Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 5th, 2018

I always voted at my party’s call And I never thought of thinking for myself at all.

W.S. Gilbert

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



Reaching slam on today’s deal is not hard; making it is quite another matter. On the lead of the heart jack, you realize that the blockage in communication in clubs makes cashing all your winners rather hard. The weakness in dummy’s trump spots poses an additional risk of a ruff or over-ruff as you try to reach dummy.

At first glance, it appears you must rely on clubs being 4-3. However, there is an extra chance: You may be able to come home against a 5-2 club break if you time the play perfectly.

After the lead of the heart jack, let’s see what might happen if you win the ace, then go after the ruffs in dummy at once. If declarer cashes the club king, then the heart king, then ruffs a heart, he must next play dummy’s club winners. East ruffs in, and though South can over-ruff, the contract must now fail. When declarer leads his fourth heart, West ruffs in with the nine and will score the king later.

This outcome is avoided by leading one of your minor honors in spades at trick two. Suppose West ducks: You cash the spade ace, unblock your club king and take the heart ruffs. You can then safely discard your remaining losers on the clubs, losing just one trump.

Should West take the spade king, you win the return, draw a second round of trumps, and proceed as before. Since East, the hand short in clubs, has only two spades, he can no longer ruff away your club winner, and the contract comes home.

Some people play Equal Level Conversion, meaning that correcting two clubs to two diamonds here does not show any extra values. I’m not a fan of that approach, so I can bid two no-trump without feeling I’m stepping too far out of line. My diamond builders are working overtime, so I have enough to invite game, even though I still don’t have a great hand.


♠ K 9 6
 J 10 9
 J 10
♣ J 7 5 3 2
South West North East
  1 ♠ Dbl. Pass
2 ♣ Pass 2 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


ClarksburgOctober 19th, 2018 at 12:13 pm

Good Morning Bobby
LHO passes and Partner opens 1C (standard bidding 3+ Clubs)
You hold:
A63 10985 AJ5 KQ10
What call would you recommend when:
a) RHO passes
b) RHO overcalls 1H

jim2October 19th, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Clarksburg –

I am not Our Host, but could you please add the Vulnerabilities and the form or scoring?

ClarksburgOctober 19th, 2018 at 2:41 pm

Oops! Thanks jim2.
Opponents VUL

bobbywolffOctober 19th, 2018 at 3:41 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

An excellent problem, nothing particularly unusual, but one centered around priorities when faced with telling one lie (albeit thought to be relatively small, but in actuality, not) rather than another.

My answer is double. Yes, a negative double without at least 4 of the other major.

Priorities in IMO the order of importance, but I’ll change importance to necessity.

1. The only time when one should consider passing with plenty of values to bid with, is when loaded with the opponents suit, perhaps AJ97x or better, but not even then with enough outside values to make a game (usually 3NT). Rather to just bid a forcing 2NT, but in NF, then 3NT with a likely NT game in hand).

2. And the favorable position of that holding lends itself, together with perhaps another couple of kings and a couple of jacks to be in a great position to score up 3NT with a minimum number of combined hcps with partner. And also holding a somewhat balanced hand, if partner is unbalanced (hand wise, not mentally) he then, depending on which suit(s) fit can make a game there.

2. Do not, and should not rely on partner to always balance since if partner has a balanced minimum and 2 or even 3 spades (more likely than one might expect) he should pass leaving you to have to hold declarer to almost no tricks to warrant making the game you figure to make.

3. Of course, sometimes, (but not often) dame fortune will not be favorable but my guess, it is losing bridge, particularly at matchpoints to pass with good hands, only hoping partner will reopen.

4. When and if I do make a negative double and partner bids 1 spade, I will then bid either 2 hearts (preferred) or even perhaps 2NT and hope that RHO doesn’t have the four top honors (with, of course, partner then raising me to a NT game). If and when partner has a small singleton heart, he now knows (or should) that you do not have 4 spades, but rather only 3 and have become caught in between a normal negative double and thus an awkward hand to make your initial bid.

Bridge does lend itself to many imperfections and how a partnership rights those problems will have a significant effect on their overall performance.

The best side feature of the above is to allow partner, even if having a non-descript minimum opening with balanced distribution not to have to balance once his partner passes.

Not all partnerships, even very good ones, will agree with the above, but in the long run, my guess is that their position on this not unlikely circumstance will not work well, on percentage, for them.

Anyway the above is my opinion and stronger than most all other qualified players to ask.

jim2October 19th, 2018 at 6:39 pm

Again, I am not Our Host but, as the RHO “Pass” was not yet been addressed, I will take a stab at it.

I think my choice would be either a simple 1H and a jump to 3N.

The first gives pard the best chance to describe his/her hand, while the latter is a limit bid best describing mine. The chance of a 4-4 heart fit remains good, but my holdings’ lack of shortness suggests that the same number of tricks might be there in either strain.

Nonetheless, I think if RHO has passed, I’d bid 1H and be ready to bid 3N over most responses.

ClarksburgOctober 19th, 2018 at 6:44 pm

Thanks Bobby
The hand was from Club pre-game seminar yesterday.
In part, I was fishing to see what you thought of a 3NT call over either a Pass or a 1H overcall by RHO. Although I didn’t play this Board, that was my choice (to provide a nice description to help Partner, whilst being willing to fib / take the risk of their Hearts running).
Partner held:4 A7 KQ109 AJ6543
It makes 12 tricks at Clubs,Diamonds or NT.
The most common contract by far was 3NT declared from your hand.

Bob LiptonOctober 19th, 2018 at 8:02 pm

I think Bobby’s solution makes a lot of sense. Me, I would bid 1 Heart is righty passed and my next call would be 3NT. If righty bids 1H I would simply bid 2H to see if partner can bid NT with a stopper, so NT is played from the correct side. With the hand you give, he should bid 3D. Now I would take a bid of 4C and would hope to wind up in 6C.

It’s a good hand if tou’re playing Western Cue bids.


bobbywolffOctober 20th, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Hi Clarksburg, Jim2 & Bob,

First apologies for not taking your questions in order, but instead, totally neglecting your first question (not my choice, but rather, my carelessness), to which I would bid 1 heart, although by doing so, it will definitely not help, and possibly hurt eventually getting to the laydown slam (likely clubs, but also NT).

However, by negative doubling, partner with his good hand should make a strong type acceptance, intending to find the best game contract, but by doing so also alerting partner to the possibility of slam, so once he jump rebids in his suit or next bids diamonds, both bids cause our hand to go way up in value since we, not only have a great fit in both suits, but also have the ace of spades rather than the K or KQ which is a full trick plus difference, at least to me, the KEY value. Of course, partner’s ace of hearts not only returns the compliment but like a lion, roars for a possible slam.

“Little by little, all of us, certainly including me, benefit greatly from these examples” so thank you, Clarksburg for coming forward.

Finally, in the remembrance of “A Star is Born” (seemingly being now promoted), at least to me, the difference at very high levels of talent is the experience gleaned with competing at bridge is in the bidding, giving a partnership a chance to determine when slams are in the air, and when they should be downgraded to unlikely, depending on the trump fit and above all key controls.

When one thinks about trap passing instead, as was emphasized in past years, that partnership quite often does not give itself the necessary push into the positivity of a miraculous fit, to which your example hand falls.

To me the exact partnership bidding system chosen is not the only deciding reason for success, but rather the imagination necessary for executing that system to maximum effectiveness, which, in turn, especially as a partnership grows with time, is the principle reason for achieving the eventual goal of being as good as two willing (and hard working) partners can achieve.

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