Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Not merely a chip off the old ‘block’ but the old block itself.

Edmund Burke

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



Today’s deal features an unusual auction. North’s most likely hand-type for his one club opening was a weak no-trump, and the one heart response was a transfer, showing spades. But the final contract was an entirely normal four spade game, though reached in somewhat unusual fashion.

West cashed his minor-suit winners and exited with a club, ruffed by declarer, ex-Scots star Victor Silverstone. Maybe it would have been correct to have won the club in dummy and taken a first-round spade finesse but at trick five declarer actually cashed the spade ace and received the bad news.

He next played a heart to his jack and advanced the spade nine, which East had to duck. Now Silverstone ruffed another club, went over to the diamond queen, ruffed another club, and crossed back to the heart ace. In the two-card ending, he was in dummy with the spade K-J in his hand poised over East’s Q-7, and could make both the last two tricks.

Do you see how West might have done better? To start with, he should have continued with a diamond at trick four, to remove a dummy entry prematurely rather than helping declarer shorten his trump. And, secondly, when declarer played his low heart towards the dummy, West should have inserted his king — which would have been another opportunity to cut down declarer’s entries to dummy. Equally, had declarer led the heart queen from hand, the winning defense would have been to duck this card, for the same reason.

Facing a forcing notrump your choice is to bid two clubs then perhaps introduce the diamonds, or bid the minors in the other order. I marginally prefer bidding diamonds first. That keeps the auction more under control. Note that partner almost certainly has a respectable hand; the opponents haven’t bid spades with 10 spades between them.


♠ —
 K 10 8 5 2
 A K 5 2
♣ A 10 9 2
South West North East
5 Pass 1 NT 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


slarDecember 15th, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Mechanical error? 😉

Iain ClimieDecember 15th, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Hi Bobby,

Good of East to accept North’s massively insufficient bid on BWTA although it is a good question if read as clearly intended. I just feel that partner is going to be 3-2-5-3 / 3-2-3-5 with the 5 card suit being the minor I don’t bid. Does this really tie in with a forcing NT reply though? Has TOCM decided to change target for Christmas, is it just seeking more victims or am I getting twitchy (again)?



jim2December 15th, 2015 at 6:28 pm


bobby wolffDecember 15th, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Hi Slar & Iain,

Yes, with even massively being an underbid.

With the opponents holding at least 9 spades and likely 10+ between them we certainly figure to have a nice fit in at least, one of the minors.

And while bidding 2 diamonds allows us, over a return to 2 hearts (showing a doubleton) bid again with 3 clubs, giving ourselves every chance to find a fit for game. However a 2 club rebid instead would grease a more likely path for partner to slide with only 2 diamonds instead of having to, but neglecting, to bid 3 clubs over 2 diamonds with s. Q10x, h, x, Qxx, c. KJxxxx

All worth considering as, of course, would be also our finding a way to stop our column from boldly showing a non-existent 5 heart opening.

However, just think how, if partner only holds any 6 cards in diamonds or king sixth in clubs, the queen of hearts and just a little more, the mammoth number of tricks our hand will then produce, if and only if, we get our 10 card possible trump fit even bid.

To emphasize finding that fit even more critical, a little known fact is also glaring in neon lights, since with all those spades (between our adversaries), the fact that neither of our opponents have bid indicates that suits are breaking so that even a small slam in our long minor suit trump fit has a good chance to be in the cards. Anyone for s. Jxx, h. Qx, d. Jxxxxx, c. Kx, or s. Qx, h. Qx, d. Jxxxxx, c. Kxx, or s. xxx, h. Q, d. Qxx, c. K10xxxx. Then instead sneak in the A or jack of hearts instead and all of us can then begin to realize the mammoth numbers of tricks long trump holdings often produce.

Of course Jim2’s dummy would look something like. s. AK9, h. xx, d. xxxx, c. Q10xx where even a medium level minor suit part score may go set, with, of course, the opponents not being able to make too many tricks in spades.

bobby wolffDecember 15th, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Hi Jim2,

And when I was trying to plead your case in moderation, you took it to its worst extreme.

No doubt, living with that negatively potent bridge disease, makes pessimists of us all

jim2December 15th, 2015 at 8:53 pm

I think pard may well pass 2D with the TOCM ™ hand while a club game looks purty good.

Bill CubleyDecember 15th, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Was Barnet Shenkin North partnering Victor Silverstone?

Iain ClimieDecember 15th, 2015 at 11:39 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this and can I ask something here? It is years since I played 5 card majors and a forcing NT so can you remind me of the hand types involved e.g. bidding a long suit in a weak hand, sound raises (poss Kx or similar) in a balanced or semi-balanced hand etc.

Many thanks,


bobby wolffDecember 16th, 2015 at 12:19 am

Hi Bill,

It is entirely possible that Barnet was partnering Victor, but if so, this hand must have happened long ago. I’ll try and find out, but it may not be practically possible.

bobby wolffDecember 16th, 2015 at 12:26 am

Hi Iain,

The popular primary American system, 5 card majors and a forcing 1NT response to a major suit opening is also played throughout France.

Since most NF to game hands after one of a major suit opening are all lumped into responding 1NT, the then second bid by the opener is often the defining bid made.

Also since the opener will rebid a 3 card minor if he doesn’t have a second biddable suit, the responder has to then almost always return to the original 5 card major while possessing two of them, unless, of course, he has a better descriptive bid available. Until a fit is found (if there is one) further bids can be passed and limit bids become the mode du jour.