Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 16th, 2018

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick-boxing.

Emo Philips

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


When West leads the club four against four hearts, South should count his losers. There is some danger of losing one trick in each suit; however, South may be able to avoid the loss of a diamond by means of a successful finesse. If the club finesse should lose, the club jack would be good for an additional trick in the suit.

At trick one, declarer finesses dummy’s club queen. East wins with the king and shifts to the heart jack, which South wins with the ace. South plans to ruff his losing spades in the dummy, so he leaves trumps alone. Let’s make this our apothegm: if you want to take ruffs, don’t draw trumps.

Instead, declarer leads a club to dummy’s ace and comes back to his hand with the spade ace to try the losing diamond finesse of the queen. When East returns the heart 10, South wins with the king. Declarer leaves the master trump outstanding, since he needs to trump both of his losing spades in dummy.

Instead, South cashes the club jack, discarding a losing spade from the dummy. South can now cash the spade king and ruff a low spade in dummy. He then plays dummy’s diamond ace and ruffs a diamond to get back to his own hand.

As it happens, West over-ruffs, but whatever he does next, declarer has the rest of the tricks. If West had not over-ruffed, South would be in position to ruff his last spade with dummy’s last trump.

Your partner has chosen not to compete any further, despite apparently having a singleton heart. You would therefore guess that either he has a poor hand or the opponents are in a 4-3 fit. Since you have four trumps on defense and bad spades in a minimum hand, pass now and hope to beat the final contract.


♠ 7 4 3
 9 7 6 3
 A Q 10 5
♣ A Q
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.
Pass 2 Pass 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


AviJuly 30th, 2018 at 11:06 am

Hi Bobby

BWTA – with support (re)doubles in the system, is there a reason not to have shown it in the first round of bidding instead of passing.


Brandon TaylorJuly 30th, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Hi Bobby,

Here’s my South hand and the preliminary bidding:
S A 7 3
H K 3
D A 7 6
C Q 8 7 5 2

South West North East
1C Pass 2D Pass

I’m tempted to go any of three ways — clubs, diamonds, or no-trump. The problem I’m facing, though, is that partner has jump-shifted, telling me she has a very good hand. This is pretty rare, and for that reason, I’m stumped as to what suit I should call, and how high. What do you think my next bid ought to be?

bobbywolffJuly 30th, 2018 at 3:13 pm

Hi Avi,

Although I am not a fan of playing support doubles, yes, if I were playing them, I would feel, if I was South, that I should redouble 1 spade.

However, and in this case, two good reasons not to play them would be that I would lose the ability to show a good hand by redoubling and thus alert my partner to such, but even more importantly, IMO, is that when I show my partner specifically three of his suit, it makes my worthy opponents much more knowledgeable about their own hands.

For example if one of them also had specifically three of that suit and the original responder (the enemy) after hearing his partner’s support double went back to his partner’s original suit or instead bid NT, it would tell me that my partner also had exactly three (always in that major suit) which would lessen my playing potential, therefore improve my judgment (and sometime the defense) as the rest of the bidding unfolded.

Besides I do not think that it is so bad, particularly at matchpoints, to play a 4-3 fit part score contract instead of a longer minor suit fit, particularly if playing NT our way, for whatever reason, didn’t appeal.

Also remember that when occasionally raising with only three in a major instead of four that partnership will almost never wind up playing that suit higher than the two level since the original 4 card bid should not usually rebid that suit when the bidding gets higher, alerting his partner that he only had four of them (even though originally supported).

However support doubles are popular, but I think so because of the comfort, rather than the utility of it being the necessary action.

The purpose of the above advice is primarily aimed at discussing this thought with a regular partner and deciding for yourself which direction to go, in this case, on playing”support” doubles.

bobbywolffJuly 30th, 2018 at 3:28 pm

Hi Brandon,

When faced with a choice, at any undiscussed time in the bidding, it is good policy, when raising partner in one of the options, to simply choose that vehicle rather than rebid one’s suit (in your example an especially mangy one) or instead bidding NT.

Remember when partner jump shifts he figures to have a very good suit himself, and is always glad to hear that you are not relatively short in his suit. So, though having a minimum hand yourself, merely raise him to three diamonds, letting him know ASAP your hand will, at the very least, give him some kind of trump support to likely be able to ruff something in whatever suit you may be short.

The above is a good rule of thumb but with a really good suit, KQJ9xx or better and only xxx in his suit it will probably have more utility to rebid your suit before raising him, but even then, I would make it a point, if able, to support him the next time around. However, while with your example hand, having the Axx, is, at least to me, quite worthy to raise him immediately with the idea of possibly rebidding NT next, if the occasion presented itself.

A good question, to which the answer will tend to keep smiles on both yours and your partner’s face for years to come, at least when playing bridge and having that situation arise.

Ken MooreJuly 31st, 2018 at 12:23 am


On Brandons question, how about 2NT? If you end up in NT, you would want to be declarer considering the KH and possibly picking off an honor in S or D. And a diamond bid may still be in play.

bobbywolffJuly 31st, 2018 at 1:34 am

Hi Ken,

While your choice of a 2N rebid would likely be the majority choice of many, and for the reasons you detailed, please consider instead this alternate choice of an immediate diamond raise.

When partner has jump shifted your opening bid, he is offering great strength and although your hand is a minimum in high cards, it has great controls, therefore a possible (or I will suggest) a likely slam is very much in the picture. Since your hand consists of support for his suit in addition to the shortness in hearts, making any 3 cards or more he might have in that suit able to be ruffed in the short trump hand in addition plus a five card suit which added to whatever honor(s) he holds may well be the difference in making a small slam.

IOW, if my 3rd diamond was a 3rd heart, my judgment tells me to then quickly rebid 2NT. but that seemingly small difference, regardless of it not showing up in any kind of book evaluating point count, makes that big a difference.

Experience, not ordinary teaching books on our great game, become the tool of the winning player as his judgment gets better, which can only occur when very good players get together to compete.

It, of course, also depends on how weak a partner can make a jump shift. Since 1 diamond only is just as forcing as 2 diamonds and also has the advantage of saving later bidding room, before I would jump shift I would have something like, s. Jx, h. Axx, d. KQJ10xx, c. AK or instead, s. x, h. Kxx, d. KQJ10xx, c. AJx with the intention of letting partner know right away my optimistic intentions and feeling that losing 1 round of bidding is well worth that knowledge.

Of course, both hands should produce a slam, one a laydown grand slam and the other a very good small one.

As you can see, although I fully admit to choosing the right cards, just how powerful the combination of these two hands has become.

Finally and to repeat, while 2NT would be a very practical rebid, I would like to tell partner immediately that I also like my hand and as far as I am concerned, don’t spare the horses.

Thanks for listening.

Ken MooreAugust 1st, 2018 at 4:05 am

You mentioned experience verses book learning. On one job that I had, we had a lunch-time bridge game. Everyone else in the game was an accountant. So, I was always able to figure out what they were doing. It seems that creative accountants go to jail so they always took the “prescribed” bid and played it safe, like my 2 NT suggestion. I kept telling them, to no avail, that it is OK to bend the rules.

bobbywolffAugust 1st, 2018 at 5:11 am

Hi Ken,

Yes, the unseen huge advantage in bridge is in its creativity, both in bidding, as declarer and on defense, especially only sometimes, in choosing an opening lead.

There has never, to my knowledge, been a child protege in bridge like for example, Wolfgang Mozart, in music. Reason I think being, that only experience, not born talent, is the learning tool required for excellence.

If so, the door is open to everyone who, of course has an abundance of numeracy, the time to grow it, and the mentor to see it through. A rare occurrence, but possible, and no doubt worth those accountants who you knew, to take the time to let our glorious game envelop them.

Instead of jail they will always have a ready smile and be very content, assuming of course, that they kept their day jobs.

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