Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

John Donne

W North
None ♠ A 10 8 5
 A J 10 4 3
 A 5
♣ 7 3
West East
♠ 6
 Q 7 5
 8 6
♣ A Q 10 9 6 4 2
♠ Q 7 4
 K J 10 7 3
♣ K J 8 5
♠ K J 9 3 2
 K 9 8 2
 Q 9 4 2
♣ —
South West North East
  3 ♣ Dbl. 5 ♣
5 ♠ Pass 6 ♠ All pass


Today’s deal from the 2015 European Open Championships saw Roy Welland and Sabine Auken in action. Over her RHO’s three club call, Auken’s double was easy enough but over five clubs, Welland’s best action was far from obvious. Some players doubled with this hand to show some strength but must have felt unhappy when partner passed. Some other players bid five spades and were allowed to play there.

Roy Welland was among the five spade bidders, but Sabine had the last word. She boldly raised her partner to six, giving him the problem of finding both the major suit queens to make his contract. It should be noted that, if you locate the two missing queens correctly, you can even make seven hearts (but not seven spades).

Bidding and making a grand slam is admittedly a pipe-dream, and declarer’s task in his small slam was hard enough. Welland ruffed the club lead and quickly overcame the first hurdle when he successfully finessed East’s spade queen while drawing trump. After that, he played the diamond ace and another diamond. East went up with the king and exited in clubs. Welland ruffed this with his last trump and proceeded to cash the diamond queen. When West showed out, it became apparent that he had started with one spade, two diamonds and in all probability seven clubs, in view of his choice of opening bid. He was thus favorite to have room for three hearts; so Welland cashed his heart king, then led a heart to dummy’s jack to land his contract.

This does not look like a hand where you want to be considering defending by starting with a redouble. You can jump to two no-trump to show a limit raise or better for spades, with a view to making a slam try if partner cooperates, perhaps, otherwise signing off in game if he suggests a minimum.


♠ A 10 8 5
 A J 10 4 3
 A 5
♣ 7 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.

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


TedJuly 6th, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Hi Bobby,

Played a team game over the weekend. One hand left both my partner and I feeling dissatisfied with how we had described our hands. What should we have bid?

West dealt, NS Vul.

1D Dbl 1S Pass
2D 2NT Pass 3C
All Pass

North hand: AK7 KJT4 A4 AQ93

South hand: 92 75 T762 KJ642

Makes 5C in either direction, 2NT from North, 3NT from South.


slarJuly 6th, 2016 at 2:16 pm

I’d be inclined to show that decent five card club suit after partner’s double. That should be all the encouragement that North needs to drive to game. West almost has to have the HA for his bid so the HK looks like a very good card. Something like xx/Axx/KQxxxx/xx (1D)x(1S)2C;(2D)3D(p)3NT would be a great auction but I would probably try the club game with (1D)x(1S)2C;(2D)5C. South does not have to pass this bid – he can bid on with great shape.

I would go with the auction you presented if the CK were the C5.

bobbywolffJuly 6th, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Hi Ted,

While sometimes bridge itself and its results forces some kind of disappointment or as you call it, dissatisfaction, no one did anything to be sorry for in the bidding.

Yes, if South’s diamond holding had included the nine instead of the six or seven he might have raised his partner to 3NT rather than seek the safety of only 3 clubs, but even that action would have been a stretch, though one which apparently would have been successful.

My guess would be that by reaching 3NT your side would have won the tournament, but, if so, be prepared for these types of hands to forever pervade your partnership moods in the future.

That is, if your partnership continues to get better, and therefore rises to become a threat to win any and every event in which they enter.

Treat every hand you hold as if the winner that day is dependent on error free handling. Yes, that is a large exaggeration, but to do so will prevent sloth while enabling both to concentrate on doing one’s best.

As all of us can now see, if South, not North had been declarer, 3NT would have scored up. But try as one may, no logical bidding sequence could possibly lead it there. No more, but hopefully, no less.

RyanJuly 6th, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Can we take anything away from the bidding as to the location of the trump Queen? I’m thinking about Monday’s deal, but that was a jump over an already established suit. Thanks.

bobbywolffJuly 6th, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, to bid immediately with the South hand, even over partner’s TO double, is stretching too much. The loss will come by partner expecting more than you have. For example if South had another king or even a QJx in another suit he would be right about what it took to bid freely ( 2 clubs over the 1 spade intervention).

However, there have to be parameters of maximum and minimum, without which, there would result chaos beyond repair.

Obviously all of us know that, and furthermore there is a tendency to both: 1. play results, 2. feel partner is doing the wrong thing while the truth usually results from: 1. chilling out, 2. being realistic and above all, not expecting perfection, 3. not excusing oneself in close situations since bridge judgment can be a devilish exercise, very hard to judge because of the difference sometimes between what a key 9 can be, compared to only a 7.

On the subject hand, while holding any 6 low clubs I would then bid 3 clubs, but not with holding any very poor 5 card suit, that is, until and unless the penalty doubling would start.

We MUST be practical and please keep in mind that bridge in almost no way, leads to perfection and if that fact is not crystal clear, the next period of time needs to be taken just to prove that very point.

I am not trying to totally halt your optimism, only to somewhat temper it.

bobbywolffJuly 6th, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Hi Ryan,

The guess of the spade queen on Monday’s hand was the result of a superior analysis of the entire defensive bidding, plus (and a highly educated one) a highly sophisticated judgment by a declarer who has a great nose for it.

The idea is to learn why he chose it and what he needed to know (as safely as possible, meaning not getting something prematurely ruffed by those nasty opponents). IOW, at least attempting, to go into declarer’s mind into what he is thinking and the guidelines he uses to determine.

Going still further, often it becomes a cat and mouse episode, such as knowing what those defenders may be doing to camouflage what you, the declarer, are trying to glean.

BTW and FWIIW, at the highest level of bridge, perhaps the top fifty players in the world, the only difference between them is their record of success in the above exercise.

TedJuly 6th, 2016 at 7:15 pm

Hi Bobby,

Part of my dissatisfaction might have been due to the other table getting to 3NT from the South. My teammates couldn’t remember how they got there.

bobbywolffJuly 6th, 2016 at 9:13 pm

Hi Ted,

Trying to play a bridge detective is not easy, but how about? W. 1D, N. Dbl. E,1S, S. P, W 2D, N, Dbl, E, P, S. 3C, W, P, N. 3D, E, P. S. 3NT All Pass. South promoted his 10xxx to a stopper.

Sometimes, such is bridge life in the fast lane.

slarJuly 7th, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Perhaps this is one of those things that separates advancing players from the experts. In my circles, I can’t remember the last time the hammer came down after a free bid. My bidding has been trending towards soundness as I’ve moved up the ladder and maybe this is a case where I need to learn the hard way. So far, aggressive free bidding has helped more than it has hurt.

bobbywolffJuly 7th, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Hi Slar,

Whatever the competition, from the rankest novice to the club professional, being aggressive generally causes more good things to happen than bad, particularly so when playing matchpoints.

The scoring system favors the bidder with only 50 and 100 the cost of down tricks. Sure there is the occasional double but when doing so those opponents are risking getting a zero if the hand is made, sometimes not a risk many want to take.

Also, oft times the opponents, in order not to capitulate but still not to risk a double just compromise and bid one more, allowing good defenders like you and your partner to either be already or soon, now set them one, turning a small minus into a small plus, but a significant advantage in the match pointing.

No doubt, in the long run tournament bridge is a bidder’s game (as has been your recent experience), not always, but slanted enough in favor, to choose that mode.

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