Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Life is the game that must be played.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

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

*Pick a slam


When South heard his partner invite slam, his call of five no-trump was intended to offer a choice of slams. Even at matchpoint pairs, maybe North should have bid six clubs to look for a 4-4 minor-suit fit. That contract would be easy to bring home today, but North was worried that facing king-jack-third or king-queen-third of spades, six clubs would go down on a spade ruff, so the inferior slam was reached.

After a spade lead to East’s jack, South had to recover from his partner’s indelicate bidding. He ducked the spade lead and won the next, then played three rounds of clubs, leaving himself an entry to his hand in that suit. Next came the three top diamonds, and when East followed to all six of those leads, that player was marked with a singleton heart.

So South cashed the heart queen and led the nine from hand. When West followed small (knowing if he covered that declarer would have crossed back to hand by leading to his club winner, then taken the heart finesse on the third round), South let the nine run and claimed his contract.

For the record, even if the count had not produced such a definitive answer (say, if East appeared to have a doubleton heart), it would be right to lead the nine to the king, then cross back to the heart queen and finesse if East had produced the jack or 10 on the second round of the suit.

Your extra shape suggests you should play game here. You can make a good case for playing hearts rather than no-trump, since almost no matter what hand partner has, you might find ten tricks in hearts easier than nine in no-trump. If you believe that, and I do, then transfer into four hearts by whatever method your partnership uses, rather than transferring to hearts and bidding three no-trump.


♠ 5
 J 10 4 3 2
 10 8 6 4 2
♣ 7 4
South West North East
    2 ♣ Pass
2 Pass 2 NT 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


Iain ClimieApril 6th, 2018 at 11:34 am

Hi Bobby,

Not so sure about the BWTA given the tendency to have off-shape 2N opening and rebids. The other night I held Qxx x xxx 108xxxx and pard opened 20-21 2NT. I passed unhappily and RHO (who’d thought about bidding over 2N) led a heart from xxx AJ10xxxx xx None – but not the Ace. Partner had AKx K J10x AKQJxx and ran for home at high speed; the oppo can take all 13 tricks and also make 4H. As you say, it is a bidders game – or you could maybe lead the HA!



David WarheitApril 6th, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Let’s see: on BWTA, suppose partner has Axx, Ax, AKQxx & AKx and H break 5-1. Now not only does 4H fail and 3N come home, but with a 2-1 D break, 6D makes. 6D makes even if D are 3-0 so long as H are 3-3 or if partner lacks the DQ but D are 2-1. So what would I do? Over 2NT, I would transfer to H and then bid D, looking to play game in either H or D.

Iain ClimieApril 6th, 2018 at 1:47 pm

Hi David,

Will partner have brakes, though? You may find yourself well above 4H if partner has something superficiallu suitable e.g. with HKJx and DAKx amongst his assets. Of course he’s already shown a huge hand but many players will forget that.



Bobby WolffApril 6th, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Hi Iain & David,

Methinks that all reading your posts may learn from all three of them, 1. gleaning various possibilities, 2. defining and therefore deciding on one’s own choices, 3. above all, with some to understand various complexities, how to deal with at least some of them, and coming to grips with our game the way it is, only being enabled to explore a few so, according to what one thinks, pick the ones most likely to occur.

Factors on this specific example:

1. Deciding on the range of the opening 2NT and what many play, first 2 clubs (artificial and forcing) and then rebidding NT over partner’s response. With the expert community and with those playing a more or less standard system, 2NT= a good 19 (not many quacks, a random 4-3-3-3 distribution and/or a scarcity of 10s and 9s) through 21, with 2 clubs first, then NT 22-24. However while holding a singleton ace or king, possibly: s. KQx, h. K, d. AKQxx, c.Axxx or some such, with the belief that to instead open only 1 diamond may catch your partner with: s. Jxxxxx, h. xxx, d. xx, c. xx or other similar fits and run a risk of missing a good game. Of course, if the responder’s length is in hearts instead of spades, down will go even 3 hearts while 1 diamond will no doubt make,

2. While I have already expressed my opinion with the BWTA in today’s bridge puzzle, no doubt Iain & David (not surprising, neither of them being shy) have voiced other possibilities.
Iain with seemingly a tumultuous and ghastly result for the opponents, and David with perfection itself, when deciding to show his 5-5 virtual bridge bust.

3. While their examples might serve as bookends on the shelf, nevertheless they are good barometers of possible extremes causing all of us to address the issue, every time choices arise which could influence our decisions.

4. Yes, I believe the most effective judgment blends positive and negative thinking, together with optimism (bidder’s game) breaking ties.

5. Even the virtual newbie to our game will begin to understand that even a very lucky person (and I do not believe one exists, otherwise they would own the world) will not come close to always being right, but rather experience alone will raise a 50% chance to the mid 60’s once a player realizes what to expect, not only partner’s hand as he exchanges bids, but having been there, done that, tends to make a dedicated player wiser to his surroundings (and I do not mean compromising bridge ethics as he sees fit).

Finally, I think this discussion, and others should join in, with at least the thinking, not necessarily with posts, since, by doing so, it is probably the best way to improve one’s game, by the bridge intelligence one gets by hearing different approaches, but decides for himself, the route to take. And, as a post script I think there is a similarity between playing high-level bridge and being a military general during a life or death struggle out on the battlefield. At the very least it starts out with, avoiding the battlefield (not having to deal with one’s enemies or his bridge opponents) should be everyone’s first choice. IOW, and if it is possible, sneaking up on those worthy opponents, so that they do not have a way of knowing what you are doing, is almost always the winning choice.

BobliptonApril 6th, 2018 at 4:27 pm

I am afraid that as an old rubber bridge player, I will stick with SJ Simon’s dictum of the best results possible rather than the best possible results. While, playing some advance strong-club-and-relay system with spiral scan thrown in, and assuming partner and I could remember all that, we might make our way to a marvelous diamond slam and capture all the match points in this BWTA, I think Four Hearts is the best place for this hand, played by declarer.

I have seen Garton Churchill discussing how he should have bid the hand to get to the right contract, in his own system, while my partner and I, in our scientific 2/1 homebrew, went 1NT-3NT. Skid would have been pleased.


Bobby WolffApril 6th, 2018 at 4:58 pm

Hi Bob,

You, I may learn to have wished for it secretly, to have an admirer in me.

Science seems to lean to attempt at perfection, eg. best possible result. Sure, it can be satisfying like searching for the “perfect martini”. However when all martinis, at least for the time being, seem to brighten the world, why search for Nirvana?

If for only two reasons, one, it is not necessary, nor, even fashionable, to be obligated to find the peak and, even more important two, on the way, one may experience just too many failures, any one of which might translate, for whatever reason, to be fatal.