Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 13th, 2017

The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient.

Thomas Huxley

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

*shortage **three key cards


Today’s deal is very satisfying, in that it illustrates the benefits of Bobby Fischer’s line about strategy at chess. When you find a good line, look for a better one. In today’s deal there was a decent and straightforward line, and a less obvious and better one. Fittingly, the cards rewarded the better play.

When the deal came up, both tables in a team game played in six spades. West had been dealt an apparently attractive top heart lead, though in retrospect he would have done better to lead clubs.

The auction having shown there was no future in hearts, both Wests shifted to clubs at trick two. One declarer drew trump and took the diamond finesse, and his 50 percent line did not come home.

In the other room South won the club king, and ruffed a heart to hand. Now he played the spade ace and a spade to the queen, relieved to see the break would allow him to take a second heart ruff. (Had spades not broken, he would have drawn trump and reverted to the diamond finesse.)

Now it was crucial to go back to dummy with a club (to stop anyone discarding from a doubleton) for the third heart ruff. South could next lead a diamond to the ace, draw the last trump with the spade jack, discarding his diamond loser, and claim the rest.

He had taken three trumps in dummy, three ruffs in hand, two diamonds and four clubs – a perfect example of a dummy reversal, in which the short hand draws trump.

Everyone ought to define what is the weakest action in an auction when a cuebid that forces the partnership to a specific level (here two spades) is doubled. Does a pass or reversion to two spades show a weaker hand? I suggest always using reversion to the trump suit as weakest. That being so, I would redouble two diamonds to suggest the ace, and let partner make the running from here.


♠ Q J 5
 8 6 5 2
 A 5 3
♣ K Q J
South West North East
  1 1 ♠ Dbl.
2 Dbl. 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2January 27th, 2017 at 12:37 am

The proposed BWTA answer reads like something right out of Victor Mollo’s Bridge in the Menagerie with Rueful Rabbit on the way to playing 2D redoubled.

I confess I would bid either 2N or 4S. I would bid 2N only if our agreement was that my previous cue bid was a limit raise or better. Otherwise, I would simply bid what I am sure we can make.

Jane AJanuary 27th, 2017 at 12:43 am

Holding such a flat hand, does it make sense to choose a redouble in the BWTA hand? Yes, it is slightly better than a limit raise but with no shortness, the hand seems to loose some of its luster. I think when west doubles back in, he is showing a better hand as well. Maybe two spades is all there is? I am not sure my partners would know what a redouble meant, so this would have to be part of a partnership understanding. Would it need to be alerted?

jim2January 27th, 2017 at 1:21 am

Also, North over-called — did not double.

bobby wolffJanuary 27th, 2017 at 1:38 am

Hi Jim2,

You are at least confessing or merely only allowing it to be known that your overcalls are at least decent and need to be respected as such by partner.

On this strategy or what might be called tendency, my guess is that while holding AK10xx of spades and nothing other (3-3-2) you would not immediately venture into the bidding, definitely vulnerable, but also possibly NV.

I would always NV and also vulnerable with just a bit extra, likely with only (2-2-4) outside.
My excuse is both lead directing and giving partner some direction in case West jumps to 3 diamonds or some such immediately or even only responds 1NT.

However that is a systemic preference and only fits my style, certainly not everyones. Therefore, my pass over my RHO’s dpuble may show this hand (nothing extra) and will (should) only cause my partner to quietly return to 2 spades, but perhaps continue to 3 spades in competition.

No doubt, my suggested aggressive action is based on experience not proven bridge science, but seemingly the older I get, the more important I think bidding rather than not, (when faced with a choice), is a winning philosophy.

bobby wolffJanuary 27th, 2017 at 1:47 am

Hi Jane A,

I think redouble by the partner of the overcaller merely shows something extra but not GF. To do so is just for level (not strain) identification and confirms spade support. It is just too unlikely that a diamond contract for the overcalling side can be a consideration, making (or should) a diamond contract not a consideration while playing against an adversarial diamond opening bid and confirmation of good diamonds by his side with his double.

No, I think it not necessary to alert such a bid, since IMO it is not a likely event that such an action has ever been fully discussed among partners, and is only a forward going move, usually with either good support, or if not, a very good hand outside, but not with much value (or length) in the opponents suit.

bobby wolffJanuary 27th, 2017 at 1:49 am

Hi again Jim2,

Yes North merely bid 1 spade, lessening the complications of the overall auction. Simple bidding, at least to me, not a cause for alarm or misunderstanding by either side.

jim2January 27th, 2017 at 2:27 am

I would bid 1S if my HCP range was within our agreements with the provisio that the lower the count, the better the suit. Hence, I might well overcall with the hand you noted, as long as we slip in a soft point or three to meet whatever our agreement would require.

Thus, I could be talked into bidding 3S or even 2S, but I am not redoubling. I do not have RR’s luck.

ClarksburgJanuary 27th, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Matchpoints, none VUL.
Partner (Dealer) passes.
RHO opens 2D (Flannery)
You hold A105 7 K98432 AK5
Assuming, to start off, that X would be lead directing, 2NT would be Minors with Clubs equal lengths or longer, what’s call is recommended for entering this auction?
What would a 3D overcall show?
What would 2H (cuebid of one of their suits) show?
If my thinking out loud, as above, is off base or confusing the issue, please just ignore it all and jump to the final answer.

bobby wolffJanuary 27th, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

While I sincerely think that my approach to our game is basic, (I hope meaning direct, not confusing nor inconsistent), that 2 diamond cue bid over a negative double and in response to partner’s simple 1 spade overcall can never be done while holding only diamond length in front of a diamond opening, (not so an immediate jump to 3 diamonds. which should show about 7 solid in that suit when done immediately, especially when there would be many other bids and later in the auction to show diamond control including shortness, if needed for an unusual slam bid by the non-opener’s side).

If such a hand is held, merely pass, and in response to the negative double is almost impossible to be converted to a penalty pass once LHO has opened 1 diamond instead of 1 spade. I’ve never had that sequence go all pass, nor do I expect it ever to since all logic will forbid such a turn of events (even with TOCM TM) to deal with.

Thus the response of 2 diamonds starts out as a potentially good hand for partner, and then when redouble is added after the opener has confirmed really good diamonds by his double, a next redouble merely shows a better hand to partner with a possible game in spades very much in the mix: s. Qxxxx, h. Kx, d. Axxx, c. Qx.

Again the logic is simple. Either a game in spades or not, but if possible to buy the hand at 2 spades rather than 3 if possible. BTW, while NV and in 2nd seat with 1st seat opening 1 diamond I might overcall 1 spade with s. AKJ10, h. Jxx, d. xx, c. Jxxx especially against assumed conservative bidders. Wanting the lead and holding the master suit is, at least to me, a strong incentive to compete, especially when able to do so at the 1 level.

Am I suggesting that everyone do it and nothing untoward will ever happen? Definitely not, but experience has proven to me, unless I am daffy (which is always possible), that bridge is much more of a bidder’s game than originally thought and favoring a system which allows such intervention with enthusiasm.

One more word to the wise and, of course, in favor of what I am promoting, sometimes, perhaps once every three or four duplicates and overcall at the one level will keep even wary opponents away from the dreaded final contract of 3 NT when they hold no honor (or think they don’t) in the overcaller’s suit and later find out to their dismay, that only 4 tricks will be lost with that being the only game which makes, but without that nuisance overcall would have arrived there (without the intervention) since both opponents had balanced hands adding up to 25-27 hcps.

jim2January 27th, 2017 at 3:59 pm

While we await Our Host, your 3D question reminded me of an auction from a 1971 Team of Four game in Ft. Wayne Indiana, long before bidding boxes. You see, I opened 2D Flannery and it went (with opponents silent in the bidding):

2D – 3D
4D – 3N

My RHO 3N passed before I could react, so I passed in tempo, and partner proceeded to make exactly nine tricks with no other game on.

RHO berated his partner for something, opening lead choice, maybe.

It wasn’t until we headed over to compare scores with our teammates when I asked pard if he remembered how the bidding went. Turns out I was the ONLY one at the table who had realized 3N was an insufficient bid.

bobby wolffJanuary 27th, 2017 at 4:35 pm

hi Clarksburg,

Simple, put I think the best defense against 2 diamonds Flannery, (to follow, but first, I deem Flannery to be a very useful convention to employ) since my feel on playing it (both 2 diamonds now, but 2 hearts before, although having to give up a weak 2 heart bid, (which though not a fatal loss, is a relatively, at least to my judgment, small minus) for the last 50+ years has both produced consistently above average results.

Defense to Flannery (11-14+, 4 spades, 5 hearts, sometimes 6 mediocre A10xxxx,, any of the other 3 or mostly 4):
Double-shows good diamonds but not long enough or a hand good enough to bid three.
2 hearts=normal TO of hearts with at least 3+ spades and short hearts, perhaps 14+
2NT=16-18+ with hearts especially well stopped,
3C or 3D=normal overcall tied to the vulnerabillity.
2S=normal natural overcall, of course being aware of the opener having 4 which may help in the play.
3H=Asking for stopper in hearts with a solid minor suit and at least another trick (usually an ace)
Leaving a minor suit length hand to be bid, usually diamonds first, then clubs but with 5-6 sometimes a very good 4-6, then clubs first followed by NT announcing good diamond support plus, of course, a very good playing hand.

Jumps to 4 clubs or diamonds (as is 3 or 4 spades) are natural with not necessarily a solid minor but excellent distribution ex: (4-0-7-2).

With your hand I would simply bid 3 diamonds since passing is much too dangerous and risks missing a good game (some Flannery players take downside risks and may open it with 9 or even fewer points when possessing 4-5 in the majors).

My like for playing Flannery is certainly partly created by those opponents who feel that it is too dangerous to bid, but in reality it turns out to be the opposite.

Good luck, but remember when faced with a valid choice, choose bidding.

ClarksburgJanuary 28th, 2017 at 8:56 pm

A supplementary question.
From your reply:
“…2 hearts=normal TO of hearts with at least 3+ spades and short hearts, perhaps 14+…”
and “…3C or 3D=normal overcall tied to the vulnerabillity…”
and your recommended choice was to “…simply bid 3 Diamonds…”

Is a 2H call out of the question? If not, how would you rate it, relatively, to the recommended 3D call?

bobby wolffJanuary 29th, 2017 at 1:45 am

Hi Clarksburg,

While bidding 2 hearts is significantly better than passing, I do not feel comfortable with it while holding 3-1-6-3. It would be 10% less unappealing if your 6 card suit was clubs, since while holding 3-2-4-4 methinks the responder should almost always choose the lower ranking suit to respond so that partner may be better placed, although I would feel that this hand is not good enough to bid 3 diamonds after doubling.

No doubt, any and every action taken in these thorny situations is risky, while holding a 6-3-3-1 just bid where you live, get it over with and let partner make the mistake, but at the same time playing you for the length he knows you to have.

In retrospect, over time, perhaps all bridge players develop likes and dislikes for one type action or another and mine is “always to decide in favor of bidding and the sooner the main suit is known by partner the better, I think, will be the result. Of course with s. AQx, h. x d. AKJxxx, c.AJx I would bid 2 hearts but then I’ll follow it up next time around with another bid.

It isn’t productive for me to rate the difference, but suffice it to say, to first bid 2 hearts rather than 3 diamonds is probably 20% safer, still may find the right contract, and many good players may choose it as their first choice, but all those positive features would still not convince me to do it.