Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 14th, 2016

You may have the universe if I may have Italy.

Giuseppe Verdi

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


The Yeh Bros Cup attracted a world-class field in Shanghai last spring. The sizable cash prizes on offer may not have been irrelevant. Today’s deal is from a match where a top-ranking Italian squad heavily defeated an American squad, with a big swing coming their way here.

West led a top heart against three no-trump. East pitched first a low diamond, then the club 10 when declarer, Antonio Sementa, won the heart ace, and returned the suit. West won the heart and shifted to a club; declarer won, then drove out the remaining heart honour, and claimed nine tricks on the club return.

Did the defenders still have a chance at trick three? Curiously, after the heart lead, it was too late to shift to spades at trick three. East takes the ace and switches to clubs, but declarer can win and run the diamonds, and watch East’s discards.

If East comes down to two clubs, then declarer can lead king and another club, and East is endplayed to lead round to the spade jack at trick 12. If East instead comes down to three clubs and the bare spade queen, declarer next gives up a heart. The defenders can only cash one spade winner, and declarer has the rest.

In the other room Agustin Madala, overcalled one heart. Norberto Bocchi as East bid clubs then doubled three no-trumps, presumably to prevent his partner leading hearts. After a spade lead, Bocchi went up with the ace and shifted to clubs, and declarer could take no more than eight tricks.

This is a very hard hand to evaluate. If you had acethird of hearts and a singleton club I would make a splinterjump to four clubs, but this hand is simply not worth a slam try. The choice is between a very pessimistic limit raise to three spades, or an optimistic game forcing Jacoby two no-trump. I vote for going low today.


♠ J 8 7 6
 10 9 7
 K Q J 10 4
♣ A
South West North East
    1 ♠ 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


David WarheitApril 28th, 2016 at 9:29 am

I don’t think the Italians are completely happy that you chose this hand to demonstrate their prowess (on offense, of course; on defense they were terrific). Why, for heaven’s sake, did no one even think about playing 5D? 5D is virtually cold if D break 2-1, and 3NT has little to recommend it. How do you think the bidding should have gone after the first 2 bids?

Iain ClimieApril 28th, 2016 at 9:56 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA do a direct bid of 4S or an old fashioned delayed game raise have any merit? I accept that the CA is not as good as it looks but 3S (opposite 5 spades) seems overly cautious, although I do overbid. Any thoughts?



Iain ClimieApril 28th, 2016 at 10:42 am

Hi David,

I agree, with too much pairs play the likely culprit. I don’t blame South, who thought his SK is now working, but would 3D from North be forcing? If not, 3H might suggest some doubts about 3N.


bobby wolffApril 28th, 2016 at 2:44 pm

Hi David,

No doubt you are correct in your analysis, but by so being you are discounting the challenge of bidding and assume that better judgment is always there to be exercised.

Both the 1 diamond opening and the two heart preemptive jump overcall are fairly normal (although NS, if they could see the cards around the table without the reciprocation of EW also may prefer to then play 2 hearts doubled) but then North used a conventional negative double which almost always guarantees 4 of the other major and enough values to warrant bidding at the next level.

South then responded with the bid most good players would choose, 2NT and then North, especially because he was holding 3 small in the suit overcalled, opted to choose the short trick route to game for fear of too many heart losers while playing a diamond game.

Sure, if North would have chosen a return to 3 diamonds after his original double, South may have eschewed NT for a diamond game, but after finding a disappointing heart holding in dummy, would still have, as you mentioned, easily score it up.

Sad to say, but I would also raise to 3NT if North, since my heart holding looks like death warmed over to attempt to score 11 tricks in diamonds. The fact that South also had 5 diamonds did not add any extra tricks in NT, but holding another spade with his king or the gorgeous club queen would have been a welcome addition making 3NT the probable contract of choice.

Perhaps playing with transparent cards could make our bidding better, or perhaps even just become an equalizer to those so-called high level partnerships who instead, choose to cheat.

No one ever said that bridge is an easy game to judge and then bid and play well, and your query certainly confirms that.

bobby wolffApril 28th, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes I agree, with going full throttle and just bidding a spade game. The Aces choice of only three spades was written yesterday or before, but today I agree with you and chirp four.

However with your note to David, while three diamonds is not forcing but 3 hearts (a cue bid) is, yes that bid does indicate doubt with NT, but realistically if partner’s heart stop doesn’t include the ace, how those three little hearts held be disposed of may cause me to go along with NT.

However the result of my poor judgment may tend to haunt me. However note that both sides played 3 NT (by world class players) after hearts were overcalled, clearly caused by that cursed heart holding.

Yes, likely a three heart cue bid may get the job done, but was not offered (a note to the wise).

bryanApril 28th, 2016 at 5:40 pm

What happens if after winning the first trick and knowing how hearts divide, west leads a club (treating pard’s 2D as a request for a club)?

bobby wolffApril 28th, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Hi Bryan,

Yes, that defense would get the job done, but at both tables South won the ace and continued the suit, eventually adding the 2nd heart trick to 5 diamond tricks and the ace and king of clubs for his contract.

A heart duck at trick one by South is bad for two reasons, one it loses the timing and two, worse, it doesn’t allow for a second heart trick unless West mistakenly continues the suit instead of switching to what you suggested, a club.

And yes a low diamond at trick one does suggest a switch, but not necessarily a club, perhaps a spade, depending on what looks right to his partner, West. However West was not given the chance to do so.

TedApril 29th, 2016 at 12:25 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, what about starting with 2 diamonds followed by a jump to game in spades (unless partner does something unexpected)? He may not know you have a 4th spade, but he’ll know where your strength is and that you are a minimum 2/1.

bobby wolffApril 29th, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Hi Ted,

All true and likely acceptable, except his not knowing that you possess the 4th spade may cause a determining fear which may dissuade him from realizing this combined hand potential.

Picture the opening spade bidder holding either AKxxx or even KQxxx or AQxxx and envisioning only three trumps opposite instead of four. Quite a difference, but one has to have the experience of doing it for himself before the full impact strikes home.

Obviously that jack of spades rises exponentially in potential value rather than if the opener held AKQxx. Just bridge mister but very much a necessary feature of the game to seriously ponder.

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