

*Strong, 16+


On this deal from the McConnell trophy in Montreal in 2002 three no-trump is easy. However, if you are going to play four spades, you would surely want to play it from the North side so you can protect your heart queen…wouldn’t you?

When this happened at one table in the finals, the defense led three rounds of hearts, as happened against Disa Eythorsdottir. On the diamond return at trick four declarer correctly rose with the diamond ace, since whatever she did, she needed the club finesse, but might not need the diamond finesse or might have a squeeze.

Disa next played the spade king and a spade to the ace (leading to the spade eight, playing the Theory of Restricted Choice would have allowed her to make). Next she passed the club jack, as West ducked, of course; then declarer ran the club 10, covered and ruffed by East, who returned a diamond for two down.

In the other room – on the auction shown – Lynn Deas played four spades from the wrong side. The defense led a heart to the jack, then played heart king, heart ace and another heart. This seemed like the obvious defense, since East knew that there was no diamond trick on defense and that there might be a trump promotion. West ruffed the heart with the spade nine, and Deas overruffed, played the spade king and guessed very well to finesse in spades, then passed the club jack.

Once the club jack held, declarer drew the last trump, and tested clubs from the top. When they didn’t break, Deas ruffed a club to hand and ran the diamond queen; contract made.

I could understand the logic of bidding one spade; you do after all have clubs and spades. But you have a balanced hand best described by rebidding two no-trumps. If you do that you may find a black-suit fit subsequently, but if you bid one spade you can never show your precise values later on.


♠ K Q 7 6
 Q 8 2
 A 6
♣ A K 8 2
South West North East
1 ♣ 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


jim2October 1st, 2015 at 11:40 am

In BWTA, bidding 1S not only is the easiest way to a spade fit, but there might be substantial additional value in protecting partner’s soft diamond honor/tenace. That is, letting partner have an easy 1N rebid here would allow:

1C – 1H
1S – 1N

Patrick CheuOctober 1st, 2015 at 11:59 am

Hi Bobby, If 1C-1H-2N-? How do you show 4H n 4S,as responder? We play 3S here=5H 4S,so do you bid 3D here as an artificial force? Though I can see the merit of concealing the spade suit for lead purposes by 2N rebid..Regards~Patrick.

Iain ClimieOctober 1st, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Hi Bobby,

Very sad news for the game – see for yet another scandal.

What is strange is the unsubtle nature of the supposed method, which seems to apply in many other cases too.



bobby wolffOctober 1st, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Hi Jim2.

At least as I see it, there is and has always been a battle between scientific bidders and what I will call pragmatic bashers when in the earlier stages of bidding (usually 1st or 2nd round) choices diverge into reality.

No doubt, at least to me that your “feel” leans toward science with the rebid of 1 spade rather than 2NT the most logical way to explore that partnership’s direction to the right percentage contract.

Therefore the result (whatever it happens to be) will reflect in a picture perfect way the beauty of the game and, going further, the high-level way to get it done.

All of the above is to be respected and always seriously considered, but, to be fair, a different approach needs to also be in the hunt, if that person (or better expressed, that partnership) wants to regard winning as the ultimate and therefore chief goal.

When one opts for a 2NT rebid (instead of 1 spade) he (or she) is regarding being the toughest opponent possible more important than seeking the scientific most effective way of finding the right contract.

When a partnership selects faster ways to bids games (and sometimes even slams) he is giving his worthy opponents less information on how to defend that hand in the best possible way, from the opening lead, and even sometimes to the later stages, as to who has what.

Winning at bridge is nothing if not matching up with the opponents on information gleaned legally while at the table and the best use of that information by both sides to be both the best declarer possible and, in turn, the best partnership defenders based on what seems to be the right defense on the information known and then acted upon.

No doubt, with the hand in question, your comment is right on with the danger while holding only Ax in one of the unbid suits. However, to play that devil’s advocate to rebid 2NT and then immediately be raised to a NT game and see a low spade being led, a certain euphoria will engulf that declarer (sometimes immediately negated after dummy is shown), but until it is, a warm glow will be felt by declarer.

The above is not a promotion of one way or the other, only a hoped for fork in the road discussion, as to exactly what is involved with the discussion about science verses bashing.

My only advice would be, let the partnership decide which direction to take and believe it or not, it is even possible, maybe even likely, that the partners will each be able to do it his own way when called upon, as long as the stakes for success are accepted by both, allowing for success and failure and treat those two impostors just the same.

bobby wolffOctober 1st, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, 1 heart followed by 3 spades (over a 2NT rebid by partner) does show at least 5 hearts and 4 spades, but one of the features of Wolff sign-off (hopefully someone out there has at least heard of it) is after rebidding 3 clubs forcing partner to bid 3 diamonds, (usually in preparation for a sign-off) but then 3 spades by the original responder would then show specifically a 4-4 holding in the majors (also, of course, game forcing) tweaking him to please remember our agreements.

Thanks for the free advertising and more importantly, welcome back, we miss you!

bobby wolffOctober 1st, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Hi Iain,

Before I go to your prompt I do agree to the horrible sadness but, I, for one, am not at all surprised since, because of my specific background have reason to know about more than half of what everyone is just now learning.

In the past, there have been much politics, (a marked underbid) not to mention, incredible emotion involved with our complex worldwide bridge competition involving our beloved pastime, and being privy (for countless years) to what is now becoming stark reality fills me with mixed emotion which I am having trouble reconciling.

I’ll get over it, but not without pacing myself before I make any worthwhile comment.

I assume that your last paragraph was referring to the unsubtle rebid of 2NT instead of 1 spade. If so, please read my comment to Jim2 wherein I attempted to put it all into the proper context. Whether I succeeded or not remains to be seen.

And now to your prompt.

bobby wolffOctober 1st, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for the announcement, but even since then, there has been another announcement of another world class pair (Polish) who have not been invited to the current WC going on in India (as we speak).

The purge is on and rightfully so with European heroes performing as whistle blowers with help from others, breaking what should have been done many years ago (60+) to which my life in bridge (and my specific trail) has led me through.

What I have now learned, while about 1/2 is new to me, does not even begin to surprise me since the 1/2 that I knew, (but the 1/2 that I didn’t know, are relatively new, last few years, bridge crooks on the block) but even with the ones that I did, I didn’t have anywhere near the 95% necessary evidence to pursue.

To say that I have mixed emotions is to underestimate what has engulfed me, but, and no doubt, it is ABOUT TIME!!!!!

BTW, America, my beloved country, is far from being anywhere near crystal clean, but for me to now enter the whistle blowing process is just too difficult, with many far reaching consequences to tackle and not enough energy, at my age, to succeed.

Iain ClimieOctober 1st, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Hi Bobby,

I like the 2NT joke, although obviously not what I meant in the post. Ironically, Terence Reese would have agreed strongly with such a bid.

You may find the bloodgate scandal at Rugby Union in the UK interesting in terms of unsubtlety. As someone said, these guys are all pretty bright and this was the smartest they could do?



slarOctober 1st, 2015 at 2:18 pm

I like showing my strength and general distribution (balanced or not) before showing my suits.
I play new minor forcing after a jump to 2NT with first priority to show an unbid 4-card major.
1C-1H;2NT-3D;3S-3NT would deny the 4th spade and guarantee the fifth heart by process of elimination.
In fact this sequence appears to work throughout the system
1C-1H;1NT-2D;2S-2NT: invitational in H or NT.
With this approach in use, it is critical to get the point count and distribution out there. You know immediately whether you are in the game or slam zone. 1C-1H;1S shows an unbalanced hand (non-maximum due to the lack of jump shift).
It is very close to having your cake and eating it too!

Patrick CheuOctober 1st, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Hi Bobby,Many thanks for your kind and helpful comment..regards~Patrick 🙂

bobby wolffOctober 1st, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Hi Slar,

While I enjoy your home brew (sort of) attempt at creating methods to recognize certain distributions which enable distinguishing between eventual NT and major suit games (8 card fits) I do believe there are, at least, less cumbersome ways to do it.

However, the important fact of spending time on improving system shows your true love for our game and especially for that I am proud to both correspond and to just know you.

I also fully endorse your idea of rebidding 1 spade (and sometimes even 1 heart when the bidding starts 1C P 1D) with unbalanced hands but choosing 1NT when balanced.

A small step in creating a bridge partnership, but a giant step in future time spent with continuing to improve it.

Good luck with your results and if you ever have a question I may be able to help you with, please ask.

Patrick CheuOctober 1st, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Hi Slar, Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us on the bidding..regards~Patrick.

Bill CubleyOctober 1st, 2015 at 6:54 pm


Bidding 2NT helps. As you write, the opponents guess more on opening lead than not. Anytime you make the opponents guess which bold card marked on the convention card and the suit, you have won the bidding war.

jim2October 1st, 2015 at 7:53 pm

Sadly, even if we managed to make 3N due to a fortunate lead, it would turn out the 4S was cold.

More likely, though, pard would put down:


jim2October 1st, 2015 at 8:05 pm

You KNOW a diamond would be led ….


Nico de NijsOctober 1st, 2015 at 8:25 pm

Hello Bobby,

How can you make it after playing a spade to the 8 instead of to the Ace?


bobby wolffOctober 1st, 2015 at 9:57 pm

Hi Bill,

Spoken like a convinced basher.

No son of a blank is gonna have an easy time with you.

bobby wolffOctober 1st, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

Not only that exact hand but the opening leader had 8 diamonds and the ace of hearts as an entry. The good news, however is that those 8 diamonds were only missing the queen and he forgot to lead the king.

The tale of the poor queen of diamonds who won the first trick, was all dressed up in her sparkling costume, but had no way to defeat 4NT.

I know, I know, I know your teammates were minus 450 since a diamond was not led against 4 spades and 11 tricks were made.

One way or another TOCM TM is essentially a death sentence at bridge. Oh well, unlucky at cards, lucky in love.

bobby wolffOctober 1st, 2015 at 10:15 pm

Hi Nico,

The spade finesse becomes necessary after 4 early rounds of hearts (played by South) produces an uppercut in trumps, requiring declarer to guess the spades right by eventually taking the eight of spades finesse. However 3 out of 3 finesses being right never has been known to badly hurt a needy declarer so the trick now becomes creating a hand which might be an exception.