Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 21st, 2015

New lamps for old.

Arabian Nights

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


Today’s deal features an old idea in a new setting. When East opens two hearts you elect to overcall two spades rather than jump to four spades, which ought to be a stronger hand than this. Incidentally, just for the record, a jump to three spades is a strong jump overcall not a preempt. One doesn’t preempt against a preempt – one needs the space for constructive bidding. The defenders lead the heart eight against four spades, and you win the ace. Plan the play.

Your thoughts should be that if East has the diamond king, there are no real prospects of making four spades, since the club ace is clearly going to be offside, unless you can duck a club to West. But there is a better chance, which is to rely on West holding the diamond king. So play a spade to the ace at trick two, then lead the diamond queen from your hand. When West covers, you duck!

At this point West is out of major-suit cards; he can do no better than play a second diamond. Now you throw your heart nine on the diamond ace, then lead the heart queen and ruff East’s king with a high trump. Lead the spade four to dummy’s five, which allows you to lead the heart 10. East covers and you ruff, cross to the spade queen, and throw a club loser away on the established heart seven.

You can lead a club to the king as a try for the overtrick.

Do not commit yourself to playing three no-trump – you could easily find yourself facing a small singleton in spades…or worse. Use the fourth suit forcing by bidding two spades and take it from there. With the spade 10 instead of the two, a three notrump call would be reasonable, however.


♠ Q 5 3 2
 A Q 10 7
 A 7
♣ 9 7 4
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 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


jim2December 5th, 2015 at 3:37 pm

In BWTA, bids that get merely me past this round bother me unless I have a plan for what to do when pard makes expected rebids.

So if pard bids:

– 2N, raising to 3N looks clear (but then we could have bid it ourselves)

– 3C, I presume we pass? (5m looks too much and 3N even less attractive than before)

– 3D, same as 3C?

– 3H, I would take the push to 4H, as spade forces will be in the short hand – agree?

– 3S, I guess bid 3N, as I would read it as 3-1-5-4 and asking for spade stopper help?

– 3N, I presume pass?

So, is 2S that much better than a simple 2N? Would pard really raise with a small singleton spade?

Iain ClimieDecember 5th, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for the rational explanation of why I shouldn’t just blast 4S on today’s play hand if I were South. One of my regular partners is breathing a quiet sigh of relief now.

The latest Emglish Bridge Union magazine landed on my doormat this week; the following link makes interesting (if depressing) watching.

What staggers me about this (and many other scandals) is that the attempts are fairly obvious – look up the “Bloodgate” rugby scandal in this country for another example, the “Who wants to be a millionaire” coughing guidance from the audience on a game show with a large cash prize or the German coughing doctors incident. Can you update me on what is happening, please, depressing though it may be?



Bobby WolffDecember 5th, 2015 at 9:02 pm

Hi Jim2,

IMO you cover all the bases, including my preference for 2NT with my rebid.

However, a few additional thoughts:

1. When partner bids 3 clubs I would consider it forcing (4th suit by partner being GF), although that would force partner to not bid 3 clubs if he held: Ax, x, Q108xx, AQxxx. My choice is just to gamble it out with a raise to 3NT. However reversing the major suit holdings, e.g Ax in hearts and x in spades I would choose 3 clubs and only wish it was not forcing.

2. Back to the days of the Aces and something similar, assuming the bidding went between partners: North South
1D 1S or 1H
2C 2NT then
3C could be passed or preferenced while 3 of the other major (the one not bid by partner) would then indicate
a strong 5-5, making use of the ordinarily wasted 3 of that other major which would never come up naturally.

However in the present circumstances with 2S a possibility and even now our choice (but not mine) we do not have that extra opportunity to differentiate between a good/bad minor rebid.

The only concrete truism to apply is that, at least without a long studying and standing partnership, bridge will require many 2nd best efforts, with the goal of not being too complicated nor causing too much anxiety.

Might we then say: Bridge is how you make it!

Thanks for all your very cerebral and high-level
thoughts about bridge.

jim2December 5th, 2015 at 10:16 pm

Dear Host –

I read your kind reply to mine that you prefer 2N to your BWTA column answer of 2S.

Could you give an example of a hand for which 2S would be a clearer choice?

Bobby WolffDecember 5th, 2015 at 10:43 pm

Hi Iain,

First, the thought of only overcalling 2 spades by South, after the weak two heart opening by his RHO seems logical since there is still around half the deck’s high cards in the other two hands.

By so doing and then hearing what both the West and North dogs have to say (and very likely at least one of them will do some barking) will allow NS to more accurately judge their worth. And so it proved, aided by clever declarer play.

As to your elephant in the room assessment of what in the world is going on, and that is exactly where it is going on as it has with dribs and drabs through the years, as in the wonderful play and movie “Cabaret”, money makes the world go round and with the advent of Professional bridge (not money prizes, but rather sponsors who like to pay top-level partners to play with him (or her) and then add other pairs to complete teams for international competition, makes it illegally wise to do fewer wrong things while getting paid to play.

Therefore the birth of that old black magic, but instead of sex, it has become cheating while playing the best mind game ever invented. In the past, instead of money being involved it was only “ego” at stake, but even that mental condition, was enough to still have sordid
cheating incidents which distorted who was actually best, to the point of much frustration to those others who played it square.

However, there is hope for our game, which is now being taught in the schools in much of Europe and all of China (200 million students alone and daily) with the good news, sans cheating.

While cheating at other sports (like romance) has been going on for eternities somehow that force in competitive physical activities seems lesser than doing it at bridge, since how does one satisfy his ego when he knows he has to cheat to even keep up, much less best his opponent in the competition.

Well perhaps human kind has an answer to that thorny (as opposed to horny) question.

But whatever is determined, I trust that my favorite organization the World Bridge Federation, will forever rid all of us of those unfortunate miscreants who have sold their souls to such nefarious temptations.

Time alone will tell and yes, all four pairs currently under the microscope, are claiming innocence (what do you know about that?) Oh well, good enough at bridge, but somewhat less talented at being able to admit the truth.

Oh well. as sorry a subject is as being a bridge cheat, I guess I have to admit, it is better than being a “serial killer” for whatever reason one happens to think.

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2015 at 1:43 am

Hi Jim2,

Although it is not often mentioned, in practice that determination is often chosen by the specific holding in the spade suit, For example Axx(x), Kxx(x), are suit bids in order to give partner the priority of being the declarer while QJ9(x) or K108(x) are classic holdings for trying to become the declarer in NT. Of course when partner has bid diamonds and clubs he will not have 4 spades, so that suit has nothing to do with eventually playing with that suit as trumps, although hands can be constructed where the 4-3 spade fit is the best game or even slam.

However, the above is almost always the deciding factor in the choice of bidding the suit or initiating the NT.

However in a client professional relationship might as well forget the spade decision as the pro will usually always become the declarer, disdaining positional advantages for what he might judge as declarer talent.

Some of the above may be “X” rated and rarely discussed in public.