Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

A story to me means a plot where there is some surprise. Because that is how life is – full of surprises.

Isaac Bashevis Singer

E North
None ♠ J 8 6
 5 4 3
♣ A 9 6 5 4 2
West East
♠ K 10 7 4
 10 8 5
 K J 7
♣ K Q J
♠ 5
 A 9 7 4 3 2
 Q 9 8
♣ 10 8 3
♠ A Q 9 3 2
 K Q J
 A 10 6 2
♣ 7
South West North East
2 ♠ 3 3 ♠ Pass
4 ♠ All pass    


Do you agree with North’s raise to three spades here? I would be unable to resist temptation, but he is undeniably at the very minimum end of the range for this call.

When West leads the club king against four spades, how should you plan to come to 10 tricks? After taking the opening lead in dummy with the ace, you should lead the heart five, planning to establish discards for your slow diamond losers.

At the table East might well win and shift to diamonds, facilitating your task, but let us say he wins the heart ace to shift to his trump, a much more testing defense.

You must rise with the spade ace, to ensure you can take two ruffs in dummy, then cash the diamond ace followed by the heart king and queen, on which you throw dummy’s two remaining diamonds. At this point you can crossruff four minor-suit tricks, leaving yourself with the queen and nine of trump remaining in your hand.

You have already scored nine tricks, and when East follows to three diamonds and three clubs he is marked with an original 1=6=3=3 pattern. That lets you exit from hand with the 13th diamond. West has no choice but to ruff this trick (he has followed suit obediently to every trick till now) and must lead away from his spade king at trick 12, giving you the game-going trick with your spade queen.

The only defense to the game was an extremely unlikely opening diamond lead. If they find that against you, move on to an easier game.

The diamond and spade intermediates are just enough to tempt me to take one more call, even though it could easily be turning a plus score into a minus. A call of three hearts here shows real extras and approximately this hand pattern, letting partner decide whether to go to game – and which strain to play in.


♠ A Q 9 3 2
 K Q J
 A 10 6 2
♣ 7
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
2 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieApril 5th, 2016 at 11:02 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, are there any hands on which North could pass 3H e.g. xx A9xxx xxx Qxx?

On the play hand, against silent opposition (unlikely I admit) would your chosen line be any different? The weak 2H does wave a flag that West may have long trumps.



bobbywolffApril 5th, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Hi Iain,

You, being ever the pragmatist, seek out the details to go with.

Yes, by all means, regarding the BWTA and with your example hand, pass, at least to me, would be a standout choice. Partner’s hand is almost locked in with being distributed 5-3-4-1 since even with s. AKxxx, h. xxxx, D. AKxx, clubs void it is horrible (exaggerated word for effect) to not respond 2 hearts rather than 2 diamonds since the latter 100% denies holding 4 of the other major since strain rather than level (at this stage of the bidding) rules the roost and potential MAJOR suit fits have priority.

Therefore while holding s. AKJxx, h. KQJ, d. A10xx, c. Q and deciding against venturing 3 diamonds over 1NT (my choice) one should then bid 4 hearts, not 3, making up for the previous underbid, but not compromising the distribution.

I know that some otherwise good players may suggest that 4 hearts would instead be a void and even a stronger bid than some game effort, but I hope you agree with me, that whoever thinks that way is putting a firm ceiling on how high he could get in the bridge world, since he needs to change his priorities on what to emphasize.

The above does represent a microcosm on passing through stages on the way to world class, but while doing so it becomes imperative to not crossover different meanings, keeping in mind that once a bidding sequence has begun with the first two offerings by both parties, bidding a slam is 100% OFF LIMITS, so any other possible meaning on whatever bid is made does not include slam thinking!!!!

In my dreams this type of thinking may be about 3rd year stuff in bridge school, but references to it may be made much earlier by very good teachers who want to present the wonderful future of just what very high level bridge should be about.

In response to your other question it would take a keen analysis for me to change what I think is the proper way to play this hand other than the line chosen.

However I will let you know later after I have the time to thoroughly analyze it, but I agree with you that the 2 heart opening makes a normal spade break questionable.