Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Driftwood: I’m practically a hermit.
Henderson: Oh, a hermit. I notice the table’s set for four.
Driftwood: That’s nothing; my alarm clock is set for eight. That doesn’t prove a thing.

“A Night at the Opera”

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


Whether you have agreed to play high or low cards to encourage the opening lead, you must occasionally send a different kind of message. One possibility is to use suit-preference signals if continuation of the suit led cannot possibly be right — but it is often far from obvious to both players that this is the case.

Today we shall look at the subject of “alarm clocks” at the bridge table. These don’t just say: “Wake up, partner!” Instead, they ask partner neither to continue with the suit led nor to shift to what would otherwise be the normal suit. Does that sound obscure? Maybe, but a relatively recent Rosenblum Trophy produced just such an opportunity. Though East-West were an unfamiliar partnership, they were on the same wavelength when it mattered.

Bruce Rogoff, West, found himself on lead against four spades after Gay Keaveney had chosen to jump to four spades rather than use a transfer. Fortuitously, this meant the hand with a side-suit singleton was not on lead.

When Rogoff led the club king, his partner, Barry Rigal, produced the queen. A discouraging club would have produced a heart shift, so was something else required? Rogoff drew the right conclusion and shifted to a diamond.

Declarer won dummy’s ace and went after trumps; East could take his spade ace to play back a low club to West’s ace for the diamond ruff. Since Rogoff’s teammates had stopped in two spades, making four, this turned out to be a decent swing in instead of a large swing away.

Sometimes we have to choose between the practical and the elegant. This may not be a balanced hand, but 16-counts with five of a minor and four hearts present a real problem if you do not open a strong no-trump. Upgrade a 17-count to a reverse, and downgrade a 15-count to a one no-trump rebid if practical; but with a 16-count and some honors in your short suit, maybe a one-no-trump call is the least lie.


♠ K 10
 A J 8 6
 A Q J 9 8
♣ J 6
South West North East

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


Bill CubleyNovember 21st, 2018 at 2:59 pm

Is it still a bit strange having Thanksgiving dinner at home after decades of attending Fall NABCs? Happy Thanksgiving to Judy and you.

In BWTA the least lie is often the best bid. A lot like real life. I tell my pards that the best bid is what comes closest to the convention card and being a trump short a jack short still helps us best.

Bob LiptonNovember 22nd, 2018 at 12:08 am

I’ve tried the “alarm clock” discard in an almost identical position, except that on that hand, the stiff HA was in declarer’s hand. Partner read me for the stiff DQ and continued with the Heart Ten, intending to maintain control, give me a ruff and a Heart return to establish his HK.

As you can imagine, it was not a success.