Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 18th, 2015

Don’t view me with a critic’s eye
But pass my imperfections by.

David Everett

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


In the semi-final of the women’s teams in the 2002 McConnell trophy, both tables declared three no-trump by South. Randi Montin received the challenging lead of the diamond two. She guessed well to play low from dummy and Jet Pasman put in the diamond seven, which was not likely to be the right play. This let Montin score her eight, and declarer now tried to set up the clubs by passing the club queen (though maybe the shortage of entries to hand might suggest the alternative approach of leading to the ace?). When Pasman won and shifted to the spade nine, declarer eventually was able to throw West on lead in diamonds, to build an extra spade trick for dummy and make her game.

Kerri Sanborn also led a diamond, which went to Irina Levitina’s jack. Now on the heart shift van Zwol took the queen and passed the club queen to Levitina. The spade nine went to the jack, queen, and king, and van Zwol cashed the spade ace to find the bad news there.

The critical play came on this trick when Levitina pitched a heart rather than a club. Van Zwol did her best by cashing the diamond ace-king and the club ace, then exiting with a club. But Levitina won that and returned a club, and declarer, down to all hearts, had to play ace and another heart. Levitina had the last two tricks with the heart king and the 13th club. Had East pitched a club on the second spade, she might well have been endplayed with a low heart, to lead that suit back at trick 12 into declarer’s tenace.

The simple route is to jump to three hearts (or even more trustingly) to four hearts. But will either you or your partner know what to do over a bid of four spades? I wouldn’t bet on it. Far more descriptive is for you as a passed hand to jump to three clubs to show a fit jump with heart support and a decent source of tricks in clubs. This will help partner judge a competitive auction far better.


♠ 9
 K 10 9 2
 J 7 3
♣ K J 8 7 6
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 Dbl.

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 2nd, 2015 at 12:07 pm

I confess that I would have played the hand differently, taking what is probably an inferior line (but I am not sure).

My fear from the start would have been the lack of entries to the South hand. Thus, I would have read the lead as 5th best lacking one of the diamond honors (Q from QJ9), and gone up with the AD (trusting the suit to block). Then I would have lead a small black card towards the closed hand. My thought would have been that West had more diamonds, so East was (marginally) more likely to hold black cards/length.

If I had chosen a spade, then the (lucky layout) cards would probably have driven me to finesse the 8S later. I think that gets me 3S, 2H, 2D, and 2C for 9 tricks. (and maybe even 3C for 10!)

If I had chosen a club, I think that would have gotten me 2S, 2H, 2D, and 3C for 9 tricks.

bobby wolffOctober 2nd, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since I really do not think that anyone could be sure as to what line of play is best (just too complex) I would choose your line (perhaps not specifically, but close).

Keep in mind that since West apparently was leading from a long suit, with clubs likely the default choice since that suit was unbid, my inclinations (depending somewhat on who she was) would be that East not West was more likely to be long there.

Also if West had a small doubleton in spades, that suit, at least to me, and on this bidding would be a more attractive choice than would diamonds.

Since most thoughts should tend declarer to play East for club length, the key to success is the ability to take three club tricks rather than two, but as to the specific plays in order it would be unlikely (I think) to have perhaps 10 reasonable declarers make exactly the same order of choices.

slarOctober 2nd, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Hmmm. I’m waiting for the right time to introduce fit jumps into the system. I don’t recall hitting this scenario in the last year! Usually the best time to introduce a new wrinkle is right after it causes pain. I’ll pay extra attention to passed hands in the future to see if we can find the right opportunity.

bobby wolffOctober 2nd, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Hi Slar,

In a bridge players search for the “perfect martini” aka playable system, we should (I think MUST) examine all pros and cons available.

Fit jumps (FJ) are very explicit and, no doubt helpful in determining (my guess, at least as well, and likely better than the law of total tricks) the extent of number of tricks available for our side.

However, we would be remiss if we didn’t also then consider just how much our FJ will also help our worthy opponents (assuming we are playing a pair of those).

Sauce for the goose is always the same for the gander when the competition stays top drawer and our gain would then also accrue to them.

Therefore my very humble suggestion (that will be the day) is that when it appears that one’s hand is very offensive oriented, then eschew science and bid a lot staying with our trump suit without giving that surplus information to who needs it more, in my hypothetical case, those awful opponents rather than my beloved partner.

Remember those same FJ also help the “bad guys” on opening lead and heaven forbid if the opponents wind up outbidding us and actually naming trump (instead of us) do not look for any tricks dropped as declarer against that fashionable convention.

Obviously (at least to me), nothing personal but only strictly bridge business and is not meant as a criticism of FJ, but only a reminder.

Peter PengOctober 3rd, 2015 at 1:16 am

hi Mr. Wolff

I feel that the jump 1S- 1NT – 3D has something extra in either values or shape. like perhaps 17 HCP but
6-4, 5-5, 6-5 or the like.

I know that 1S- 2D does not show extras, but is there another way to do this?

Am I alone here?


bobby wolffOctober 3rd, 2015 at 5:05 am

Hi Peter,

I doubt that you are alone, however whether you are or not doesn’t necessarily reflect who is right.

However, for those who learned bridge with the point count rather than us ancients who tended to agree with Ely Culbertson and his honor tricks, please then consider:

1. 5 honor tricks, gilt edged AK’s, which tend to match up beautifully with length opposite strength. Imagine either 6 clubs to the KQ or 6 diamonds to the queen opposite and who wouldn’t want to be in slam

2. The onus then lies with the strong hand to goose the weaker one and once a fit is found, off to the races.

Counting points apply principally in NT when balanced hands face each other. Fits are underrated and should reflect themselves with the partnerships who are lucky enough to find the proper one.

slarOctober 3rd, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Fair enough, and I appreciate that look at the pros and cons. Richard Pavlicek is exceedingly careful to avoid revealing information to the opponents and this is probably why he has not chosen to adopt fit jumps. (He may still come around – he was a very late convert to Two-way Reverse Drury!) My situation is more pragmatic – my partner and I are still working through all of the nitty details of other conventional and systemic calls and FJs just haven’t been a priority. You know what they say – botching a convention negates its benefit for a year. At least I can make an informed decision for when the time comes.