Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 13th, 2018

Use harms and even destroys beauty. The noblest function of an object is to be contemplated.

Miguel de Unamuno

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


In the last session of the Pairs Final from the Gold Coast tournament last year, both Lilley-Nagy and Howard-Nunn did well here in their contracts of two hearts.

As North, on the auction shown, David Lilley judged his partner would not have five spades, but might have five hearts, so let his partner play two hearts. Justin Howard, as South, overcalled two hearts over East’s initial one-spade response and played there.

Zolly Nagy won the top club lead, led a spade to the ace and played a low heart from hand. West flew up with the ace to play the club queen, crashing the jack, then gave his partner a club ruff. When East returned a spade for his partner to ruff, that was the fourth defensive trick, but the heart king was their last trick.

Howard received a far tougher defense. He won the spade lead in hand and led a second spade. West discarded a diamond, so declarer won the king and played a third spade. East took the queen (West pitching another diamond), and the defenders now played three rounds of trumps. When Howard drew the last trump, West had to pitch a club. When he let go a small one, Howard led a club up and ducked West’s queen.

West had to exit with a low club, and Howard won the ace and played a third club, forcing West to win and lead diamonds. Whichever diamond he played, Howard had the rest, since dummy’s club was good.

On the last trump, West had to find the discard of a club honor to avoid the endplay.

You may feel like you are being stolen from, but you just do not have the shape to double for take-out. You must pass as smoothly as possible, relying on your partner to reopen with short hearts or real shape of his own. As a passed hand, he should bid in either scenario, regardless of whether he is close to an opening bid here.


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

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieApril 27th, 2018 at 3:35 pm

Hi Bobby,

A query about the bidding on today’s play hand – 1D X 1H?? Canape reply or transfer or what, I wonder? Curious to say the least although East did get the oppo into his suit at one point.



Bobby WolffApril 27th, 2018 at 4:41 pm

Hi Iain,

I wondered the same thing, but found out (probably) just a noise that even though 5-4 instead of equal or 4-5, East actually tried hearts first. However NS found their way back to hearts when North after his partner had bid both suits “guessed” to let South play the second suit, as though East had first possibly psyched hearts, while holding spades.

Surprisingly he was sort of right, but not completely. When real hands are repeated and especially (down under) where anything goes and in fact, does, more auctions than usual wind up thought strange.

That type of bidding freedom, despite thought of contrary to consistent success is a calling card of the bridge habits of that part of the world, although during World Championships instead of local tournaments, it doesn’t necessarily appear to occur as often.

In any event East’s bidding was not planned Canape. Thanks for noticing.

GinnyApril 27th, 2018 at 5:17 pm

Hi Bobby,

How much more would North need to overcall 1NT? Assume North does bid 1NT and East passes, how should the auction go forward?

PeteApril 27th, 2018 at 6:22 pm

Hi Bobby,
Some questions on a hand for you or one of your regulars:
Favorable vulnerability I held S-J H-A,5 D-A,K,8,2 C-K,10,9,6,4,2. We play a vanilla 2/1 with NMF and 4th suit forcing. In a club duplicate I opened second seat with 1C. No bidding from our opponents. Partner bid 1H. I bid 2C. Q1) Do you consider that an underbid? Would you have bid 2D or 3C? Now partner bid 3D. I didn’t really know what it meant since I think 2D should be forcing. Was it a strong two suited hand? I think it should be a splinter in support of clubs. He meant it as NMF. Q2) What should the 3D bid mean? Q3) What should I bid now? Q4) I didn’t alert. If the opponents had asked me what the bid meant(they didn’t), what should I reply? Should I say that I don’t know? Should I ask partner to leave the table, and then say that I don’t know? Should I say something else? Anyway I bid 4D, he bid 5C, and I bid 6C. We had staggered into a good slam that nobody else bid. His hand: S-A,7,4 H-K,Q,10,9,3 D-9,6 C-Q,J,8.
Last question that has nothing to do with this hand. In a sectional we were playing against a pair using a big club system. They started alerting bids, and I said that we didn’t want to be alerted for the rest of the hand since I felt it was giving them more help than it was giving us. They said that they had to alert. I called the director who said these indeed were the new rules. This seems crazy to me as it confers a big advantage for those who play complex systems as they may now know if partner has forgotten something. Is this really correct? The irony was that the one bid that they didn’t alert was a 4H that was actually keycard . Since we weren’t hurt, I didn’t call the director. They claimed that wasn’t alertable. It seems to me that it should have been alerted.

Bobby WolffApril 27th, 2018 at 7:04 pm

Hi Ginny,

While it is more of a winning attitude to not be fearful, it is beyond dangerous to overcall 1NT with slightly less strength than usual (only 14hcps) but absolutely no source of tricks (5 card decent suit or longer). IOW, not only short on high cards, but also on playing strength and easy to double by a former passed hand, but hearing his partner open the bidding.

Add the above to being vulnerable and it becomes nothing short of wrong to overcall 1NT.

However, if partner does bid 1NT South should meekly pass with only a balanced 7 hcps.

BobliptonApril 27th, 2018 at 8:12 pm

Pete, I consider your 2C call all right: 2D would have been marginal. Given the perceived ambiguity of 3 Diamonds, The unsuitability of your hand for NT play, I would have taken a call of 4 Diamonds. If partner intends to show a 5-5 in the reds, you’ve got a very suitable hand for diamonds. If he’s splintering in support of clubs, you’re showing the first round control of diamonds. Show him a maximum for your previous call and suitability for slam play.


Joe1April 27th, 2018 at 11:49 pm

BWTA commentary suggests that hand does not have shape for double, yet in the column hand, which is the same, north doubles (both after partners pass). I was taught to usually not double with only 3-3 in majors. What’s a good resource to explain? Tough hand though.

Bobby WolffApril 28th, 2018 at 12:06 am

Hi Pete & Bob,

Pete, you are experiencing fall out from both rules making by players or administrators not competent to be such as well as rules making from the ACBL home office, in the past frequented by top players but now made up of so-called business people who are only interested in keeping the doors open for players to be able to play a game called bridge, but in reality is closer to a child’s game of War.

I promise to be more concise in the next couple of weeks or so, but as of this very minute, I just do not have the time to go much deeper than what I have said already.

Thanks Bob, for at least giving Pete some practical application in answering his dilemma.
By doing so he can, at the very least, make up for not discussing the problem sequence, which symbolizes irresponsibility in preparation for which, at times, our sensational game demands.

No short cuts to excellent play and partnership understandings are nothing less than critical.

I do not think anything is maliciously done, only that our great game is suffering from beginners all the way to the best players in the world being forced to be judged by administrators and TDs who do not understand how multi faceted our high-level game can soar.

Result: total chaos when simple rules mean different things to different classes of players.

Worse, there is no groudswell to right this wrong, mainly because the ACBL doesn’t employ someone eminently qualified and there are perhaps 20+ of that type who would understand, be accountable and be conscientious enough to devote time and energy to right the ship, although the first order of business would be to first set up a mini-school to develop the right type of thinking for the vastly different quality of players who play tournament bridge.

Bobby WolffApril 28th, 2018 at 1:18 am

Hi Joe1,

Since there are different views held by some very good players (witness the advent of Roth-Stone about 70+years ago) where those two great players advocated passing hands originally which would all be opened nowadays by almost all very good players, and then backing in later, based on the exact bidding, therefore being in a more advantageous position to judge what to do. However, for all practical purposes that view died a slow death as being inferior for a number of practical reasons (but not going into that now).

In effect to double with 3-3 in the majors is OK by many (me included) with about a minimum opener, simply because when passing those hands, and if the opponents find a fit in one of their suits, by the time it gets back to you, the level becomes too high to venture in with any degree of safety.

IOW while holding 4 triple three and 13 HCP do not fear making a TO double since any unbid suit fit will normally be found and the above risk is eliminated by alerting partner early in the bidding that your side can compete with the opponents with high cards and whatever fit is available. Like many other features in bridge, all one can do is take plus percentage views and hope for the best. IOW, at least to me, passing those hands mentioned, is much more dangerous than doubling. However the way to find out is to experiment by keeping hand records or simulation on a computer, both methods thoroughly tested out by the ACES long ago and the answer found was affirmative for bidding early. The same is true for simply overcalling without having to have a great hand.

However, there is nothing more convincing than finding out oneself without being influenced by me or anyone else. However do not fall for anyone just stating his opinion (certainly including me) since we all tend to prefer a style to which we become accustomed.

Perhaps slightly confusing, but I cannot offer anything better.