Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 25th, 2018

Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.

Erich Fromm

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


This board came up in the Common Game pairs recently, and I was lucky enough to be minding my own business as East when declarer proved yet again that greed is a terrible thing.

South had done well up to a point to open low and not drive beyond the four-level when her partner raised hearts. My partner tried a low spade lead, and declarer immediately cashed her black winners, then led the ace and another heart. My partner took the king and played a third heart. Declarer cashed the spade king to pitch a diamond, then ducked a diamond to the bare king, but now the defenders had plenty of exit cards, and declarer lost three diamonds and a trump for down one.

Paradoxically, there are good chances for the overtrick against most lies of the cards if the trump finesse succeeds, as long as declarer remembers that when you want to ruff, it is a bad idea to play trumps. Simply win the spade lead and cash the club honors, then the diamond ace, planning to exit in diamonds, and force the defenders to give you an entry to dummy for the trump finesse.

The sight of the diamond king should not dissuade you from this strategy. Play a second diamond, and East will cash two diamonds, West pitching spades, then will lead a second spade. You can ruff with a trump intermediate, planning to lead out the diamond jack and subsequently cross to dummy to take the trump finesse. At the very worst, you will be sure of 10 tricks.

The opponents seem prepared for a spade lead, and the odds that your side can cash two tricks in that suit are negligible. While you might need to take a spade winner before it goes away, I’d prefer to bet on cashing two diamond tricks or setting up a winner in that suit, so I would lead a low diamond.


♠ 10 6 4 3 2
 9 5
 K 10 5 4
♣ 6 4
South West North East
  1 ♣ 1 ♠ 2
3 ♠ 4 Pass 6
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


TedJuly 9th, 2018 at 7:52 pm

Hi Bobby,

Saw an auction on BBO today and was uncertain as to what one bid should mean.

1NT P 2C Dbl
2D P 3S P
4H P 5H

Without the Dbl, it presumably asks about Heart support. Does the Dbl of 2C make that the opponents suit so that 5H would ask about 2 quick losers? Would it be any different if opener had passed the double instead of bidding 2D implying a stopper?

Thank you.

bobbywolffJuly 9th, 2018 at 11:02 pm

Hi Ted,

It appears that the first two rounds of bidding shows: 1. The strong side are playing a normal system over 1NT guess, 15-17, with Transfers and Smolen. 2. The NTer should then have 3 hearts (opposite responder’s 5) and for all intents and purposes, and in the absence of special understandings, a random strength NT opener, eg opener did not respond 3NT since that response likely confirmed 3 hearts, although with three small hearts and strong holdings in the minors (particularly a strong 5 card minor) and at least one solid stopper in the other minor might opt to instead rebid 3NT.

As to the specific meaning of 5 hearts two main factors exist. Yes, it could be asking for at least 2nd round control in clubs, since while holding 2+ clubs he could have cue bid 5 clubs instead which should show specifically the ace and, of course a heart slam try, but perhaps he held something like s. Axxx, h. AQ10xx, d. Qx, c. KQ
(not two possible immediate losing club tricks).

Generally when the bidding quickly is propelled
to high levels, conventional treatment also usually goes out the window, leaving random common sense to dictate. IOW if responder held s. AQJx, AKxxx, d. KQ, c. xx I think he must just bid 6 hearts and hope partner does not have: s K10, h. QJx, d. AJ10xx, c. QJx.

From the above, an observer may disagree with me (and sometimes be right) but bridge at every level, including the very top, sometimes requires good judgment, neither too hot nor too cold, but in the long run just acknowledging what our beautiful game is about, which is never perfection.

Finally if I held as declarer: Qxx, xxx, AQJ10x, c. KQ I would pass 5 hearts since there are too many uncertainties present, offsetting my 2nd round club control, particularly so, if my partner felt the same way about our game as I do.

However I do continue to have respect for many players who do not come close to having my views, but are consistent with theirs.

bobbywolffJuly 10th, 2018 at 8:12 am

Hi Ted,

After re-reading my answer from yesterday I neglected to answer your specific question about an early bid, the NTer responding 2 diamonds instead of passing.

My inclination, in the absence of a specific partnership understanding, is that a 2 diamond bid instead of a pass, would tend to show good diamonds and not necessarily a club stopper or not. For example: with s. xx, h. Axx, d. AK10xx, c. Axx I would 2 diamonds instead of passing, but over 3 spades (4-5 in the majors) I would then cue bid 4 clubs because of the slam nature of my hand. However with only Kxx of clubs I would not. but would accept the invitation over partner’s then bid of 5 hearts over 4.

Sure, a fine line, but in the absence of a specific discussion, I would not regard partner’s 5 heart bid as specifically a club ask.

At least to me, (repeating my theme), if it sort of looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, because of the vast numbers of different types of animals frequenting our game and the lack of bidding space available (on certain auctions), it is NOT necessarily a duck.

Finally, if I held: s. Axxx, h. AKQxx, d. Jx, c. Kx after my 2 clubs LHO’s double and partner’s 2 diamond response I might just leap to 6 hearts (to protect my club king, and fear whatever ace asking response I may make (assuming showing one would land my partner as the heart declarer) and take my chances there.

Again, it could be ugly if partner had two little hearts and AKQxx in diamonds or KQJ third in spades (or other unlucky holdings) but, at least I had a plan and woke up in some important tournament playing for my life.

For any player of great talent, but looking for ultra safe roads to the right destination needs to adjust to our great game as it is and not expect miracles.

bobbywolffJuly 10th, 2018 at 8:26 am

Hi still again Ted,

To the keen observer (and all players with great bridge ambitions should become one), sometimes doubling one’s RHO’s Stayman response of 2 clubs with QJxxxx and nothing else may, through the back door, win himself a windfall result because of the tangled web which sometimes results.

Instead of begrudging his great result, try and emulate him when playing against substantial opposition. Now I’ll shut up!

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