Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 8th, 2016

O for a life of sensations rather than thoughts!

John Keats

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


Today’s deal from a team match saw both declarers sensibly treat the South hand as worthy of a weak two, in first seat non-vulnerable. The playing strength from the diamonds and the internal solidity of the spades more than made up for the missing high honors.

When North raised to game, both Wests led the club king. Each declarer saw that the easiest route to 10 tricks would come from ruffing three diamonds in dummy. First the club loser would be discarded on the heart king, and then they could embark on a cross ruff.

In both rooms declarer took his discard, ruffed a club to hand, then trumped a diamond. Now how to come back to hand to ruff the second diamond? At one table South played the odds, which favored a 4-3 heart break rather than a 3-3 club break. He played a third heart and ruffed it, and could next ruff a diamond and play a third club. Now he could not be prevented from coming to 10 tricks.

In the other room West deviously dropped his heart queen on the second round of the suit. Again declarer ruffed a club, then a diamond, but at trick six (knowing that West still had the club queen left) he tried a club. East accurately ruffed in with the trump ace, and played a trump. That let West take his king and lead another trump, to prevent South from ruffing any more diamonds. So declarer had to lose two spade tricks and eventually two diamond tricks.

The two spade call is artificial (partner can’t hold spades). It suggests at least a high-card raise to three clubs, a direct club raise being more about shape than high cards. Your extra shape makes your hand worth at least a shot at game; but should you make a splinter jump to four diamonds? That may direct the spade lead – but bear in mind your RHO didn’t double two spades, so I vote for the splinter.


♠ J 7 4
 A K 10 4 2
♣ A 10 8 5 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
2 ♣ 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


angelo romanoDecember 22nd, 2016 at 2:48 pm

In BWTA, what about a three spades bid ? you’re not committed to game and show to partner your distribution so he can choose the level. Four diamonds looks too strong to me

bobby wolffDecember 22nd, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Hi Angelo,

Your post “feels” very intriguing to me and, at the very least, deserves a comprehensive investigation.

First, let me give what I think to be necessary truths directly pertaining to high-level judgment:

1, During the bidding a hand starts out not being necessarily good nor bad, but very subject only to the relationship of previous bids made by both partners.

2. Therefore that hoped for high-level partnership, after listening closely to the whole auction, will be able to quantify the current bid as only an extension of each bid up to then.

3. Sadly, but hopefully, suit bidding, usually when a final NT contract is not to be considered, is fraught with radical changes in value, not taking effect until at the earliest, the second or even third round of bids.

At least to me the above example hand under discussion becomes a poster child for a high level meeting of the minds.

Both of the following hands, hopefully neither exaggerated might represent the strong club raise of 2 spades already agreed:

s. KQ or s. xx
h. Qx h. Q
d. 10xxx d. AJxxx
c. K10xxx c. QJxxx

While the first example would suggest a really good 6 clubs (needing a 2-1 club break) the second one will need a successful club finesse for only a club game.

In both instances the jump to 4 diamonds (showing shortness and considering the previous limit bidding, eg. only 2 clubs must or very likely to be void, otherwise, if holding only a singleton would not (should not) show such blatant enthusiasm) becomes the creative factor which enables the original responder to make an educated final decision.

Obviously what I am trying to get across is exactly that since the opener has rebid a simple two clubs (who wouldn’t, since while liking his distribution has no way of insuring a fit and ready to play a part score if partner merely returns to 2 hearts, but if partner does raise clubs, he then is ready to either overbid to 5 clubs (a reasonable choice) or make a game try simply by re-raising to 4 clubs or possibly now to bid out his distribution of 3 spades (implying diamond shortage) but then respecting a return to 4 clubs by simply passing.

No one reading needs to completely agree with this bridge logic, but methinks it is worth considering and furthermore it represents what I think to be, high-level reasoning, during the normal course of bidding.

Thanks Angelo, for listening.

slarDecember 22nd, 2016 at 6:48 pm

What do you think of gadgets that allow the use of something lower than 4NT as key-card-asking when there is suit agreement in a minor? In one flavor whose name escapes me, the meanings of 4D and 4NT (in this BWTA case) are swapped so that you can ask for key cards without going past 5C. Of course in this case you have a void so you don’t want to make this asking bid, but hopefully a 4NT bid (strongly suggesting a diamond void since you didn’t ask for key cards or splinter in spades) would encourage responder to be aggressive with the spade ace. Do you think this sort of thing is worth the memory overhead?

bobby wolffDecember 22nd, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Hi Slar,

Like many subjects discussed by the high level community, swapping a key card ask for a heretofore simple cue bid (or showing shortness) makes sense in and of itself.

However your last sentence certainly is directly involved in that answer. One’s memory should determine whether such an exchange is worth it with a tie for determining, usually going to the not yet side.

First, when only one bridge partnership is going on with both partners it then, by almost definition, a much easier transition, but if either partner has multiple (or likely only one other) partner(s), my experience says no.

Like it or not, but percentage wise if that convention is remembered 4 times out of 5 it still becomes a major minus, instead of a hoped for, slight plus.

Of course, to change does give experience in “feel” of an overall system, complete with nuances, which in time will create knowledge, but all those side gains are nullified by not only having to remember possible ambiguous this or that applies, which in time will cut short even a good partnership formed by two reasonably practical partners who have good bridge work ethics and have the time to devote to our beautiful game.

In any event, whatever your choice, good luck!