Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 14th, 2018

You need to try to do the impossible, to anticipate the unexpected. And when the unexpected happens, you should double the efforts to make order from the disorder it creates in your life.

A.S. Grove

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


Today’s deal from the 2001 Cavendish Invitational teams event is a curiosity: How often do you gain IMPs for going five down in a freely bid game?

At one table, where Jon Wittes and Ross Grabel of the Onstott team were East and West respectively, their opponent in the North seat opened two spades. I’m not sure I agree with that action, and not just because the spade suit isn’t really strong enough for it. The problem is that the hand is so playable in two other denominations, and the combination of that with the two aces means that you will occasionally mislead your partner as to what your hand is all about. It rarely works as badly as it did today, however.

Over the two-spade pre-empt, Grabel (West) balanced with three diamonds, and Wittes bid three no-trump. There the matter rested, and after a club lead, the defenders took seven clubs and two aces, which was down five for minus 500. No double, no trouble.

The auction from the other room was as shown here. Roger Bates was South and Jim Robison North, the latter judging the auction very nicely by staying silent initially, then more than making up for it later. As the auction progressed, he could infer his partner’s length in hearts, and the potential of his own hand increased even further.

After a spade lead, Bates was able to pitch his diamond and crossruff. With trumps splitting 1-1, the play was straightforward for plus 1,540 and a gain of 14 IMPs.

The simple choice is between the red suits. With what looks like a natural trump trick, you don’t seem to need ruffs. My instinct is to lead the sequence and try to develop tricks in diamonds, since leading hearts may set up a slow winner for the opponents.


♠ Q J 8
 J 10 9 6 2
♣ J 9 5 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 Dbl.
Pass 1 NT Pass 4 ♠
All 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


bobbywolffMay 28th, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to add my 2 cents to today’s hand.

I was always a friend of the late and great Jim Robison, mentioned today as North with making the crucial decision of bidding on to 6 clubs, a particularly successful venture.

He, somewhat unlike some other otherwise excellent players, usually appeared to me to make consistently winning decisions in both the bidding and play, causing him to standout, at least in my judgment.

Of course, from his standpoint, at least on this hand, for partner to jump to 3 clubs vulnerable he certainly figured to have an ultra positive mesh with his unknown 13 cards and how right he turned out to be.

Of course, his partner instead, might have held: s.void, h. Ax, d. xxxx, and KQJxxxx causing his side to be minus 500 with the opponents failing in 5 hearts.

Such is the nature of our game with the lesson to be learned, posted in the locker room at Wimbledon tennis courts in London, something like, we must learn to deal with victory and defeat and treat those two imposters just the same.

BTW, perhaps Judy’s and my dear friend here in Las Vegas, is Jim’s widow Carol, who, together with us, sensitively and overwhelmingly, misses him.

Patrick CheuMay 28th, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Hi Bobby,Over 2S by North,West bids 3D,and East bids 3N,would you have passed with West’s hand or is there a case for 4H? It’s just that West’s hand is so distributional in shape. Regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffMay 28th, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Hi Patrick,

That is an easy decision for me.

It is a rare hand, when distributional, that I do not think it right to bid them out and take my chances that way. So if I had responded 3 diamonds (a valid alternate choice), I would definitely bid 4 hearts, if given another chance.

BTW, I think it far more dangerous not to show undisclosed suits, rather than boldly bidding them.

TedMay 28th, 2018 at 10:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

I played pairs in a sectional yesterday, and two hands still leave me mystified. I’d appreciate any insight.

NS Vul E deals and opens 3D. (They play a Precision 2D. 6 or 7 card suit seems possible.)

My hand: AK8 KQ54 Q983 AQ
I bid 3NT in second seat which passed out. Making 4.
Partners hand: J6543 A8 4 KJ1064

The field was in 4S making 5. Would a double from me have been a better bid? Or should partner have bid something?

Other hand: NS Vul N deals

N: 9642 KQ5 1075 KQ9
E: Q83 J10 62 10652
S: K10 — AQJ94 AJ8743
W: AJ75 A98762 K83 —
P P 1D 1H
Dbl 3H 4C 4H
5D all pass

A hearts lead and ruffed. I thought I might need to make 6, so lead a small club, ruffed, down 1.

Deep Finesse says the hand can only make 4D. I don’t see a lead or defense to stop me from making 5 if that’s what I playing for. What am I missing?

Many thanks.

TedMay 28th, 2018 at 11:00 pm

Sorry, just spotted the lead that holds it to 4. In case others want to find it, I won’t point it out.

bobbywolffMay 29th, 2018 at 12:30 am

Hi Ted,

On hand #1, it is very likely that you could (possibly should) take 10 tricks at NT. If the defense wins the first diamond or possibly while holding AKJ10xx or even with his partner holding and leading the 10 he may duck, waiting for partner to get in. Then at least 11 tricks. However, while declaring 3NT, if declarer wins the king of diamonds and then switches suits it is more difficult, but after the declarer runs 5 club tricks and the opening leader holds both the Q of spades, guarded and 4+ hearts he could be squeezed out of discarding a diamond, allowing declarer to make 11 tricks. However perhaps the 3 diamond opener was dealt a protected spade queen. Not likely but surely possible.

However I do agree with partner’s pass since your 3NT could easily hold only a doubleton spade and in any event he should never consider bidding what I think is a total unilateral 4 spades.

I hope I didn’t leave out anything important.

On the second hand, it would take an original jack of spades lead to hold NS to 10 tricks, but all that shows is the uselessness of Deep Finesse, since that lead could only occur to a West, who helped duplicate the hands.

Yes bridge can sometime require magic, but if so, give it to them.