Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Be through my lips to unawakened Earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O wind,
If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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



All the deals this week come from the Gold Coast tournament in Brisbane, one of the most enjoyable week-long events on the bridge calendar. If you like sun, sea and sand, together with great restaurants and a serious bridge tournament where you can still have fun, this is for you.

This deal came up in the Ivy Dahler Swiss Pairs, a one-day tournament run along Swiss lines, where the top pairs are lined up against one another in eight-board matches, with a format akin to a Swiss teams event.

JoAnn Sprung of Las Vegas — half of the winning pair with husband Danny — declared four hearts as South here, after a transfer response to her one-club opening bid. The lead of the diamond 10 went to the jack, queen and king. Declarer knocked out the heart ace, won the return of the diamond nine, then drew two more rounds of trumps ending in hand.

At this point, Sprung had decided that East’s initial pass meant West was heavily favored to have both the missing aces. A club toward the king required West to duck (or give declarer an extra discard). When the club king won, South could pitch her club 10 on the diamond ace, and now a club lead went to the queen and ace, leaving West on lead.

It did not matter what West did now; she could concede a ruff-and-discard by leading a club, or open up the spades, allowing declarer to play the suit for one loser. Either way, the game would come home.

This unusual auction by your partner describes a hand with a maximum and three hearts, plus a source of tricks in clubs, hoping for you to have a hand with some slam interest. You do not have that hand, so sign off in four hearts. Imagine the heart three were the queen, and you might do more.


♠ Q 10 9
 J 10 8 4 3
 A J 5
♣ K 7
South West North East
    1 NT Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
3 NT Pass 4 ♣ 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 24th, 2018 at 11:19 am

Hi Bobby,

I don’t know if “Put a sock in it” is a common request in the USA (as well as over here) to get someone to keep quiet but I feel for West after he’d led the D10 here. The urge to remove one shoe, then the said item of hosiery and drop it into East’s bidding box (if not actually stuffing it into his mouth) must have been strong here.

For the better behaved, the downing of one’s current drink and presentation of an empty glass to East would seem to be an acceptable alternative – or asking that he at least have the D9 next time.



Bobby WolffApril 24th, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, perhaps the likely coming of Spring should be enough incentive for East not to go to lengths to help his worthy opponents (coincidentally named Sprung) to not have to guess the location of the likely ubiquitous spade jack in order to put paid to her chancy game contract.

It is hard to fathom or otherwise imagine creating a gain to overcall (especially in diamonds) after partner has passed the first round with that less than powerful collection
which East possessed. However justice appeared to triumph when JoAnn sprang from that opening lead to play the hand flawlessly cinching the contract instead of having to (at the death) merely guess.

Such errors of commission do not go unnoticed by Dame Fortune causing rise to another catchy phrase directed, in this case, toward the culprit East, “Be quiet and thought a fool rather than speak out (bid) and remove all doubt”.

It is easy to appreciate your marked behavior with an empty glass to partner showing specific disdain, reminding me of an author named “Webster” way back in time while writing about bridge in the 1930’s (very popular then), for “The New Yorker” magazine, showing two bridge couples dressed to the nines at some evening affair when one partner, while at the bridge table, says to the other, “Darling, you are the damnest idiot”.

Peter PengApril 24th, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Dear Bobby

at those colors, this is a 3D opening for my teams, more pre-emptive,

as 2D is Flannery.

Nothing to brag about, just curious if others would also do it.

Steven ShulmanApril 24th, 2018 at 1:08 pm

In Apr. 24 column you mention Jacques Guertin. I played bridge with Jacques in the very early 1960’s. He was a member of Bell Labs. in Reading, Pa. I wonder if this is the same person. Can you ask if this coincidence is real?

Steven Shulman

Iain ClimieApril 24th, 2018 at 1:29 pm

HI Peter,

If you do kick off with 3D, North may wind up in 4H and you’ve got a nice safe club lead to start with. I’ve got to say that 3D or even a WJO on the second round might make some sense (I don’t think I would, though) but 2D after passing doesn’t interfere much and doesn’t exactly direct an ideal lead. If East were 4th and had DKQ9xx(x) then I wouldn’t mind too much.

I do wonder if opponents of pre-empters could be more on the look out for penalties, especially against less than certain games. 500 against a marginal game at pairs may be in the 40 to 60% range if some people don’t bid and/or make it. At teams, I’ll take the loss of 3IMPs (-120) against the corresponding 12 IMPs when the game goes off.



Bobby WolffApril 24th, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Hi Peter,

Now you are talking! Yes, If bidding is one’s goal, do it when first seat NV vs. Vul on this hand when the result may cause both opponents in this case to ethically pass it out and let you go down a measly one or two undoubled for a good result. Of course, then if South boldly doubles (being vul and at the three level) he’ll let his partner jump to 4 hearts and against the nine of clubs lead attempt to make 4 hearts, determined by who he plays for that critical spade jack.

In any event, the time for action has much to do with both one’s own constructive bidding (not really on this hand) but also, taking critical bidding space away from those worthy opponents (big time advantage!).

At least to me the above advantage is worth more than it seems to be for other players. Of course when it works it feels great, but guarantees do not go along with such choices, only IMO, better long term results than not.

Thanks for writing.

Bobby WolffApril 24th, 2018 at 3:51 pm

Hi Stevern,

When you mention April 24th, 2018 we will not see that hand on this site until May 8th (2 weeks delayed) so that I do not know whether that Jacques Guertin is your friend or not, but my guess is that he is, since you played bridge with him all that time ago. If so, I would have no way to determine where he now lives so would not be particularly helpful in allowing you to get in touch with him. However we can hope that he is tuned in on this site (a large number are, but never write in). However if he is now listening perhaps he will let us know right here and likely very quick. Here is hoping we (and especially you, will get lucky).

Bobby WolffApril 24th, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Having answered the posts in order, you beat me to what we tend to think may be the best choice of action with you delving deeper.

Always thanks for tending to get to the meat of the problem where others hold back for whatever reason they conservatively perceive.

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