Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.

Tom Stoppard

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


In the McConnell trophy in Montreal the Netherlands women’s team sneaked past their quarter-final opponents, thanks to this deal.

While the Dutch North-South pair had taken 10 tricks in three no-trump, Nicola Smith and Heather Dhondy for England bid to an excellent spot. On any lead but a low club the contract is makeable, but only by setting up the spades at once before drawing two rounds of trumps. It looks to me as if on a spade lead that is a not totally unreasonable line to follow. Instead Dhondy quite logically played the club king and another club. When van der Pas discarded, (ruffing in and playing a spade would have set the hand by force) declarer won and drew two trumps ending in dummy. Now she advanced the spade queen, covered and ruffed and overruffed. Again, the defenders could have done better on this trick than they did.

But now Bep Vriend as West carefully exited with the club jack, ruffed in dummy, and Dhondy trumped a spade back to hand to lead a low heart up. Vriend saw her chance and put in the queen! Had she played low, declarer would have finessed the jack to get the extra entry to dummy to ruff out and enjoy the spades. As it was, declarer was now an entry short to set up the spades, and had to concede a black-suit loser at the end. That meant down one and 12IMPs to the Dutch, a 24IMP turnover on the board in a match England lost by 20IMPs.

Clearly, you should not pass here; but you could sensibly bid either two diamonds, planning to give up over a spade rebid from your partner, or you could respond one no-trump. The latter seems to get you to a 5-4 minor fit whenever one is available, since it lets partner bid his second suit more easily, so I would opt for that.


♠ 2
 K 4
 K 10 8 3 2
♣ A 9 4 3 2
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


Iain ClimieOctober 3rd, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, a couple of thougts struck ,e. Firstly, pard could be (say) 5-2-3-3 but it is unlikely that East wouldn’t have found a raise or West won’t be rebidding hearts when 2NT might suggest this sort of hand. On the other hand, what if West with a great string of good hearts and am emtry decides to pass or even double? The former migth well be sensible at pairs if we are vulnerable.

Any thoughts here?



bobby wolffOctober 3rd, 2015 at 9:43 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, unlucky evil may lurk in the form of an opponent who makes a clever bid (or pass) at a propitious time and fortunately sets himself up to get the precious 200 he seeks in every part score battle, while playing matchpoints.

While you quite appropriately discuss clear and present danger, I am at a loss to suggest a consistent remedy. Obviously hands we present are expected to be controversial in order to enable our readers to think in a bridge sophisticated manner, hopefully to glean the experience necessary to become a better player.

To merely respond 1NT with today’s BWTA hand is, as you suggest, distorted, short in hearts with two decent suits ready to bid seeking support in one of them.

However, instead of suggesting phony miracles, may I only say, one should learn as he goes, since good bridge is so varied it reminds me of seeking love, wherever one can find it. And here bridge love may result in partner having a 5-4-2-2 hand in those suits making the 1NT choice very suitable.

PS: Poor Jim2 has never experienced how good it feels to choose 1NT and see that wished for dummy. All the rest of us should not forget to count our blessings.

Peter PengOctober 4th, 2015 at 1:37 am

hello Mr. Wolff

I have recently seen some statistics about the scores of 1NT openings versus the scores of suit opening, on the same hands. Here it goes.

In a given tournament 22 hands qualified for 1NT opening. Pairs that opened 1NT averaged +350; pairs that opened a suit averaged +3590.

Do you have similar experiences?


bobby wolffOctober 4th, 2015 at 5:31 am

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the brain teaser.

I’ll offer a comment and a question.

The experiment tried seems like a great idea, as the law of averages will usually apply rendering the result mostly valid, however,

Someone was pulling your leg (an American expression meaning trying to kid you with the result obtained) since to have either one or the other be on average, over 10 times superior, is just not possible.

I would believe perhaps an average difference about 20 to 30 (+350 vs, +375) or even slightly more or less than that but unless you made a typo, your result just could not have occurred.

However, I do not want to not answer your question and so I would suggest that while playing against just average or below competition opening as many 1NTs as you can, even though sometimes off shape and, yes having a good 5 card major also since average opponents do not defend very well, nor are bold enough to chance coming in the bidding after an opponent has opened a strong NT, the psychology certainly favors doing it. However in a good event with many excellent pairs entered, I would shape up and tend to be much more strict before chancing getting my partnership off to the wrong start in its quest of finding the right contract.

Thanks for asking your question and you certainly have my permission (if you desire) to tell him what I thought.

However, in doing so, it might be a good idea to bring boxing gloves in case a fistfight breaks out.

No offense, just strictly business and “mama don’t allow no exaggerations around here”.

Patrick CheuOctober 4th, 2015 at 7:22 am

Hi Bobby,If East had bid 1N(to play),would you bid with South’s hand NV or V?If yes what bid-X or 2D? Regards~Patrick.

Peter PengOctober 5th, 2015 at 12:02 am

hi Mr. Wolff

Thank you for the reply.

I have not done the research, but it is quoted by
George Rosenkranz in “Bridge, The Bidders Game” and he quotes
the original compilation by H.C. Horn in “Contract Bridge, Limited Opening Bids”

He uses the argument for justifying his 1NT range of 19-21, any shape, and opening 1 of a suit anytime limited to 18 HCP, even balanced.

In fact he uses the Wolff Adjunct, I have not gotten to that part yet…. the book is hard to read, but has some interesting ideas.

You said you had a question, but I did not see it.