Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 30th, 2018

My strength is as the strength of ten
Because my heart is pure.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

W North
None ♠ 8 6 2
 8 3
 J 10 8
♣ A K 4 3 2
West East
♠ Q
 J 10 6
 A K Q 9 7 6 4 3
♣ 10
♠ K J 9 5
 9 7 4
♣ Q J 8 6 5
♠ A 10 7 4 3
 A K Q 5 2
♣ 9 7
South West North East
  3 ♠ * Pass 4 ♣**
4 All pass    

*Solid minor suit

** Pass or correct to 4 with diamonds


Brian Callaghan of London plays regularly with his partner, Christine Duckworth, and he was declarer on this deal from last year’s Gold Coast Congress in Australia.

Callaghan took his best chance in a delicate game here. Yes, he could have doubled four clubs for take-out, but that might have suggested more defense than this hand — and then he would not have been able to test his skill in four hearts, would he?

The defenders led two top diamonds, on which East pitched a club. Perhaps West should have led a lower diamond to force his partner to ruff and create a trump promotion via the uppercut, but he did not. When East discarded, Callaghan ruffed the second diamond, drew trumps in three rounds and ducked a spade to West’s queen.

West was worried that leading a third top diamond would squeeze his partner, so he played a club. Callaghan won in dummy, then led a spade. East naturally split his honors, but Callaghan ducked this trick. He could win the next club in dummy and take the spade finesse to make the rest of the tricks and bring home his game.

At trick six, if West had indeed played a third top diamond, declarer would have had to ruff. Now he would go to dummy with a club and lead a spade from dummy. To defeat the game, East would have to duck – not so easy to do! That would give declarer one extra spade trick, but not two.

If you were to bid three hearts now, it would be natural and non-forcing (this hand without the heart queen, perhaps). You have enough to go to game, with the options being to raise to three no-trump, to bid four hearts or temporize with three clubs (normally a three-card suit) to try to extract a three-heart call from your partner. I’d go for the last of these, with the jump to four hearts as my second choice.


♠ A 10 7 4 3
 A K Q 5 2
♣ 9 7
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT 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


bobbywolffJuly 14th, 2018 at 12:44 pm


Regarding the BWTA, I would only be in favor of a 3 club bid (my third bid) if partner would then do me the justice of now showing me 3 card support in hearts (already having denied either 3 spades or 4 hearts). IOW, I do not want him to prefer passing, playing me for 5-4-0-4. Not all partner’s (particularly without previous agreement) would automatically comply with my desires.

Brandon TaylorJuly 14th, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

Here’s my hand and the preliminary bidding:
S Q 8 6 4
H A J 9 4 2
D A 10 3 2
C —

East South West North
Pass 1H 2C 2NT
Pass ???

Clearly, I cannot accept a no-trump contract as I am void in clubs, so passing 2NT is out of the question. Should my next bid be 3D, 3S, or something else entirely?

bobbywolffJuly 14th, 2018 at 9:20 pm

Hi Brandon,

While you made yourself clearly heard, the only logical rebid would be 3 diamonds. Your partner is not supposed to possess 4 spades, since, if so, a negative double is usually preferred.

However, it your partner continues to 3NT you need to go quietly. Remember he could hold 3 or even more club stops (picture AQJ9). Never close your mind to the type hands partner may hold and one of them might be enough to garner 9 tricks in NT.

Sometimes, even perhaps often, we wind up in a hopeless contract, but bridge being the game it is, makes it very difficult to be sure that this is the time.

It is better to keep an optimistic attitude for both yourself, especially partner, and the end goal, winning.

Patrick CheuJuly 14th, 2018 at 10:02 pm

Hi Bobby,Re BWTA, Would a 4H bid after 2N be better played(by agreement)as showing 5S and 6H? Three clubs as you said would be forcing and looking for three card heart support from pard. Regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffJuly 14th, 2018 at 11:19 pm

Hi Patrick,

There are quite a few dilemmas in bridge bidding which have no perfect decision and several of those concern themselves with bidding shorter suits first rather than later.

Sure, there can be partnership agreements which address them (such as your suggestion of a secondary jump in the second bid suit) but what about 6 spades and 5 hearts or, in this case, not playing a non-jump (3 hearts) as forcing but only invitational.

IOW, at least to my thinking, those situations of length verses strength should be consistent one way or the other and my vote would favor strength rather than specific suit lengths.

Sometimes with 5-6 in the majors, even though not very strong, eg. s. AJxxx, h. KQxxxx, d. Qx, c. void work out better opening 1 heart and then rebidding spades, although if this hand turns out to be a misfit (2-1) just accept the poor result (especially if doubled), but promise me you won’t let anyone know who suggested it.

Your friend (at least up to now),


Patrick CheuJuly 15th, 2018 at 12:06 pm

Hi Bobby,I have learned a lot through what you said,cos you look at it from so many different angles. “Once a friend always a…” 🙂

Ken MooreJuly 16th, 2018 at 1:40 am


You seemed to give west a pass on this one. Even as a self-confessed mediocre bridge player (I am fairly astute, but I mean mediocre by your standards), leading a low diamond at trick 2 seems self evident, especially since he has the jack backed up only twice. Where else did he expect to get extra tricks?. When east’s 9 gets over ruffed, if south draws trump, east is in and leads diamonds and south has to ruff with his last trump. If he leaves the jack out, both black suits are paralyzed.

Sometimes, I think you are too harsh on mistakes. This time, maybe you were too nice?

bobbywolffJuly 16th, 2018 at 4:20 am

Hi Ken,

Yes, no doubt, West was somewhat tone deaf, by not doing what you suggest, lead a low diamond in order to hope partner has at least the 9 of trumps and, of course, trumps with it.

However, as you will notice, today’s hand was real and played at a recent Australian tournament, making the players involved, whether they enjoy it or not, to be thrust into the limelight.

Since my column extends to other parts of the world, it seems humane to not go out of our way to emphasize shoddy play especially when names are used. although not West.

Of course, without constructive criticism it is very difficult to markedly improve, but in the interest of laying low, sometimes I tend to sugarcoat gross errors.

However, don’t ever be afraid to speak your mind since our main objective is to improve bridge from sea to shining sea.

Ken MooreJuly 16th, 2018 at 10:44 pm

Hi Again.

I have always had problems with totally artificial bids. They tend to tell the opponents more than they help. I understand and agree with Blackwood, the transfer bids and grand slam force because they tend to access bids that are not normally used. What is your general opinion of bids like the one today – the 3S used as it is rather than as a pre-empt?