Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 19th, 2018

My tears are buried in my heart, like cave-locked fountains sleeping.

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

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

*Precision: 11-15, six or more clubs


Today’s deal from a recent U.S. Nationals was accompanied by the line: “I’ll give you something to cry about.” The two bridge players who met in the bar wanted to exchange hard-luck stories; it turned out that they were from the same deal. Both were declaring the deal, one as South in the diagram and one as North, the former in four spades on the auction shown.

South led the club ace and another club, ruffed by North, who shifted to a low diamond. How would you play it? At trick three, declarer quite reasonably won the diamond ace and played the spade ace and a spade to the jack, certain that the spade king or heart king was to his left. That led to his going one down!

“You think that’s bad?” said the second sad sack. “We had a different auction, though, and stopped safely low. Our dealer also opened the bidding, but with a call of one club. I overcalled one heart and, after a negative double from my left, we came to rest in three hearts. The defense led the singleton club, and my right-hand opponent deviously won the club ace to play back the club jack (suit preference for spades) for the ruff. My left-hand opponent ruffed and obediently returned the spade eight!”

Put yourself in North’s seat; wouldn’t you sympathize with him for winning the spade ace at trick three to take the heart finesse? Now it went heart king, spade king, spade ruff, club ruff — and he was down 200. Who do you think was more unlucky?

This hand looks ideal for a response of two clubs, Stayman. Your plan is to pass any response partner makes. While you may be able to make a part-score in no-trump, surely both diamonds and spades will play more safely for a plus score, and two hearts in a 4-3 fit looks reasonable enough, too.


♠ K 8 5 2
 K 7 6
 8 6 5 3 2
♣ 8
South West North East
    1 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


Iain ClimieAugust 2nd, 2018 at 11:20 am

HI Bobby,

Both N/S pairs seem to have forgotten that 3N is the contract most likely to be let through, so should be chosen in case of uncertainty! West’s light opening bid certainly played its part, though, so some credit should be taken for West shoving NS off balance. I think the 3H declarer was perhaps a little more unlucky as South in 4S might have tried heart finesse, then spade finesse. Even so ….



Iain ClimieAugust 2nd, 2018 at 11:25 am

Also, can I add my own bad luck story? I’ve not been playing well recently but had a really good session on Tuesday (partner estimated 67-68%) only for someone to leave the scoring computer running on battery instead of plugged in. It fell over and lost about 1/3 of the scores from the bridgemates so, unless we can find a way of recovering the data before a system reset, the session is a washout.

Rude words!


jim2August 2nd, 2018 at 12:11 pm

I would certainly report the 2C opener’s psyche. Back when I played the circuit, psyching system bids was poorly regarded.

Iain ClimieAugust 2nd, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Hi JIm2,

Is it really a psyche or just sub-minimum, and a hand on which some would open 3C? I think in 3rd it would probably be OK but if East had been a bit stronger and not taken action, questions might well get asked. The Precision 2C is after all 11-15 (maybe 10-15) with 6+ C or 5+ C with a 4 card major at least when I played the system around 1978; where did all that time go, I keep asking myself. Psyching a strong club, mind you, really could cause outrage.


jim2August 2nd, 2018 at 2:49 pm

Iain Climie –

Of course opinions will vary, however, that hand lacked anything that would suggest upgrading into the bid. That is, no void or extra shape (such as 1-1-5-6), no strong intermediates in clubs (or in second suit), and only 1.5 quick tricks — all things that would offer reasonable (IMHO) bases for upgrading. No, I remain of the view that the 2C was a psyche more than a light opener, especially because Precion states a HCP range.

bobbywolffAugust 2nd, 2018 at 3:14 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

For whatever reasons I overslept this morning, perhaps because of a premonition of what can become of the publishing of today’s hand and, of course, the topical subject both of you discuss.

I’ll be back very shortly with both my necessary apologies and my take on what is involved in the to be debated, legal or not, basis of the opening Precision 2 club bid.

jim2August 2nd, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Psyches are legal.

However, they are akin to Henry Ford’s pronouncement, that the American people could have any color car they wanted, just as long as it was black.

bobbywolffAugust 2nd, 2018 at 5:08 pm

Hi (again) Iain and Jim2,

My apology for the 2nd paragraph in today’s hand which undoubtedly would confuse many readers since EW did the leading not NS. However, you two overcame that horrific gaffe as if nothing had happened and for that I’m grateful, (but not in the least, surprised) since you two (as well as most everyone on this site) are much too well mannered to be thought of as bridge players.

No doubt, especially the high-level, but also the filtering down to wannabees, the required values, or I should say, the suggestion of such, for significantly weaker (at least high cards) in order to be the first to speak positively) keep reaching lower, making the defensive values previously required, while cherished of yore, close to non-existent.

Yes, psyches are still legal (and definitely should be, if for no other reasons, then being a special tradition since the very beginning of contract bridge, over 90 years ago). However, as particulars change (move to lighter opening bids, especially defensive) the laws become murkier and making it even worse, the ones doing it are also serving (probably, in most respects, sensibly) as the judges and jury.

If some are interested in specific reasons for this somewhat radical change, most will say that as systems and players improve there becomes a huge advantage in being first to speak positively (in the bidding auction) by giving up required pure values for at least some positive distributional description, plus the overwhelming REAL reason. Their then worthy opponents do not have the facility to pattern their now defensive bidding into the ability to often penalize weak hand bidding even when it really steps out and, in addition, catches partner with the wrong hand.

Cutting through the chaff into reality, many, even bridge purists, do not want to stand in the way of progress, but, of course, the word progress can mean different things to different players.

Therefore, yes, opening 2 clubs (while playing the proven effective Precision Club system) should have approximately another ace or at least king, to open, but although there is a rule, I think still on the books, that a player cannot psyche an artificial bid (reason being that it too often can be a conclusive agreement between two nefarious partners and is 2 clubs artificial, simply because of not having the suggested value), but if those players (nefarious or painfully honest) want to open that light to get the advantage I mention above (prevailing throughout the world class bridge community) why and for what reason should they be prevented from doing so?

No doubt there is a fine line which should govern our greatest mind game of all time, but as of you two and my presence of being alive, our most intelligent bridge administrators are simply, as a rule, not equipped to make such far reaching decisions as to exactly what is, or what isn’t, declared
legal, and the few that perhaps qualify, will always be biased in favor of what they consider the necessities for bridge to remain progressive, but not unfair to all who want to play it as well as they can, keeping in mind giving lesser experienced, but still on the up elevator players, the legal ability to compete fairly.

Yes, I think our own internet group represents a cross section of many worldwide including thoughtful players with high bridge IQs, but that may also just be coming from someone (me) who happens to also be at least slightly biased in favor of many compromises in the much varied subjects which will necessarily be included.

Yes, I will now SHUT UP and let others, especially you two, vitally correct what I have over spoken or unintentionally omitted.

And to Jim2 there was only one Henry Ford, but unfortunately in the bridge world his type is very prevalent, and to make matters more precarious, the world has gotten much smaller.

jim2August 2nd, 2018 at 5:26 pm

As you said, Dear Host, psyches of artificial bids are verboten and Precision 2C is not artificial, promising a club suit as it does.

The problems continue after this hand, however. That is, now when that same partner (or perhaps another who knows the bidder) will have knowledge that the bidder may truly NOT have 11 – 15 HCPs. Thus, the System they play is not accurately represented by 11 – 15 HCPs as they advertise on their convention cards.

Nonetheless, they cannot really Alert 2C, unless the partner says something like, “Bidder has opened 2C with as low as 9 HCPs before for no apparent reason other than to beat the opponents into the bidding.”

Yet. if they do NOT say something along those lines, they have a private understanding, and that IS verboten.

THAT is why I would summon the Director and report what I would deem a psyche. They would argue au contraire, it was but a light opener, m’sieur. And I would scoff, quietly or not, as the mood and Moon struck me.

I would want it registered and them put on notice.

jim2August 2nd, 2018 at 5:31 pm

For that matter, why did not East bid an inquiring 2D? After, the odds were pretty good the 2C opener had 4sS 4H, or even 5D — all of which could play better than the 6-1 and consume bidding space along the way.

Could just perchance the reason be that this East has seen such 2C openers before?

Maybe, just maybe, it has been met by another such as I and reported. If so, then the pair might daggone well have such a private understanding and might suffer the much needed consequences. For that matter, maybe they have others.

I just might after the hand and in the presence of the Director asked them sweetly if they have any OTHER similar private understandings!

bobbywolffAugust 2nd, 2018 at 6:33 pm

Hi Jim2,

To just briefly say, I wish for more players like you who speak up, not with the necessary for some view, to help themselves, but rather to make our game more playable for those who genuinely love our game, but are not in a position to do much.

Alas, it is no doubt, a wonderful thing to experience life, but to not try and move heaven and earth in order to make one’s favorite thing fairer and thus more challenging and fun, is truly a serious lack of purpose which, at least to many, is possibly the most grievous sin other than what is obvious, the ordinary person can lack.

In playing our great and under appreciated game, you would get my vote, for most dedicated.

Iain ClimieAugust 2nd, 2018 at 10:05 pm

HI Bobby, Jim2,

Many thanks for the sensible points above and also a warning (at least in regular partnerships) that every effort must be made not to look ethically dubious. In a one-off session, of course, matters may be rater different and I never mind a scratch partner taking a flier on a whim.



Ken MooreAugust 2nd, 2018 at 11:03 pm


For what it is worth, columns like this leave me confused. I’m sure that I am not the only one but it only happens 2-3 times per month. I can live with that.

jim2August 3rd, 2018 at 12:56 am

Ken Moore –

W/o the 2C opening, declarer might well:

– ruff the D return,
– win a trump finesse,
– lose a heart finesse,
– ruff the D return
– finesse then draw trump

He would be playing for one K to be onside (and if the KS were offside, that East did not have 3 trump)

bobbywolffAugust 3rd, 2018 at 10:35 am

Hi Ken,

Your take on this back and forth could be considered both understandable and, at least by many, very reasonable.

However, (and I suspect you felt that word coming), in order for our game of bridge to be eminently even playable, the rules of table ethics involved, need not only to be rigid, but always (100% not 99, simply followed).

That includes complete disclosure to which your current partnership follows, including opening very light (certainly the 2 club opening with this hand) and by necessity, go to great lengths to at least attempt to follow that procedure.

Sure, there can be variations from time to time, such as a 3rd seat opening or even being involved with exactly what happened above. However, all that is suggested by Jim2 and, of course, agreed on by me, is that the recorder (or TD) simply records that hand as applied to your specific partnership so that there will be an official act on record, known by the bridge administrators in that community, in order to establish that partnership’s credibility for not (on other like hands) to deviate from the consistency they allude to.

If this partnership is innocent of any wrongdoing, it will be easy to check, but if they continue to pass (when others may bid) when partner is as weak as above, but on other occasions bid when partner is up to snuff with strength then, an evil pattern could be established, which if not caught, may significantly create a negative influence for our otherwise great game.

Those precautions apply to all participants across the board, with no problem occurring if there is:

1. a consistency of action or when not, often unsuccessful with finding partner with the wrong hand.

2. announced at the proper time, with either that information on the card, and further, it is good manners when that bid is made for the partner of the bidder to point (or hand) the convention card to the opponents to inspect.

3. allow (encourage) the opponents to ask any questions they may have and then give them, to your knowledge, accurate information.

OUR GAME CAN NOT SURVIVE WITHOUT THE ABOVE (or something similar) since all bridge, discounting the frivolous or brand new players, activity needs to adhere to the above, otherwise we are left with no game worth playing.

Finally, I realize the above sounds very serious and it is, but when everyone or almost, gets on that same wave length, we are then treated to an exercise of incomparable arithmetical and psychological thought unequaled in any educational process less than the highest learning in other fields of educational endeavor., and very likely to set younger people on a path to highly constructive activity in most all very well respected lifetime choices.

Again, just for emphasis, without the ethical adherence we are left with absolutely nothing to recommend the above, since, like so many potential roads in life, when chicanery is allowed or just as awful, simply unenforced, it is human nature for most to at least consider such a path and by doing so, we will never be able to make anything great again, certainly including America.

Please do not read any political leanings into the above, simply because there are none.

Good luck and sincerely hope you become, if you have the time, a regular contributor to our worldwide group.

newtown casino downloadAugust 6th, 2018 at 11:24 pm

I also think that sometimes it’s an impressive place to transmit people
for content. It would require patience, strategy, and resources
to correctly execute a successful marketing system. Craft an online site that has good content.

Anji Guyou gaming chair racingAugust 7th, 2018 at 1:25 am

Fantastic website you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics talked about here?
I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get feedback
from other experienced people that share the same interest.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Kudos!