Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

When I consider how my life is spent,
I hardly ever repent.

Ogden Nash

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


This deal was played in the first qualifying session of last year’s Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs. Most tables sensibly played three no-trump, rather than try for four hearts.

So how did the play typically go? South wins the spade queen lead in hand and now must go after hearts sooner rather than later. At our reporter’s table, declarer advanced the heart jack, so it was easy for West to win and cash out the spades, finishing in the East hand. When a club came through declarer’s tenace South misguessed and played the ace, finishing down one.

Was declarer’s play right? The odds on the club finesse and the heart 10 falling are roughly even. So one can hardly criticize declarer for his play, one way or the other.

However, I wonder if declarer might have done better by leading a low heart from hand at trick two instead of the jack. If West (quite reasonably) misjudges the position, and plays the heart ace, declarer is home.

Equally, though, if West ducks the first heart, then a heart back to the jack would disclose the 5-1 heart break, and now at least South would know he needed to take the club finesse to make his game.

Additionally, if West doesn’t take his ace, but the heart 10 happens to be falling in two rounds, then you have eliminated your need to guess which finesse to take. Accordingly, the low heart at trick two looks like the right play all round.

This hand is worth a raise to three spades but is not ideal for a limit raise – which could be shown by the conventional raise to two notrump. This convention is called Jordan (or Truscott) and is commonly in use all round the world. An alternative would be a fit jump to three clubs, showing this sort of black suit mesh – albeit you’d prefer the club queen in addition to your other assets. Either route is acceptable.


♠ A 10 4 3
 8 4 3
♣ K 10 9 5 3
South West North East
Pass 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


ClarksburgDecember 7th, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Good morning Mr. Wolff
On the BWTA hand, what addition / changes would it take to justify a limit raise?

Bill CubleyDecember 7th, 2016 at 4:47 pm

A clear cut limit raise in BWTA. Declarers object is to take lots of tricks. The short trump hand easily offer 2 ruffs. Slam is not yet out of the question and this is a good dummy.

I usually do quite well by making a limit raise on these hands.

Merry Christmas to the Wolffs!

bobby wolffDecember 7th, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

No changes in today’s hand BWTA discussion are needed to make it qualify as a limit raise, simply because it is about that value.

My wording within the column description should have mentioned that when the takeout double appeared by East, a jump to 3 spades is (at least in the higher-level tournament bridge world) considered preemptive and would normally be made by the same hand without the king of clubs.

Also, my intent was to “throw in” the discussion about a side fit, this time with clubs to jump to 3 clubs (usually a wasted bid which if only holding AQJ10xxx in clubs with nothing outside will not be useful, because of infrequency) and allow the reader to discuss this “other” meaning to decide which his (her) partnership preferred.

The Jordan (or Truscott) 2NT is just a way to discuss a stronger hand than would the current meaning of “preemptive” require.

bobby wolffDecember 7th, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes I too, seem to reach right contracts when the scent of legitimate limit raises (in whatever form) lend themselves to use.

Maybe however, it is just the “feel” of the holiday season which fills the air and uplifts the soul.

And, right back at you for a happy holidays to bring good health and positive thoughts to the Cubleys and all of the rest of us, who love bridge.