Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

If your experiment needs a statistician, you need a better experiment.

Ernest Rutherford

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

*Pick a slam


Today’s deal is an exercise both in bidding and play. The first question is whether to open two clubs or one heart; (fie on anyone who treats it as a balanced two no-trump opener or rebid!).

If you open two clubs and then bid your hearts, your partner will bid diamonds. Now is the moment to bid three no-trump, but your partner looks with favor on his two aces, and commits the hand to slam. Naturally, when offered the choice, you will select hearts, and North has no reason to overrule you, since you might well need a spade ruff in his hand.

When the defense leads the club jack, you must make a plan at once, before playing to the first trick. The spade finesse puts all your eggs in one basket. Can you do better? Yes, if you remember one of the very few percentages I encourage everyone to have at their fingertips. The probability of the outstanding cards in a suit splitting 3-2 is just over two chances in three – much better than a straight finesse.

So win the club king at trick one, draw trump, and run the diamond nine to East. When that player wins and shifts to a spade, you rise with the ace and play the diamond ace and ruff out the diamonds, with the club ace as the entry to dummy.

Note: East might well have done better in theory to play a second club when in with the diamond king. To see why, imagine that the spade and club sevens were switched.

Not all weak hands with a six-card suit should be opened with a weak two bid. This is an example of almost the worst possible suit to open. If partner is short in diamonds, you may have plenty of tricks on defense but none on offense. Equally, you do not want partner to lead an unsupported minor honor in diamonds. So pass this hand; but you would open two diamonds if you had the diamond jack (or 10-9).


♠ 6 3
 7 4
 A 8 7 6 5 3
♣ A 8 5
South West North East

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 7th, 2016 at 7:35 am

Hi Bobby,

A stray question on the bidding in today’s 6H hand. There seems to be a tendency to bid 2D over 2C more often, and I wonder if this is always sensible – responder may have trouble catching up on a hand like today’s. What would you recommend for replies other than 2D e.g. With KQ10xx in a major and an outside K or Q I’d give a positive reply.



Iain ClimieApril 7th, 2016 at 7:37 am

… I suppose the objection to 3D today would be space but it is still 2 aces and a 6 card suit opposite a game going hand.

slarApril 8th, 2016 at 3:31 am

I had a bidding disaster when I opened 1S with AKxxxx/AQx/AJ/Kx.

I tried 1S/1NT;3H and I couldn’t stop the train from heading into 6H which was still within reason opposite xx/Kxxx/Qxx/Axxx but a bad break derailed that.

The winning bid was 2NT and I would have survived 1S/1NT;3NT.

I guess with this hand I would have to play it as unbalanced and open 2C because it is the least lie. I don’t like it though – 6-3-2-2 is balanced.

Iain ClimieApril 8th, 2016 at 8:34 am

Hi Slar,

Commiserations as the hand is a bit of a brute, but does 6S make? Needs S3-2 and either 3-3H or the diamond finesse.

I used to play (years ago) that 1S – 1N -3C was artificial, game forcing and looking for major suit fits, whether spades or hearts, even though playing Acol + weak NT. There is an inference that an opening bid of 1S means 5+ spades or 15+ points in such a system.

I think the replies allowed responder to bid 3D with 3H or 5H, 3H with 4 H and 3S with 3S and 2H, bearing in mind that 1N in old fashioned Acol is non-forcing. Might have helped on the hand you describe; the only problem is a strong black 2 suiter, but you could always bid 1S 1N 2C if not GF and either 4C or risk losing the clubs via raising NT if you are 5-5 in the black suits and 17+ points.

Might be worth a look…



slarApril 8th, 2016 at 1:24 pm

The way the cards broke, no slam makes on normal play. It needs a lot to go right – good breaks and a finesse in diamonds. It was just a bad slam to be in which suggests that 2NT was in fact the right bid.

bobbywolffApril 9th, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt the positive requirements in responding to the strongest opening bid available (usually an artificial 2 clubs, but sometimes a forcing 1 club), should simply be the practical application of what works best.

However keep in mind while attempting to fulfill the above caveat, it becomes a personal thing to that partnership to choose, based on only what those two players can agree upon.

Natural players want decent suits shown ASAP, while ones with greater scientific bent want the most information available ASAP but keeping in mind lower elevation of the auction and even not wrong siding the eventual declarer (usually attempting to keep the weak hand dummy).

If you and I were partners, no, at least IMO, it would be natural, both for bidding fluently, but also for practicality in allowing our brains to take bids at face value, instead of risking either forgets or worse, never talking about exceptions (which are always so apparent in bridge) but likely confused, when two brains try to act as one.

Wild horses would not allow me to not respond positively in diamonds with those two aces (and 6 card suit) except perhaps a control showing system, which often fits nicely opposite very strong openings.

Back to the ranch (being early Aces bridge team training) we never overcame the many differences in what our first bridge partnerships provided, and for that matter, the ones they were then converted to being.

All the above only emphasizes what sports fans already know, American football, basketball and soccer are team sports while baseball, tennis and golf are individual ones.

Bridge is the prototype of a team sport since both partners need to mesh rather than to mess up. Sometimes I manage a smile (camouflaging a loud laugh) when very good players cry out against teammates they do not play well with. If so, perhaps they should grow up and understand that teammates do not effect what happens at one’s table, but both partners do, and that is all anyone or anything can manage.

Please excuse the rant, but and whatever, it will be forever how I think, and that goes for at least 60 years.

bobbywolffApril 9th, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Hi Slar,

While I appreciate your thoughts and value your opinions, I do not necessarily agree with your final premise.

No I would not open the 6-3-2-2 hand you propose with either 2NT or possibly a forcing opening with NT to immediately follow, It simply is too strong a hand not to show one’s 6 card major suit very early in the bidding. I could accept a 2 club opening as long as spades were immediately bid thereafter. Remember all partner needs is 4 little spades to make game prospects good to almost laydown (realizing that what I said can be proved to be fallacious).

Obviously bridge can (and bridge writers do) emphasize what they want to, making any unique bridge idea seem sensible, but mere early warmth do not a summer make. And only bridge ideas which have stood the test of time (not the commercialism both Culbertson and Goren created) but instead the cold hard facts which our best players and teachers have expounded, while playing at the highest levels, should be allowed in serious bridge learning discussions.

The above, in no way, is in opposition to your views, but, instead, only relegates those suggestions to further discussion and perhaps experiments (often with computers) to be undertaken.

The only constructive advice I may be able to offer is to not form firm opinions until others (hopefully players you can trust) see them through their eyes and then voice their thoughts.

Do not ever give up on your opinions, but only temper them, until they have stood the test of time, and if so, IMO you will be doing the best thing possible to further a hoped for decorated bridge career.