Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 20th, 2018

When you begin a journey of revenge, start by digging two graves: one for your enemy, and one for yourself.

Jodi Picoult

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


We showed a deal from a Vanderbilt match between Hawkins and Pavlicek yesterday. The Pavlicek team had their revenge a deal or two later when the defenders ducked one too many times, and Bob Jones read the cards accurately to land a difficult contract.

West led the club 10 to the queen, jack and two. Jones played the diamond jack, which West decided to duck. Next came a low spade from dummy, and it was East’s turn to duck. Declarer won the jack and cashed the diamond ace. Next came Jones’ singleton heart, and West played low — this was the duck that was fatal to the defense, though it was very hard to see why at the time.

The heart king held the trick, and Jones, reading the layout with great accuracy, cashed the spade ace, extracting West’s last exit card. Then he played a low heart from dummy to West’s ace.

West could cash the club ace and play the club 10 to Jones’ king, but he put her back in with a fourth round of clubs, forcing a lead away from the diamond queen at trick 12 into his king-10 of diamonds.

To defeat the contract, it was necessary for West to rise with the heart ace on the first round of the suit. From that point on, West could exit with the low heart or with a spade. (It would even have been possible to cash the club ace before playing her spade). At that point, Jones would have been unable to achieve the multiple endplays he needed.

By bidding your two suits, you showed a good hand, typically with 5-5 since you might have doubled at your first or second turn with 5-4 in the majors. So given that you have told your full story and your partner did not choose to compete any further, I think you have to pass now.


♠ A Q 6 5 4
 K Q 10 7 6
♣ Q 6
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1
1 ♠ Pass Pass 2
2 3 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


GinnyFebruary 3rd, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Interesting hand. Does the play change if the JD and 10D (or lower diamond) are interchanged? (finesse into declarer’s hand?)

In the BWTA, is this hand too “medium” for Michaels?

Completely separately, historically, have OTs always been scored at full trick level? What if they were scored at 1/2 trick level (1C/D OT = 10 pts, 1H/S/NT OT = 15 pts). I guess the question is if a 2H contract making 3 should lose to a 3H contract making 3? There is still a premium for OTs but another premium for bidding to the top level.

Bill CubleyFebruary 3rd, 2018 at 3:13 pm


I usually say to partners that when another bid describes my hand, such as a Michael’s Cue Bid or the Unusual NT, then bidding the suits separately shows at least a 2 card difference in suit length. Today’s BWTA would show at least 6+ spades and 4 hearts.

Your thoughts in improving my bidding are very welcome. Thanks in advance. Wish you could fly to Hilton Head for next week’s regional.

Bobby WolffFebruary 3rd, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Hi Ginny,

Answering question #1, it would only change if the equal cards prohibited the declarer from being the hand he wanted to (needed to) be in at the death. The major reason West ducked the first diamond (jack in dummy, instead of exchanging it with either the 10 or 9 in hand was to hope to keep declarer from being able to continue diamonds without needing another entry to hand). Although it did not severely hinder declarer this time, on another hand it might. And, if it did, it could force declarer to eschew the finesse and thus take the lesser percentage play of playing for a doubleton queen in one hand or the other, instead of the higher percentage finesse of the queen onside, but no more than twice guarded (Qxx).

With the BWTA, the reason why South chose to first overcall spades and then bid hearts is that his hand is good enough to independently bid both suits even if the bidding quickly arrived at the three level, eg (1D, 1S. 3D, P, P, South would certainly bid 3 hearts, but if he instead, held s. AJxxx, h. KJxxx, d. J, c. Qx he should choose a Michaels cue bid of 2 diamonds since it is clearly (my judgment) more important to show both suits with one bid, rather than be forced to overbid at the three level or higher with lesser strength.

And yes, your term of “medium” is well chosen, indicating a hand which was, in the case of today’s BWTA South hand, good enough to overcall both suits even if the level got higher more quickly than expected.

Finally (on this subject) it is always better to bid only one suit, if, in fact, partner is in position to support it (doesn’t require too much other than, of course, trump support, enabling the original overcaller to not give away his hand to those worthy opponents which will help them better judge what to do, both in the future bidding and, especially the play and/or defense, depending who eventually buys the hand. Also a Michaels cue bid is more effective if its strength is limited so that when the bidding gets higher fast, the partner of the cuebidder will have a better feel for knowing when and if to come in, mainly because of the sacrifice mode, ever present in the process.

No doubt your questions concern themselves with bridge sophistication and, at the very least, a substantial level.

Your final question is also of great interest to many bridge aficionados and although, at least AFAIK, my simple answer is that our game is already both difficult and relatively impossible for even the greatest experts now and to come, even thousands of years from now, to put any credibility on exactly how many tricks any one combined hand (two partners) will take. Therefore to then differentiate with the scoring exact numbers of possible overtricks rather than condensing the difficulty by treating extra overtricks the same (no additional bonus for “guessing” the exact number) is, at least to me, a “slam dunk” (please excuse those words used) not to go the route you inquire about.

Believe it or not, years ago, such an exercise was attempted and in all places, South America (never a “hot bed” for our game) and although I have not ever read the details about the results of such experiments, only that it is now relegated to the dust pans rather than to the rule book. You may be then interested in the only left over result from that long ago thinking remained is that in some places around the wide world, where the 10th trick in NT is discounted making the tenth trick in NT only 20, limiting the same score as 10 tricks in a major suit, therefore giving less of an excuse to play NT than a major suit, at least for matchpoint bridge.

However, being an old dog myself (to say it kindly) I do not cotton to that change either, only because very high-level bridge is tough enough, and on a continuing basis, to permit important scoring changes to have that much influence on today’s game.

At least to me, the most important fact coming out of your intuitive and probing bridge mind, is that, if given a choice I would vote for less exactness rather than more since, at least for the last 80+ years in my life, very few, if ever anyone, has complained because our beloved game as being, just too easy.

Thanks for writing.

Bobby WolffFebruary 3rd, 2018 at 5:35 pm

Hi Bill,

No doubt, your preferred Michaels system, while unique to me, is, at the very least, carefully defined. Now all you need to wish for is a flood of Michaels type hands with both almost equal length and, of course, also those with 6-4.

Like fire drills, important to prepare, and in bridge (at least at fairly high levels) working on one’s partnership adds an important confidence level which, at least to me, manifests itself to positive results, likely only because there will be fewer partnership misunderstandings, therefore not falling victim to negativity of thought.

Good luck in Hiltonhead. I’ve never been there, but no doubt a beautiiful place.