Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 12th, 2016

Danger, the spur of all great minds.

George Chapman

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


Perhaps it’s my advancing years that make me more conservative, but I am not the greatest fan of weak jump overcalls and responses. I am prepared to accept that at certain vulnerabilities weak jump overcalls make sense, though when vulnerable I prefer to play intermediate jumps. And in an uncontested auction when my partner opens, I like the strong-jump response at the two level, since this gets an awkward hand off my chest in one go.

That said, when the opponents intervene over an opening bid, whether with a double or a bid, there is a place for a weak-jump response. In today’s deal South was playing that a jump to two spades looked something like a minimum weak-two opener, typically with points in the suit. Now North took only a mildly aggressive action when he drove to game.

The defenders attacked hearts, and South was jolted out of his complacency when East took the first trick with the heart ace and shifted to a diamond at the second trick. The danger was obvious: East might win the spade ace and underlead in hearts to his partner, for the diamond ruff that would set the game.

Rather than sit back passively to see if the defenders could find this play, South took the first diamond and played the club ace, king (pitching a heart) and jack of clubs. When East covered with the queen, South simply pitched his third heart. With the defenders’ communications cut, East was helpless to prevent declarer losing just the spade ace from here on in.

It is tempting to raise clubs, but that takes you past three no-trump, which could easily be the best game. I would probe with three spades, using the fourth suit to encourage partner to bid three no-trump with a half stopper in spades or a three-card holding.


♠ A 7 5
 A Q J 5 3
♣ Q 7 6 4
South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 ♣ 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1February 26th, 2016 at 9:48 am

TOCM/Murphy and all the bad card-gods asleep? Isn’t West was supposed to have the key card (QC) for this line of play, on this auction and at this vulnerability? Speaking of the auction, what’s the best meaning that could be assigned to a 3H cue-bid by North here (knowing that his partner is weak with decent trumps)

ArunFebruary 26th, 2016 at 11:03 am

BWTA: Any reason to not bid 3C over 2D ?

bobbywolffFebruary 26th, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Hi Mircea1,

While you do not speak with forked tongue, South, as declarer, was down to his last option which definitely required East, not West, to have the club lady.

Of course with column hands and for many years there is almost always a happy ending for whoever, offense or defense, who happens to be in the spotlight. However, poor Jim2 can almost never participate in a happy ending, only enjoy reading about others who are actually blessed (at least sometimes) with card combinations which provide satisfaction.

In response to your question about the auction, yes 3 hearts by North, being a cue bid, would be a stronger raise in spades, GF, and even suggest a possible slam in spades, but also might be a solid diamond suit with plenty of tricks available, if, and when, partner had hearts stopped. Therefore, since South has severely limited his hand (with his weak jump shift response) should shift gears and bid 3NT with as much as Qxx or better in hearts, waiting for partner to either pass, or if his hand is a huge spade raise then he, of course, would convert to 4 spades.

In that way, two masters are served:

1. North would be able to show either one of the above types of hands described.

2. Since South has already well described his hand (his weak 2 spade response) he merely is responding to his partner’s specific question and is now prepared to know that partner has either the giant spade raise (after he returns to 4 spades) or the hand which needs a heart stop for 3NT (solid and long diamonds and enough tricks but no stopper).

Of course, the elephant in the room on this bidding sequence is that the 2 spade bid is enough on today’s hand to allow partner (North in this case) to merely choose 4 spades as the game of choice.

Very high-level bridge bidding will always indicate that once a final contract is strongly suspected (in this example 4 spades) North must simply select it and not confuse each other with information which is not necessary, but can only lead to having too many cooks in the kitchen which can sometimes lead to spoiling the broth.

It is only required for the bridge partners to discuss the above principle, practice it consistently in a disciplined manner and then be prepared to bask in the bridge limelight (provided, of course there is, at least, a modicum of bridge talent present).

bobbywolffFebruary 26th, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Hi Arun,

A good question by you and a simple answer by me.

Once South opens the bidding one heart and partner responds two diamonds, those two original bids indicate that this hand is starting out to be a misfit and thus South should take the low road and show both a minimum response (made clear when North responds in diamonds) and a decent heart suit as opposed to perhaps 2NT when the hearts are weaker, the misfit still looms and the hand is minimum but the strength is more generally distributed.

Good bridge bidding usually involves every bid telling partner something additional he didn’t know. In this case South choose 2 hearts rather than 2NT because of his fairly strong hearts. Also a bid of three clubs would only be made, with a club suit but a better fit in diamonds and/or a generally better hand with another high card present.

Make every bid count is an important positive principle for an aspiring bridge partnership to enjoy.

RyanFebruary 27th, 2016 at 6:19 am

Just realized what havoc the local editors can wreak on your column. The
(just a side-note)
2/26/16 column in our paper left out the rest of the sentence after “East led a trump” – and of course the rest of the column makes no sense after that.

All the news that’s fit to print – and they will make it fit!

I’ve been putting the blame in the wrong place all this time – a terrible blow to my karma – but now it adds an extra challenge. I suppose you’ve heard it all by now.

bobbywolffFebruary 27th, 2016 at 11:04 am

Hi Ryan,

Yes, your news while disheartening, is not as surprising as I would wish it to be.

Often, with my client newspapers, the so-called bridge editor, (the one who sets the bridge diagram) usually is not a bridge player which makes for unfortunate results (as you can attest). If he was, it would not be a difficult task to correct that column and bring it up to speed, enabling the bridge players interested to enjoy that day’s effort.

As you can imagine it is difficult to impossible to prevent such things, although it is entirely probable that at times the line of people responsible for that original gaffe (possibly including me) could have kept it from not ruining other people’s bridge day.

I’m chagrined and sorry for what happened, and no, since it was yesterday (barely) I had not yet heard about it.

My group does work hard to get it right, but bridge columns (especially since bridge is not as popular now as it was 60 years ago, at least in the USA) offer more opportunities for disasters since we are not able to garner actual bridge players (with that subject newspaper) to do the editing sometimes required.

Perhaps about 13 days from now you will be able to read a corrected version. Until then, thanks for writing.