Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

To have begun is half the job; be bold and be sensible.


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



In today’s deal from last year’s world championships in Chennai, Ifti Baqai was playing with Mirza Hussein on the Pakistani team. It was the penultimate round of the Transnational Teams qualifier, and he first reached a thin game, then threaded the needle to bring it home.

The raise to game was on the sporting side, but the final contract had decent play. West led the club king and East followed to show an even number. West then shifted to the heart seven, covered with the ten, East playing low. Baqai now played the club six to the 10 and ace. Back came a low spade, and declarer won the ace and ruffed a spade, West producing the 10. Next he trumped a club, with West contributing the queen.

When Baqai led a spade off dummy and saw East follow low, he judged very well to pitch a small diamond. West had to win and was forced to return a diamond. Baqai won the queen in hand, and could ruff his winning club in dummy, to take the trump finesse for 10 tricks.

If on the third spade East had risen with the king, crashing his partner’s queen, Baqai would still have pitched a small diamond. Now when East shifted to a diamond, declarer could have gone up with the ace, trumped his winning club in dummy, then pitched the diamond queen on the spade jack. He would thus have remained in dummy to take the trump finesse for his 10th trick.

Your partner has suggested extra values and four hearts with five+ clubs. Are you worth a raise here? I’m not sure but my instincts say no because I do not think my values are pulling their full weight. Give me the jack of hearts instead of the spade jack and I might raise. As it is I don’t think I’m quite worth a raise.


♠ A J 9 8
 10 4 3 2
 9 5 3
♣ 6 4
South West North East
Pass 1 2 ♣ 2
Pass Pass 2 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 ClimieOctober 26th, 2016 at 11:47 am

Hi Bobby,

Nicely played but that game looks more anorexic than thin especially given the favourable view declarer took of DAQx under the bid. DAKx maybe, but he has less than half the high cards and no great shape in either hand. Swap the S10 and C8 and the game has no chance, and declarer is very short of tricks even with the H finesse.

I can only sympathise with EW (minus 620 – WHAT!!) although should south play the H10? If trumps are 2-2, and east ducks with HKx, there could be a possible trump trick for west at the end. Unlikely I admit, but perhaps a very slight error by south. Can’t argue with success, though.



Iain ClimieOctober 26th, 2016 at 11:56 am

PS if East does ever duck with Kx in trumps, he might then find west had led small from Qx in case east had singleton K. A case for seeking political asylum instead of scoring up with some team mates.

jim2October 26th, 2016 at 12:03 pm

In BWTA, how would North bid, say, a 1-5-1-6 hand?

bobby wolffOctober 26th, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Hi Iain,

As always you explain with candor and no punches pulled.

No doubt South did not have an acceptance of a preemptive heart raise, with his poorly located diamond queen and his limited high cards, but likely counted his singleton spade at about triple value to its real.

However, how else to get one’s name mentioned and one’s beloved home country in lights?

This particular hand does exemplify the “art” of card reading, and even more importantly, how to take advantage of it, which you too, also obviously excel.

Continuing, I also wonder if now bridge teachers in “real” school throughout Europe and all of China are as well versed as you in card combinations, all destined to make their best and brightest students more aware of just how great a game it is to which most of us love, learn and, of course, play?

Likely not, but no doubt, and going light years back, perhaps different types of learning all those years ago, simply enabled a larger responsibility on the willing student to sift out exactly what the important lesson really was, du jour.

Finally, sometimes political asylum seeking even, in this currently very troubled world, is required for even a lesser cause for many, e.g. being improperly dressed, than a perhaps controversial bridge gaffe.

However as always, much thanks for your forward thinking bridge comments.

bobby wolffOctober 26th, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

Often by jumping to three hearts while holding even just, s. x, h. KQ10xx, d. x c. AQJ10xx since the opponents stopping at the 2 level has suggested to the now bidder that his partner has some scattered values and if one of them is either the jack of hearts (with at least 3, or wonder of wonders an isolated ace or only just including the heart nine as well) then since the king of clubs will likely be in its proper place for declarer, in the hand of the opening bidder.

Your question is very pertinent since it takes both players in a partnership to differentiate potentially weaker and stronger types of hands, not just to his responder who is too likely in a quandary when partner suddenly adopts a relatively conservative approach.

Methinks, unlike many others, that it is just too dangerous to only reopen with 2 hearts on the above hand.

However with your TOCM TM affliction all your many friends can at least empathize with your
2 hearts only, approach.

jim2October 26th, 2016 at 7:01 pm

Suppose the hand was a touch weaker, say:

x KQxxx x AQxxxx

bobby wolffOctober 26th, 2016 at 7:40 pm

Hi Jim2,

No problem, 2 1/2 hearts!, or a slow but emphatic 2 hearts with ascending bidding box treatment.

Just kidding, but since your group would apparently treat two as apparently stronger than mine, only two, but for me, definitely three with your example, which I would consider easily worth it, obviously because of the decent honor structure with only two usually catering to 5-4 or with not at least one of the queens if 6-5.

In fact, that rebid by the overcaller should only be treated likewise to an original balancer, since all competitive bidding is based on the overall treatment by the four players, rather than on any set rules for values and distribution.

Since my bidding experiences have undoubtedly changed over the years, with different class opponents at the table, no doubt, they have (at least I hope) adjusted to updated treatments and thus evaluations.

Finally, there are possibly other reasons for partner to pass at his first opportunity, such as what happened here, with partner being short in clubs and/or not having a responsive double distribution nor a good enough major to bid directly, but a decent to good fit in partner’s as yet unbid suit.

It is very dangerous to allow a second suit not to be bid, especially when opponents allow one to rebid at such a low level. IOW even if one opponent or the other offers a three diamond bid, it is just wrong for a 6-5 holder to not ever bid his other suit, and usually wrong not to bid a second suit if it is a 4 card major even at the three level.

Indeed, high-level bridge is definitely a bidders game. That, of course could be changed and undoubtedly would if both vulnerable and non vulnerable sets would be raised from the way too low 50 and 100 they have been for 89 years.

However the damage it may do to the current medium level players still playing the game may result in a downward spiral of players and their disciples ever taking up the game to start with.

Iain ClimieOctober 26th, 2016 at 9:28 pm

Hi Bobby, JIm2,

Any case for bidding 2NT on the first round with such hands if it shows hearts and clubs, or should such bids be reserved for equal length hands?



bobby wolffOctober 26th, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

Yes there is a very good case for immediately bidding 2NT over one diamond bid by RHO, but only if playing Unusual NT for the two lower unbid suits.

However, even having those specific suits (here the rounded ones) has its downside since if the bidding continues 3 diamonds by LHO, Pass, Pass, then with the hand in question, at least IMO a touch better than expected, then what to do now? I vote for double showing extra strength and expecting partner to co-operate with bidding his hand as he sees fit.

Yes and there is definitely an inference that clubs are as long or longer than hearts, since the instead bid of 3 hearts should show stronger (or longer) hearts.

It is then up to that partnership to discuss beforehand whether that balancing double also shows transferable defensive values, so that partner may then decide to pass with, s. QJ10xx, h. xx, d. QJ97, Kx.

Of course, without having discussed such a thing (the fate of most casual partners) if the opponents appear very personable in allowing you to discuss it at that moment in competition, by all means accept their offer.


Iain ClimieOctober 26th, 2016 at 10:39 pm

HI Bobby,

A popular treatment over here is that 2NT showing the lowest 2 suits will be either a weak or strong hand (ranges to be agreed) so you have to bid the hand out with Intermediate strength. Does this make sense? I notice that players often agree UNT, Michaels, Gestem etc in terms of suits but not strengths. You can’t agree everything in a scratch partnership, but this looks to me like an area worth a bit of effort.


bobby wolffOctober 26th, 2016 at 11:15 pm

Hi Iain,

You said a mouthful. To not discuss strength is to conceivably do the same with, over 1 diamond by RHO: 2NT on: s. Ax, H. KQ109x, D, x c. AQJxx and.or s. x, h. QJ10xxx, d. void, c. QJ10xxx

What is partner supposed to do when the partner of the 1 diamond bidder than bids 5 diamonds? Holding either s. KQJxxx, h. x, D. J10xx, c. Kx or s. Axxxxx, h. Kx d. J10xx, K, neither hand, unreasonable to hold with the first three bids made.

If and when partner doubles with either, what should the 1-6-0-6 hand do?

Iain ClimieOctober 27th, 2016 at 8:32 am

HI Bobby,

Panic and/or prepare apologies, or possibly faint at the table to avoid having to make a decision. I suspect pass and pray would be my choice at the table with the weaker hand.


bobby wolffOctober 27th, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt your choice of pass and pray at the table with the weaker hand is the right political choice. The best effort to come out blameless, but since, because of no discussion as to the strength of the conventional bid was held, that partnership will, at least on this hand, remain in a dark place for what could have been critical knowledge.

The above is not to acknowledge that it does not often happen, even among conscientious partnerships, but only to remind potential bridge partnerships just how thorough and painstaking, developing a “special” partnership may require.

The worst news will go on to say that even if the above task has been accomplished, there are many more to follow.

In truth then, since mastering the above is next to impossible, only many years of experience, plus total dedication to the task by both, is the “calling card” of those who have succeeded.

Furthermore my count of those who have amount to fewer than one.