Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 26th, 2018

One cannot continually disappoint a continent.

James Whistler

S North
N-S ♠ A K J 9
 Q J 9 7
 Q J 10 6
♣ A
West East
♠ Q 4 3
 A 10 4
♣ K J 8 7 3 2
♠ 8 5
 K 5 3 2
 K 4
♣ Q 10 9 5 4
♠ 10 7 6 2
 8 6
 A 9 8 5 3 2
♣ 6
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ Dbl. 1
2 Dbl. Rdbl. 3 ♣
3 4 ♣ 5 All pass

After four matches in the 1998 Cap Gemini World Pairs Invitational, the local supporters were delighted to see Piet Jansen and Jan Westerhof of the Netherlands atop the table. Then they met Tor Helness and Geir Helgemo on Vugraph and lost out, mainly because of the following hand.

It looks as if North-South had done well in the auction, since the diamond game appeared to depend simply on the winning diamond finesse. But there was more to it than that. Helgemo found the diabolical lead of the heart four! When Westerhof played low from dummy, Helness had no trouble in putting up the heart king. (He knew his partner’s larcenous tendencies and could see that if declarer had the heart ace, the game would surely be laydown).

Helness now did very well when he switched to the diamond four before declarer could discover the deception in the heart suit. Had he not done so, declarer might have played a second heart himself and exposed the ruse.

From this defense, Westerhof reasonably deduced that East was likely to hold the ace and king of hearts. Accordingly, his only chance would be finding the bare diamond king with West, since otherwise there would not be enough high cards to justify an opening bid. So he tried to drop the singleton king of trumps and failed in his contract.

After that point, the Dutch pair headed south in the field, while Helness-Helgemo went on to take third place.

Clearly your next call will be in no-trump. To bid three clubs would show clubs and hearts and be game-forcing, but you are an ace short of that action. This hand looks like an invitation, not a game force. Yes, you have great club spots, but bid two no-trump and let partner decide whether he has a minimum or maximum.


♠ 8 5
 K 5 3 2
 K 4
♣ Q 10 9 5 4
South West North East
    1 NT 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


jim2November 9th, 2018 at 3:14 pm

I did wonder why at Pairs spades never got into the auction. For example, it was the only suit North “guaranteed” with the first double.

That is, bidding and making 5D would still lose to bidding and making 4S.

Bobby WolffNovember 9th, 2018 at 8:18 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt that all you say is true, but in the cauldron of bidding, the player is restricted, in this case North to only make what he thought was the best bid possible, not necessarily the best possible bid. He, of course wanted to show extras plus a diamond fit, but when his LHO raised clubs, his partner South probably just did not think his hand was strong enough to venture spades with that weak suit, while possessing the safety of six decent diamonds.

What can be learned from this, besides the judgment shown? To me, it shows the advantage East accrued with his competitive 3 club bid for otherwise South could (and possibly should) then bid 2 spades and your ending would undoubtedly be a final contract of 4 spades. However the opponent’s bidding, in effect, denied that, causing South to not only opt for diamonds, but to then fall for the great defense which followed (under lead, followed by an immediate decision time for the declarer).

Perhaps North, over his partner’s 4 diamond competition should have offered 4 hearts (not 4 spades, since I think that bid should announce 5 medium spades at the least, but perhaps 4 hearts, which would then allow a 4 spade venture from his partner.

However we are now entering the twilight zone of excellent bidding to which some very good players may question that ride to the best contract.

After all, with the above, we may or may not be better placed to bid the next competitive puzzle, but the right of passage only goes to the winner and not to lurkers, so this hand is an EW victory, mightily earned!

Thanks for your query which, at the very least, makes us all think, a sometimes necessary road to learning.

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