Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 11th, 2016

If a woman gets insomnia, you never know where you’re going to find her furniture the next morning. It’s primal. We have so little we can control, but we can perfect the way our room looks.

Nicole Holofcener

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


Last year the Yeh Bros Cup was played in Shanghai. This is an invitation teams tournament held every two years, and the generous prize money sees the world’s top teams come to compete. The event is sponsored by Chen Yeh, an international furniture manufacturer, who decided 15 years ago to create an event that would simultaneously allow him to compete against the world’s best in head-to-head combat while also providing a forum for a top-class field to play for what is currently the largest prize-money pool on offer anywhere in the world.

Today’s deal sees Australians going mano a mano. Ishmael Del’Monte was at the helm in three no-trump, after overcalling two notrump over East’s third-in-hand wideranging two spade opener. Arjuna Delivera led the spade queen, ducked all round, then a second spade went to declarer’s king, as Bruce Neill ducked to reduce any pressure on his partner in the ending.

Del’Monte won his spade king, cashed the heart queen, then played the percentages when he led a heart to the nine. Since East was marked with long spades, West rated to hold the heart jack.

When it held, declarer finessed in diamonds by leading to the jack, losing to the queen. West could return a club, but declarer took the ace, unblocked his heart winners, came to the diamond king, and could cash the heart king and finesse in diamonds against West’s 10. He ended up taking four hearts, three diamonds and one trick in each black suit for nine tricks.

Only six declarers out of 24 brought home the no-trump game here.

The four heart call was a transfer, so dummy rates to have six spades. If we are going to have a chance to beat the contract we must hope West has no more than a 10-count. We can attack with a heart lead, go passive with a diamond, or try for a club ruff. When leading into a strong hand, there is a good case for not giving away a trick, especially when we don’t seem to want ruffs. So I vote for the diamond 10.


♠ Q 10 2
 K J 2
 10 9 6 5 2
♣ 7 6
South West North East
    Pass 1 NT
Pass 4 Pass 4 ♠
All 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 25th, 2016 at 9:35 pm

Hi Bobby,

South’s brave heart play worked well today but life is not always so kind. At pairs I held QJx AK10x AQ8x xx and, playing 4 cd majors and weak NT opened 1H. Pard bid 2C, I bid 2N (15-19 and forcing) and got 3N. A small D lead found partner with Kxx Qx K10xx Q8xx. RHO shed a small spade at T1 so I took the Queen to attempt to make her think the lead was into a solid suit and ran the SJ, ducked. Now, based on the D being 5-0, I can surely take my winners and judge hearts. RHO sheds 2 more spades and a club, although she’s hold onto hearts anyway.

I cashed the HQ, crossed various digits and took the heart finesse and TOCM struck unexpectedly. The finesse held but LHO held CAJ alone. All the players who took the SA to switch to a club were helpless when declarer ducked the 2nd round. If I’d just played another spade after before the last D I’d probably have made an overtrick. Silly game, pairs!



bobby wolffApril 25th, 2016 at 10:41 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, you nailed the intense frustration on making various decisions while either declaring or defending game contracts.

Your line has much to recommend it, especially at trick one when the opening leader had all five diamonds. At least on the surface your RHO figured to have the length in hearts (to the tune of 13 to 8). However with your club holding Q8xx in dummy and a small doubleton in hand and with diamonds breaking 5-0 likely only a 4-3 break in clubs will allow those greedy opponents the advantage of switching to clubs in order to get up to 5 defensive tricks. Obviously, upon LHO winning the spade, some 5-2 breaks will also do it, but all in all I think the percentage will favor knocking out the spade ace, since the opponents, in order to even threaten taking 4 club tricks will have to decide that your hearts are as good as they are (AK) leaving you with what you held, two small.

However, the only significant factor is being right, which you were and after all, most all agree, let the winner explain, and that guy is you.

PS. Once LHO wins the spade ace, assuming he possessed it) and then switches to the Ace of clubs and then the Jack you will then have a decision to make deciding on whether LHO started with AJ, AJ10 or AJ9 or even AKJ10 or AK10, all of which will force you to make the winning decision at some inconvenient time. And how about J109, J10, or even 109 or J9 to add to your misery?

Are we playing a great game or what?

jim2April 25th, 2016 at 11:06 pm


John StoreyApril 26th, 2016 at 8:25 am

Hi Bobby – could you help sort out an auction that happened recently?

It was:

1NT (15-17) 2 Clubs (Stayman)
2 Diamonds (no CM) 2 Spades*
4 Spades

I was declarer and before dummy was presented my partner advised the opponents that I had failed to alert 2 Spades as showing 5 spades, 4 hearts and an invitational hand, and this was part of the Smolen convention.

I had always thought that this was part of Stayman, and since it was a natural bid, did not require an alert.

What do you think? We do have Stayman, Jacoby transfers and Smolen on the card. Hope you’re well.

Thanks, John

bobby wolffApril 26th, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Hi John,

Thanks for both your would-be educational question and especially for your well wishes.

You, at least IMO, are correct that 2 spades rebid by the player who had already first answered with a Stayman 2 club bid to an opening 1NT, was merely bidding what he thought was a continuation of NF Stayman, except that, while definitely showing 5+ spades, did not have to also have 4 hearts, but was merely (back in the day) showing an invitational to game hand (perhaps 8-9 points). Today that bid, since transfers are so common, might be the equivalent of a transfer to spades and then 2NT over either 2 diamonds and/or, of course perhaps 2 hearts.

Obviously if 2NT is then bid now, responder would not have 4 hearts to go along with his 5+ spades. if the NTer had then bid 2 hearts, instead of 2 diamonds, a round earlier.

Those were the accepted practice Stayman practices back then with the extra caveat, if holding 5 spades and 4 hearts but a very weak hand, it would then be much too dangerous (and misleading) to not just either bid a natural 2 spades (sign-off) or instead transfer to 2 spades and then simply pass.

Although that may have been part of the overall Smolen convention, I am not aware of such an understanding and will agree with you that it is instead part of Stayman.

Whatever, but to now get to the alert responsibility, (which well might have been the elephant in the room) it, at least to me, is NEVER (or, at least rarely) wrong to inform the opponents how you, the 1NT opener, are taking your partners bid and what you expect him to have.

That, of course, runs the risk of partner not having 4 hearts and still trying to exercise NF Stayman showing an invitational hand, not a sign-off. Obviously while playing our great game, there will be arising situations where the partnership is on slightly different wave lengths, and thus at least slightly distort the explanation.

However all the responder can do is try and bring the opponents up to date, which may include, a simple statement that this is how you are interpreting your partner’s bid but the opponents need to realize that there may be at least a slight misunderstanding.

All the above should be done, at least, according to me, after sending partner away from the table during your explanation. All TD’s may not currently agree, but I believe it to be necessary since partner should not be privy to your explanation which could lead to an advantage to the possible offending side (yours).

All of this only leads to the practice of what I believe to be Active Ethics, which is not for the players bidding to be advantaged by the answers to valid questions by the entitled (and needing to be informed) opponents.

John, I hope you have reached this point in this discussion and have not gone to sleep in route.