Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 8th, 2016

You beat your pate and fancy wit will come;
Knock as you please there’s nobody at home.

Alexander Pope

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


Today’s deal has something of a contrived air to it, but it is entirely logical, so long as you apply yourself in the right way.

After West opens one heart, South has a choice of balancing actions. It is standard expert practice (not that this means too much these days!) to use a call of two no-trump in protective seat as natural and strong not the minors. So South balances with two no-trump and North raises to game.

On the lead of the heart king, South knows both missing kings are on the left and that West has five hearts. It looks easy to strip out his clubs and endplay him to lead one of those suits for you, but one more trick is not sufficient. The problem is that the run of the hearts will squeeze your own hand. Even if you only cash two clubs, you will find that on the run of the hearts dummy has to come down to two cards in each of spades and diamonds, and you must also come down to a doubleton in one of those suits, letting West exit in that suit.

The winning line is to play West for a singleton club. Win the second heart, cash just one club then exit in hearts, planning to pitch two clubs from hand, while letting go a diamond and a spade from dummy. On West’s forced exit in either diamonds or spades win dummy’s jack, then take your ace in the other suit, (the Vienna Coup) and now run the clubs to squeeze West.

If playing a forcing notrump you have to bid (at least in theory) facing an unpassed hand. While I would always bid a four-card minor if I had one before rebidding my five-card suit, here suit quality plays a part in the decision. I am tempted to bid two hearts – for the honors – as I will explain to my partner later, even if playing duplicate.


♠ K 10 6 2
 K Q J 10 7
 K 9 5
♣ 9
South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT 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


Michael BeyroutiOctober 22nd, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,
on BWTA what about a two spade rebid, without it being construed as a reverse showing a strong hand? There was a hot debate on that issue the other day on BridgeWinners… Your thoughts would be appreciated.

bobby wolffOctober 22nd, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Hi Michael,

Even though I admit being biased on this specific bridge notion, I will not abstain.

Flannery is simply my 2nd favorite convention, behind only 2 way Stayman instead of Transfers.

I have played Flannery (however most of the time, 2 hearts instead of 2 diamonds) for at least the last 45 years and recommend it totally, even while having to give up a weak 2 heart bid for much of that time in order to allow my partnership to put a 2 diamond opening to what we thought was a better use, (strong and random 4-4-4-1’s, not Precision).

Therefore I could continue playing a heart spade reverse as showing extra and a 1 round force. By doing so a partnership then is enabled to not respond 1 spade over 1 heart, but instead an easy transition into often allowing a 1NT response to 1 heart, while holding 4 weak to moderate spades.

At least to me, by so doing the above, there are no real disadvantages (at least to my view), and more unseen positives in the way of opponents not being nearly as confident of their opening leads, nor their competitive bids when spade lengths, both in the bidding or while defending become unknown to their opponents.

However all good players obviously do not see it the same way, but my experiences simply dictate that unless I’ve become bridge blind, that others are simply wrong, mostly resulting IMO, from them never even experimenting with a switch.

However, when not playing Flannery, I can certainly understand the aberration of not needing more than a minimum to reverse into spades.

However, no bridge theorist worth his being called an expert. can blithely deny the dangers of what the above treatment may reap. I do hope though, that I can be spared with discussions from those who feel that they have now discovered the “holy grail” of solving the problems caused by not playing Flannery.

Different strokes for different folks is fine with me, as long as everyone has his own power, in consultation with his partner, to pick and choose.

jim2October 22nd, 2016 at 2:50 pm

In BWTA, I do not understand why not bid 2D. The 4-5-3-1 shape is a classic 2D bid by most treatments I’ve read.

Here is the info from one such site:

After 1H : 1NT

Opener’s Rebid Meaning

2C May be as short as two clubs, e.g. 4-5-2-2 shape with insufficient strength to make a 2S reverse.
2D May be as short as three diamonds, e.g. 4-5-3-1 or 3-5-3-2 shape.

bobby wolffOctober 22nd, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Hi Jim2,

What you are referring is to a more or less, pocket guide to a 5 card major, forcing 1NT response system.

No doubt the Bridgewinner discussion embodied different views, likely because of the several different awkward rebids available (1 of a major, pass, 1NT, pass, ?) which very few players, if any, actually have become comfortable with, though most go quietly and merely accept.

In effect, the 1NT contract, which BTW Charley Goren many years ago. used to describe as usually the “best place to play an indifferent contract” has, by now, and logical force of nature, a less frequent final resting spot.

The bad news, perhaps bridge has yet to discover the best system for average+ players to rely, leaving the good news to say, “so what, since no one has yet mastered it, in spite of all the effort which some have given”, why bother?

Michael BeyroutiOctober 22nd, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Thank you Mr Wolff for a rich and heartfelt reply.
I had forgotten about Flannery for the BWTA hand because (ashamed to admit) I don`t play it.

jim2October 22nd, 2016 at 4:14 pm

I know if I bid 2H pretending I had six pard would hold 3-1-5-4 or even a weak 3-0-6-4 and I would play 2H down two with 3D cold.

bobby wolffOctober 22nd, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Hi Jim2,

Most all of what you say is true, even the part which is not.

I’ve heard recently on good authority that Dame Fortune has allied herself with a group of bridge gremlins who both cop boards and sabotage distributions, concentrating on TOCM TM victims.

Formerly what we thought was just “hard luck” but no more, since many bridge mathematicians
are now busy changing their percentage tables to make horrible breaks the expected norm.

slarOctober 22nd, 2016 at 11:35 pm

If a suit is going to take 4 tricks by itself, I just throw another card in the suit and call it 6 almost always. Since you aren’t strong enough to bid again after 1H-1NT;2D-2H, just bid 2H. Even if partner is short, you can often survive. The only exception is when the opponents can tap you to death but often when they can do that, one of them manages to make a bid.

As an aside, I once made 6H with this heart suit opposite a singleton. It was the only slam that made. My partner was pleased.

bobby wolffOctober 23rd, 2016 at 4:59 am

Hi Slar,

AFAIK no one has written a book about the philosopical part of the game, especially evaluation.

Since KQJ10x opposite a small singleton is the favorite to lose only one trick why is that suit
not worth much more than twice as much as AQ9xx, but instead for high card purposes they are worth exactly the same.

What year in bridge school should this subject be taught, I guess under the course name of solid suits, with a possible sub-title of, Is somebody kidding?

Yes, it is entirely possible to have played bridge for five or six decades (I have for seven) and not ventured a thought in that direction. When comparing bridge with other very popular, mostly physical sports, but with a definite mental attachment (golf and tennis come to mind) perhaps some were just born to be a card god or goddess, where bridge just fits the right niche and early in life the overall logic just stays with, instead of vanishing like so many pleasures, such as the morning milkman.