Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 8th, 2016

That fellow seems to me to possess but one idea, and that is a wrong one.

Dr. Samuel Johnson

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


Opening four spades here opposite a passed partner has a lot to recommend it. Against four spades, West starts with ace and another heart, East following up the line. You can reasonably assume it is West who is short in hearts not East. Plan the play to give yourself the best chance to make your game.

You intend to try to clear trumps, hoping to hold your losers there to one. That means you cannot afford to suffer a ruff. You won’t make four spades if East has the spade king, unless West has a doubleton spade. If that is so, when you lead ace then jack of spades, West will have no trumps left to ruff the third heart. If West does have a third trump, you are surely dead in the water whatever you do.

Equally, there should be no problem if West has both the spade king and club ace, since he cannot put his partner on lead for the ruff. But what if West has the spade king and East the club ace? Then West can win the spade king and lead a club to his partner for him to lead the third heart.

You can overcome this lie of the cards without jeopardizing your other chances, if you play West to hold the diamond ace. At trick three lead the diamond king from dummy, and if East plays low, throw the club eight away. West will win and try a club, but you can ruff and play ace and another trump. West can win, but must surrender the rest.

While you could invite game in diamonds, the fastest route to goal is surely in no-trump. Though diamonds might on some layouts be safer, an invitational jump to two notrump gets your values across nicely, and lets your partner go in whatever direction he wants to.


♠ K 4 3
 A 9
 A 6 5 2
♣ J 7 4 3
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. 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


jim2April 22nd, 2016 at 1:05 pm

In BWTA, could you compare the answer with a 2C call?

Bill CubleyApril 22nd, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Finally an author with a relation to me. Dr. Johnson’s father was born in Derbyshire in a hamlet named Great Cubley. You need a map which shows footpaths before it appears.

bobbywolffApril 22nd, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Hi Jim2,

In short and to the point, if South makes an original cue bid and then, because of sometimes crowded auctions he then persists in NT, his partner North has a right to play him for a 4 card major and override his 3NT later declaration, thinking his original choice of cue bid rather than immediate graduated NT call showed a 4 card major.

All the above indicates that one should not complicate auctions but rather head directly to the right strain, even though that sometimes a 4-3 major makes game where 3NT goes down or even the opposite when 3NT makes but an 8 card major suit doesn’t.

However, bridge bidding just doesn’t have enough room to allow infinite exploration and especially with those ugly opponents trying and succeeding in making it more difficult.

Obviously if the doubler had a 5-4-4-0 hand either he should not have doubled, but rather overcalled in spades (here certainly bidding 3 spades over 2NT) and with 4-5-4-0 then after bidding 3 hearts over 2NT partner may (should raise 3 hearts to 4, while holding only Jxxx in the opponents suit) although North IMO should be careful about doubling 1st while holding a 5 card major and a void, not a preferred situation in order to avoid this type of boondoggle.

BTW all rebids should be GF once both partners have shown good hands.

Only resort to specific science when more natural bidding more or less does the job.

Many good players do not follow the above and although they may get a few of their “great contracts” written up they will also experience some horrors which they all know do and will happen.

bobbywolffApril 22nd, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Hi Bill,

Pretty trendy I would say, right next to yesterday’s Queen Elizabeth’s 90th BD.

Pity those great and unique writers such as Dr. Samuel Johnson, didn’t have a chance to excel in bridge since so many of their best quotes fit in directly to everyday bridge logic.

All of us will now know who to call upon when any of us need at least something written to take away the blame.

Bill CubleyApril 23rd, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Dr. Johnson corrected his wife’s telling him he smelled. “I stink, you smell” He certainly would have done well in discussing his partner’s faults and the poorly skilled opponents.

bobbywolffApril 23rd, 2016 at 9:49 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes the difference quite often is determined by nose, not mouthy language.

But, if by language, the proper choice of words becomes critical. If one would like to choose a mentor, go quickly to either Winston Churchill or George Barnard Shaw, with Will Rogers and/or Groucho Marx definitely making the cut.