Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 18th, 2018

We view things not only from different sides, but with different eyes; we have no wish to find them alike.

Blaise Pascal

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


The Dyspeptics Club players are all getting older, but apparently no wiser. However, South’s cards actually seem to be improving — which East described as being equivalent to the likelihood of a 100-year storm striking the bridge club every day. He also said that the only thing that was keeping him from bankruptcy or suicide was the knowledge that South would turn his gems into dross.

Today’s deal was just such an example when South picked up a hand that even he might have admitted was a trifle better than his usual. He reached six hearts on a typically unsubtle auction — though admittedly, it is not easy to bid the hand intelligently. He won the diamond opening lead and laid down the heart king, prepared to claim his contract, then sat back in his chair when the 4-0 trump break came to light.

Eventually, he coughed up the spade ace and continued with the jack, planning to pitch his club loser on the spade queen. Alas for his side, his plan was good but not foolproof. When West won his spade king and continued the suit, East ruffed in, and South was left with a club loser.

Cutting short South’s expostulations that he had genuinely been unlucky, North commented that chance favors the prepared mind. What did he mean?

Had South led the spade jack at trick three, he would have retained control of the spades. He could win the return and unblock spades, then draw trumps, finishing in North to take his discard in peace and quiet.

A simple one here. Diamonds will surely play better than no-trump, so you can bid a non-forcing three diamonds, hoping desperately that your partner can give delayed preference to spades with a doubleton, whereupon you can bid four spades.


♠ K 9 8 5 3 2
 10 9 6
♣ J 10 9 7
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 2 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


David WarheitNovember 1st, 2018 at 11:12 am

And then there’s the contract of 6NT, which is 100%. This is not a good idea at duplicate, since there is a substantial chance of an overtrick at 6H, but virtually no such chance at 6NT (E would have to have SKx or SK singleton and H would have to be either 3-1 or 2-2). 6NT, however, is the right contract at any other form of scoring. Any thoughts as to whether NS should reach 6NT and if so how?

Bobby WolffNovember 1st, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Hi David,

Hi David,

As usual, in your economy of words post, have somehow covered all the bases.

However, with your final question the only close to legitimate answer probably lies in one of three illegitimate ways +1:

1. An early copy of the hand records.

2. Illicit help from either a kibitzer or a player who has seen or played the hand beforehand.

3. A bold peek into both opponents hands, therefore knowing the whereabouts of all 52 cards.

Or much more likely, just a lucky stab in the dark, possibly when thinking the need for a top board and realizing that bidding and making 12 tricks in hearts will not be enough.

However, to a good guy NS partnership while playing matchpoints has East being dealt:
s. K
h. 10762
almost any other 8 cards except a void in clubs to which the entire play would be different or of course West originally holding:

s. Kxxxxxx
h. void
d. x
c. any five, of course, including the jack to which he is subject to a black suit squeeze end play.

Only leaving a possibly future brilliant bridge player totally bewildered in whether he wants to continue his rise to bridge fame, with all those freakish possibilities, keeping in mind I didn’t even mention West holding:

s. K
h. void
d. J109xxxx
c. J109xx

Some may think I am somewhat sadistic, but in truth, while that may be true, it also helps remind all of us what Jim2 (with his TOCM TM) continually goes through.

“Gin Rummy, anyone”?

ClarksburgNovember 1st, 2018 at 1:30 pm

@ David
How about this:
Novice Pair. It goes 3NT > 4NT > 6NT
South’s balanced 27 count is too strong for Opening 2C followed by jump rebid of 3NT (which shows only 24-25).
So South opens 3NT (showing 26+). North, with 6HCP, sees “at least 32” and tries 4NT Quant. South’s “very good 27” is enough.

Iain ClimieNovember 1st, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Hi Bobby, David, Clarksburg,

On a different day, North has xxxx A10xx Jxx Jx so do you still want to be in 6N? South was a little unlucky (although S6-2 after H0-4 shouldn’t be such a surprise) but I think the column analysis is basically sound. This South reminds me of someone against whom I used to play backgammon whose ability to throw double 6’s far more often than 1 time in 36 was legendary, although he was still such a weak player that I and his other opponents usually won.



Mircea1November 1st, 2018 at 2:39 pm

I hope this is not a dumb question, but shouldn’t South thing about a grand after hearing 3H from partner? Or is that out of the question because the initial response (2D) was not a positive one?

Bobby WolffNovember 1st, 2018 at 4:04 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Although you were only writing to David, yes, that sequence, or something similar, would be the most likely way, but shouldn’t South choose 6 hearts (as an alternate contract, if accepted by partner) instead of 6NT.

Perhaps, but not at the Dyspeptic club because either South had never heard of such bids, or, if he had and did, partner might interpret it differently than expected. Dyspeptic clubs have more sand traps than most, even with bridge.

Bobby WolffNovember 1st, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Hi Iain,

As we probably both know, thrown dice in either tournament or money backgammon need to be thrown out of a cup and in “craps” at least, usually hit some object before landing, otherwise dice “sharks” have some magic they may be wise not to tell or show you. However also in bridge some may be “light” enough to allow both partners to sit on the same bench together and they will still lose.

It seems that your group was doing something similar which, and of course, is very fair, between consenting adults.

Bobby WolffNovember 1st, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Certainly, yes, but at the Dyspeptic Club sometimes the only convention played is ol’
Black, and even if that is so, a follow up by South of 5NT (to announce the partnership holds all 4 of the “boys”) and an interest in a grand slam, before settling on six, giving the responder the license to bravely go on.

However, in order to do that profitably, there has to be confidence in each partner, something that is relatively “unheard of” at that club.

And besides, not a “dumb question” at all, since many good partnerships play that a 2 diamond response to 2 clubs, can be a relatively good hand and somewhat unlimited, so unless the opener announces all four aces together, partner then cannot override.

Iain ClimieNovember 1st, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Hi Mircea,

I think that’s a bit hopeful as you really need HA and SK plus a home for the losing club to make it worthwhile. This does assume that your partner hasn’t adopted the modern trend in some quarters of (practically) always bidding 2D in reply to 2C which strikes me as making it very difficult to catch up later. if you bid 2D over 2C and then 3H over 2S, how is partner supposed to judge if you’ve got (say) HQ10xxxx and a jack against (say) a good 5 card heart suit and an outside King or even Ace.

Any thoughts on this trend, Bobby, or is it a British disease?



Mircea1November 1st, 2018 at 5:51 pm

Thanks for the advice, Bobby and Iain. How would you and your favorite partner bid this hand?

Iain ClimieNovember 1st, 2018 at 6:16 pm

Hi Mircea,

With a partner I trust not to have replied 2D with an Ace and a King, I’d just bid 6H over 3H. With one who might have something extra, I might either just ask for the SK and, if it turned up, decide whether to bash 7 or find a different bid (e.g. 5S over the BW response) which must be angling for a grand slam if he’s got a source of tricks e.g. SKQ10x(x) as well as the HA. I’d rather he / she had bid 2S in the first place, though, but some of my partners prefer 2D here.

What I hope I wouldn’t have done is to bid a lazy 3N over 2C – 2D!



Bobby WolffNovember 1st, 2018 at 6:25 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I agree causing me to give for an example: while holding something like: s. KQxxx, h. xxx, d. Kxx, c. xx to have no problem chirping 2 spades to an opening strong 2 clubs artificial and almost GF.

Others prefer to require a strong suit perhaps; KQJxx or KQ9xxx in order to be strong enough to play opposite Ax and rival a strong suit the opening 2 bidder may have.

All somewhat logical in thought, but not so in practice when bidding room is lost with an original attempted “catch all” response of 2 diamonds becoming the huge favorite to occur.

IOW, relax the strong requirement to suggest a strong enough suit immediately in return for the ability to start from the get go in describing what your hand will be necessary to, at least eventually convey to partner.

This leaves the hand you mention with 6 hearts to the queen and an outside jack, to, of course remain with 2 diamonds, but when hearts are likely bid next, partner will then know its upside limitations.

No British disease, just an impractical USA desire for the few times aces and cinches (good suits) are actually dealt (opposite a GF hand).

Bobby WolffNovember 1st, 2018 at 7:12 pm

Hi Mircea1,

South North
2C (strong and artificial) 2D (GF 4+)
2NT(usually 23-24) 3NT(4-8)
4NT (27-28) 5NT(F-suits up line)
6H Pass (usually 4-4)

Bill CubleyNovember 2nd, 2018 at 12:26 am


Sometimes the thought of giving up a loser immediately when there are different lines available is difficult to see. Stiff king drops, the spade finesse is onside, trump break 2-2 all deceive us on the individual hand. We get it right in the quiz and we fail at the table.

But we keep on trying at this great game.

Bobby WolffNovember 2nd, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Hi Bill,

Your general philosophy, replete with factors, realities, and motivations are IMO, right on.

Finally, because of the greatness of the game itself, we continue to explore our belonging and eventual improvement (in most, if not almost all, cases).

Like life itself, win some, lose some. However, in the long run, those who stay with it, are rewarded, at the very least, by being enabled to both think logically and perhaps as important, be a team player.