Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Admit your errors before someone else exaggerates them.

Andrew V. Mason

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

*Hearts and a minor


At Tromso in the European Open last summer Barry Myers found a very nice play to bring home his slam here. Look just at the North and South cards first before seeing the whole story.

Myers sat South and East’s two heart call showed hearts and a minor, the four heart call presumably showing a combination of an optimistic temperament, extra shape, or a misreading of the vulnerability. North-South actually come closer to making four hearts than their opponents, after a trump lead. But now is not the moment to worry about that. How do you play six spades after a diamond lead?

Myers correctly identified the lead as a singleton, but nonetheless finessed at trick one. Back came a diamond at trick two. Myers ruffed high as West pitched a club. Then he sneaked the club jack past his LHO, pitching a heart from dummy. Next he cashed the club ace to pitch a second heart from dummy. He advanced the spade nine, and when West ducked, he let it run. Then he crossed to the heart ace to ruff another diamond high, finessed the spade eight and claimed after drawing trump.

Had South covered the spade nine, Myers would have ruffed the diamond high and subsequently finessed the trump six to bring home his slam. At the critical moment East was known to hold 1-5-5-2 distribution, so there would have been no guesswork involved.

The critical defensive error was West’s in not covering the club jack, which would have left declarer far too much work to do.

It may seem logical that since you could bid one spade here, you should be able to jump to two spades to show extras. In fact that action would be an underbid (a bid of two spades might be this hand with a 4=2=3=4 pattern rather than a hand of power and quality like this). Jump to three spades to show a hand with real extra shape and high cards.


♠ A Q 9 2
 7 3
♣ A Q J 8 6 3
South West North East
1 ♣ 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


Iain ClimieJuly 26th, 2016 at 6:46 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, I have a feeling I’d bid 4S in practice, prepared to risk it when partner has the SK to 4 spades and almost anything else. MInd you, I think it may be wrong; I get to some tight games missed in the other room or at other tables; if partner has ropy spades and values elsewhere, 4S may be poor. Lastly, with a decent hand, he might take the blast to game too seriously and head for the slam zone.

Are there any cases (e.g. teams, Vul) where you’d bid the extra level yourself on this? It does strike me as the sort of hand where, if the black suits behave, we’ll be making plenty of tricks but it might be odds against making exactly 9 tricks. Cue partner saying to team mates “Minus 6 IMPS. That lemming went off on one of his big jumps again…”



slarJuly 26th, 2016 at 7:46 pm

@IC How about using the jump to game to show the one based on distributional values and the cue bid to show the invitational hand (either game or slam try)? With both those bids available, I don’t think you need to go to 3.

Iain ClimieJuly 26th, 2016 at 8:44 pm

Hi Slar,

Interesting thought, although now 3S is arguably redundant. Is there a better use for the cue-bid, though, or at least a more flexible one?



slarJuly 26th, 2016 at 11:24 pm

The cue-bid has to have multiple meanings. By an unpassed hand it is a game force, asking doubler to describe further. It might be a way to show slow arrival which can help with slam decisions. By a passed hand it is just a one-round force.

With this approach you could reasonably use 3S like a weak jump shift.

Jane AJuly 27th, 2016 at 12:44 am

Hi lain,

It depends on how weak you and partner play negative doubles, but I like your jump to game. Unless you suffer from JIM2’s TOCM illness, I think the chance of making game look pretty good. If partner has more values, looking for slam can’t be all bad, right? Let the dogs out!

What say you, Bobby?

bobbywolffJuly 27th, 2016 at 1:17 am

Hi Iain, Slar, & Jane A,

Yumping Yiminy I have nothing against jumping.

Matter of fact there is plenty of precedent for hands such as:
s. KQ10x
h. Jx
d. x
c. AK10xxx
and after opening 1 club and after partner responds 1 spade, then jumping to 4 clubs (same way if the other minor is opened) showing a 2 spade bid in high cards, but a hand needing very little to make game.

This convention is well known and played by all the top partnerships around for at least the last twenty years, so I certainly have nothing against taking the same leap in response to partner’s promise of 4 of the other major with his negative double.

Makes total sense, but some discussion needs to be held to make sure your partner will not play you for a club preempt after opening 1 club. Of course, if the opponents enter the bidding there is some preemptive advantage of blocking a 4 of the other major injection by those worthy opponents.

The more bridge changes the more it stays the same, at least in the last time period where enterprising partnerships have created more weapons.

And to think Iain, now when your bridge friends consider your wild actions, you can point to what the other roosters and hens (excuse me Jane A) have been doing in their bridge barnyards.

jim2July 27th, 2016 at 1:24 am

East did not raise West’s hearts.

With my affliction, that means North is 4-4-4-1, West is 1-5-4-3, and East is 4-2-4-3. West’s heart suit is AKQJx and East’s only high card is the KC. North’s diamonds are AQxx

Hearts are led and tap-tap.

Jane AJuly 27th, 2016 at 2:09 am


You need some bridge antibiotics!

slarJuly 27th, 2016 at 2:13 am

Ack, I forgot the question when I answered. The cue bid by opener after the negative double is game-forcing but otherwise non-descript. How often does that come up?

bobbywolffJuly 27th, 2016 at 2:43 am

Hi Slar,

Just as often as a partnership decides to bid game or more, but needs information, about strain or level, and sometimes both.

To a newer player (last 10 to 15 years) some of the more topical bidding sequences have not come up, likely because one or both partners have been reluctant to experiment with what hasn’t been chosen in the past, but in reality the cue bid you suggest is very common and necessary for both partners to immediately understand the necessity of when to use it. The unseen truth is when a player merely leaps to game, he is setting a limit to what he may hold so that partner will be very careful before he goes further.

The deeper one gets in the swing of things the more knowledge that partnership gleans, allowing the confidence to grow.

slarJuly 27th, 2016 at 4:27 am

What I’m finding is that the newer players you describe don’t know the standard meanings of uncommon bids. If it isn’t a convention that they know, they can’t field it. Students demand to be taught these conventions but it is often to their detriment.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying classical bidding (to the detriment of other parts of my game, something I’m still playing catchup on) so that I’m not the one who screws these things up. It is hard to find partners who have that basis of knowledge but they’ll want to play support doubles and Lebensohl!

David WarheitJuly 27th, 2016 at 6:17 am

Frank Stewart’s hand today: bidding: N S
1D 1S
2C 3C
3S 4S

W leads H7, dummy is: S AJ7 You are E: S K1083
H 64 H AQ93
D AKJ9 D 743
C Q1083 C54

The actual E won the HA & returned a H to his partner’s K. Partner then shifted to a C & E managed to fool declarer into losing 2 trump tricks. I think that E should play the HQ at trick 1, cash the HA, and then give declarer a ruff-sluff, GUARANTEEING defeat of the contract provided only that partner has one trump. (Or E can win HA and lead HQ; which would you prefer & I assume you otherwise agree with my analysis).

bobbywolffJuly 27th, 2016 at 11:18 am

Hi Slar,

Do not be too hard on yourself, since, as you describe, the time you have spent on classical bidding is overall, a very worthwhile investment, which figures to grease the fast track to a better understanding of the whys of convention choices, especially from and for, the elitist partnerships.

Yes, neither support doubles nor too much Lebensohl is a preference of mine since support doubles and then future choices because of, tend to greatly lionize those worthy opponents into both double dummy play and bidding judgment, a losing proposition for their opponents, namely your side. The use of multiple Lebensohl over one’s own opening 1NT and also after interference of the opponents weak two bids have many flaws, which result when then added to some misunderstandings and misjudgments by the users themselves, makes the use of that well intended original convention questionable at best, all the way down to close to disastrous.

However, back with your stated dilemma, your enthusiasm and desire can then overcome the transition, (assuming you possess enough numeracy) to play and defend and then sooner than you could imagine, you will eventually be in position to polish a finished project.

The above also assumes that you live in an environment close to others who share your bridge ambitions and you have your life adjusted in order to partake that forbidden fruit compared to many who are not so blessed.

My foremost regret is that I, too, was not able to contribute to the well being and growth of bridge being lovingly taught in schools to willing students (like your mind set) who fall in love with the concept and, critically, have the good judgment to keep the priorities of our game in its proper place.

A time to be born, a time to live, a time to love, a time to play good bridge, a time to die sounds pretty inviting to me.

bobbywolffJuly 27th, 2016 at 11:44 am

Hi David,

Yes, I do agree with your basic analysis except I wonder if there could be some distribution (declarer either holding the diamond queen or being able to make use of a winning diamond finesse to, while having to ruff in dummy and then in hand, (with the ruff sluffs given) and then timing the play to coup East in trumps in order to provide the game going trick?

However, no doubt the defense needs to keep pumping away with hearts since South is pretty well marked with the AK of clubs once he is shown not to hold the king of hearts.

On another subject, although still concerning Frank’s hand, how is it even thinkable for North to not immediately raise partner’s one spade bid to two, even while holding only 3 spades? A 2 club rebid with that hand seems impossible to me, but those who refuse to raise without four cards must lurk behind many street corners.

All I can say is that it is sad for them, but I guess that is what makes both bridge learning and horse racing interesting, but I will let the reader, not I, fill in the next adjective.