Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 17th, 2016

Don’t tell your friends about your indigestion. ‘How are you?’ is a greeting, not a question.

Arthur Guiterman

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


The Dyspeptics rubber bridge table has a reputation for wildness – both in the bidding and play, as well as in the post mortem of course. But on today’s deal they might have outdone themselves, since each of the players took an action that might have been construed as anywhere between aggressive and completely certifiable.

Mind you, it was not an easy hand for North-South to bid, and the final contract of six spades was a fair one – though it could have been set by force on a trump lead. When West led a top club, South wasted no time in winning and trying to cash three hearts to dispose of his losers. This was a line that was unlikely to succeed, given the auction. Indeed, East could ruff in to play a trump; and that was curtains for declarer.

Before South could go into his usual litany of excuses, he noted the red glint in North’s eye, and instead meekly requested enlightenment. Can you see a winning line for declarer?

South must duck the opening lead, win the trump shift in hand, then unblock the club ace. He can now cash two hearts pitching dummy’s last club. His next move will be to ruff a club low, then come back to hand, first with the diamond ace and subsequently with a diamond ruff, to trump his last heart loser with the spade ace. At the end he is left with just enough spades to cope with the 4-1 trump break, together with his master heart.

You’d never sell out here, but the question is how to convey your minor-suit pattern. Double is for takeout, but doesn’t seem to be what this hand is about, given that you have only three spades. You might bid two clubs and hope to receive preference to diamonds if partner is 3-3 in the minors. But my six-carder persuades me to bid two diamonds, planning to compete with three clubs next.


♠ A 4 3
 J 8 6 4 3 2
♣ A 7 6
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Dbl.
1 1 Pass 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


slarDecember 1st, 2016 at 4:40 pm

I have a question about an unrelated sequence. What does the auction (1D)1S(3D)X;3H-3S mean? Also (1D)1H(2D)X;2S-3H.

bobby wolffDecember 1st, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Hi Slar,

First of all, I am assuming that your description of the bidding is consistent with the bracketed bidders being one partnership while the un-bracketed bidders , another. (If not, please let me know and BTW, although possibly thought a longcut, inserting P might be a simpler and therefore more easily understandable design. Bidding discussion may be complicated enough without adding other distractions.

With the first hand, 3 hearts (original spade overcaller) is more likely to be only 3 hearts since with 4 of them he would (should) normally jump to 4 hearts. Therefore a return to 3 spades (while guaranteeing holding 4 hearts) might show either a doubleton spade honor (Ax or Kx) or possibly three small spades, eg: s. xxx, h. AQ10x, d. x, c. K10xxx while if holding: s. xxx, h. AQJx, d. x, c. AJxxx then 4 diamonds (much stronger).

Two spades on the second bidding sequence would indicate: s. AQx, h. K10xxx, d. xx c. Axx with then a three heart preference: s. KJxx, h. AQ, d. xx, c. K10xxx.

Please understand that almost all very good players find ways to get into the bidding (Roth Stone type bidding has gone the way of all flesh), therefore much leeway needs to be given the overcaller by his partner.

The above examples need to be amended by and for partnerships who demand more from a one level overcall thereby changing the strength requirements slightly downward for those responses to them.

slarDecember 2nd, 2016 at 4:35 am

Thanks for the answer and yes you did appear to interpret the question properly. So in the first hand, the 3H bid shows a minimum overcall and/or 3 hearts. The correction to 3 spades shows tertiary support (honor doubleton or three small) and no extras (presumably advancer has already promised a limit hand to bid over 3D).

In general I find myself confused (relatively speaking) by high level competitive bidding sequences. Can you recommend a source where I can read more about them?

bobby wolffDecember 2nd, 2016 at 6:31 am

Hi Slar,

Although not aware of what is being published in today’s bridge world, I rather doubt that any author, would take on such a task, and even if he or she did, come close to the bulls eye in description.

However, the above may only be a basic plus for you since, to beard that lion, you must begin to understand the basic very high level practical application of what one wants that ability to convey and, of course a sensible method to choose, what, why and where.

In almost all bidding there is no such thing as continuous good or bad hands, but rather only judged in relation to the last bid, with the only continuous caveat relating to the last bid made, and the iron clad rule is always that one cannot, nor even try, to make up for a foolish bid (or sometimes even anything less than the best bid available), made earlier.

That fact, plus the captaincy principle, is what good players cherish in an adequate partner.

Yes, and of course, while discussing negative doubles the partner should know within certain parameters what the doubler is trying to convey, and therefore respond to his effort the best way one knows how, which in bridge parlance, is sometimes inadequate but often just the lesser of evils.

However, do not let me toss sand in your eyes, simply because for you to have a chance to grow you need to have a partner with similar desires as you, who is willing to allow his (or her) mind to seriously think about what it will take to get there from here without spending the rest of one’s bridge life chasing rainbows.

Finally, I do not think you need a reading source, since you are already at a stage which often will surpass whoever may be a bridge author since even if that author is qualified, his book on the subjects you are thinking about would: 1. not be anywhere near complete or to say brutally, accurate, 2. very few would buy it, because by far the most of the 8 million bridge players left in this country, down from perhaps 40 million 60 years ago are playing a version of war, affectionately called “High Card Wins”, rather than the rare game which is simply called bridge, but in reality is easily the greatest competitive mind game ever created.

Whatever, good luck!