Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

You can discern the face of the sky; but can you not discern the times of the times.

Book of Matthew

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


Mike Lawrence’s latest book, Tips on Cardplay, published by Master Point Press, contains this gem.

West leads the spade five against three no-trump. Dummy wins with the queen and you follow with the 10, suggesting the nine. This is not suit preference, it simply tells your partner what you have in spades.

At trick two, declarer finesses the diamond queen to West’s king. West shifts to the heart three and you take your ace. What now, and why?

You must return the heart six. West switched to a little heart, showing interest in hearts. If West had wanted you to revert to spades, he would have led a high heart spot to convey no interest. How else can you tell partner what you want him to do?

Lawrence notes that at the end of trick one you will often know whether your opening lead was a good lead or a bad one, but your partner may not be so sure. Later, when you get in, if you want him to return your new suit, lead a little card. If you want him to return your original suit, lead a high card.

If East-West don’t have this understanding, East might return a spade, playing West for the ace-jack of spades, allowing declarer to emerge with 10 tricks.

Lawrence also notes that you should return the heart six, whereas if you were left with 6-54, you would return the four. You are trying to tell partner how many hearts you have remaining, in case this affects his subsequent defense.

Unpalatable as it may appear at first glance, I believe your best bet is to rebid one notrump, showing a balanced hand and simulating a heart stopper. The unattractive alternatives are to raise spades on a doubleton, which I would hate to do even if partner had promised five, and to rebid diamonds, which really ought to show six, or a far better suit.


♠ Q 2
 10 7 2
 Q J 8 7 6
♣ A K 10
South West North East
1 1 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


Pete SagerJune 7th, 2016 at 9:19 am

Hi Bobby,
In BWTA since all bids are flawed, what about 2C as less of a lie than 1N?

David WarheitJune 7th, 2016 at 9:52 am

I think that declarer, at trick 1, should play dummy’s S2 & win the K, then cross to CK and take the D finesse, trying to look like he held SAK doubleton. W should still get it right (he knows declarer has at least 2S, 2C & 4D, so partner must have the HA if they have a chance to beat 3N), but the excitement of “knowing” that the S will be set up if he returns a S might cause W to lose his thinking cap.

bobby wolffJune 7th, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Hi Pete,

Yes, it might be thought of as less a lie, since it becomes a case of showing what appears to be a 4 card suit, but having only 3, as against a more important caveat of showing a heart stopper when none is held.

However, as far as other aspects of normal bidding, a bid of 2 clubs implies that the opener has what starts out as a two suiter, (the minors) but in reality is a balanced hand and, at least the distribution, not suit oriented.

Therefore my order of preference would be 1NT=90, (in honor of no bid worth 100) 2D=88, 2S=60, 2C=50, all others=0.

Also, this, at least to me, should be considered a serious discussion, simply because I think as Shakespeare may have said, “shows the conscience of the …….bidder” the results of which may show the direction this potential bridge player is programmed and thus headed.

Obviously I go for and thus prefer, showing the balanced nature of a hand as quickly as possible, but my thinking in that way does not make it mandatory for others to agree.

No doubt the result may determine recriminations and as Desi Arnaz as Ricky, (of “I love Lucy” fame) would exclaim, “I may have to do some splaining”

bobby wolffJune 7th, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Hi David,

Right on all counts, including your mention of the
“excitement” of the moment may preclude East from using his brain and instead, succumb to his emotion, and merely return a spade.

However East must (should) believe his partner rather than his heart and, then, of course, making his partner, here West, to own up to his every hand responsibility of guaranteeing the right direction as he posts the map, by returning his lowest heart.

As a final aside, what about after playing the queen from dummy and East following with the 10 playing the king from his hand, then leading the jack of clubs to the dummy before taking the diamond finesse. (The above is not recommend to anyone, while playing matchpoints, but is fun to do while playing rubber or IMPs, if only for the quiet at the table when West, upon winning his hypothetical king of diamonds, continues spades.

Remember Ralph Edwards on the radio show, “Truth or Consequences” asking, “Aren’t we Devils” or perhaps you are not that old?

slarJune 8th, 2016 at 3:56 am

Regarding BWTA:
From my standpoint the problem is pretty easy when you consider where the auction is going. Partner is unlimited so you can’t pass. If 1NT is passed out (most likely) you’re not missing out on game and you are in a playable spot. You can deal with down 1: 5 hearts, two diamonds, claim. If anyone else bids again you can realistically raise spades. This paints a pretty clear picture to partner.

What you want to avoid is getting too high without a decent fit. Any two-level bid runs that risk.

bobby wolffJune 8th, 2016 at 4:52 am

Hi Slar,

Perhaps your comments are an oversimplification of the dilemma, but as least as far as I know, on target.

However the only part of your comment I would doubt, is, unless forced later in the auction, I would not support spades voluntarily since I could hardly hold less for anything partner may vision.