Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 16th, 2018

The time was out of joint, and he was only too delighted to have been born to set it right.

Lytton Strachey

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

*Artificial and forcing


There are many reasons for rejecting a possible finesse. All too often, it may not be necessary, since the loser may be discarded elsewhere. Equally, though, the loss of a tempo if the finesse fails may be critical.

Declaring four spades, South takes the diamond lead in his hand. He sees he may have two diamond losers, as well as two club losers and one spade loser. Some of these may be discarded on dummy’s clubs, so he must set up that suit. Thus, declarer plays a club from his hand while he still retains his trump entries to dummy.

West will duck his club king, of course, and East wins his ace and should return a heart. Be careful now! At this point, declarer should not finesse, since his immediate goal is to discard diamond losers on the clubs. If the finesse succeeds, it may produce an overtrick. If it fails, declarer loses a vital tempo — which could be fatal. West can return a diamond after winning the heart king, setting up a winner before clubs can be established for the discards needed.

So South takes the heart ace and plays another club. West takes his club winner and cashes the heart king, but that is all he can take. Declarer can ruff a small club high in hand after taking dummy’s diamond king. He ends up in dummy after cashing three rounds of trumps, and he can then discard both diamond losers on the two established club winners.

This line needs the trump break, but that’s better odds than a finesse.

Everyone ought to have a way to support their partner’s major and set up a forcing auction. It may not be the only way to do so, but the simplest approach is to use the response of two no-trump to a major as a forcing raise. In response, opener shows shortness, jumps to game with a balanced minimum, rebids his major or three no-trump with extras, or bids a strong five-card side suit at the four level.


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


ClarksburgNovember 30th, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Good morning Bobby
Today’s BWTA leads me to ask:
When Opener’s rebid options, with extras but not shapely, come down to 3M or 3NT what are the key (and maybe subtle) differences between these two calls?

bobbywolffNovember 30th, 2018 at 4:43 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

The differences in values to distinguish between responding 3NT and 3 of the major lies only in the judgment of the bidder.

For example with the actual hand I would choose 3NT (middle values, better than a minimum, because of good spade spots, togetherness of honors (hearts), and a better than average 5-2-4-2 instead of 5-3-3-2).

However, if that hand had perhaps the AK of hearts doubleton instead of AQ and the J of diamonds instead of a small one, then 3 spades instead to show a maximum hand or close with a rebid of 3 spades.

Obviously if the opener’s hand was even better (throw the queen of diamonds instead of a small one) I would also bid 3 spades, but would proceed toward slam (with at least a further cue bid) if partner would opt to only raise to game over my 3S choice.

IOW, not complicated, but only trying to show good judgment with evaluation of strength.

However, it works both ways so with s. Kxxx, h. Axx, d. KJx, c. Jxx and hearing partner open 1 spade, I would not jump to 2NT, but rather to only a limit raise (especially today with lighter opening bids chosen by many good players).

Rather than the tune “Let the punishment fit the crime” bidding choices must represent a compromise between partners as to values as well as specific support (3 good ones instead of 4) and overall strength.

Finally Jacoby major suit trump raises should guarantee 4+ instead of only 3.

Bob LiptonNovember 30th, 2018 at 5:27 pm

Clarksburg, now that Bobby has given you a general overview, here’s what my partner and I used to play as part of our Jacoby 2NT structure.

Over an opening bid of one of a major:

2NT promises at least an opening hand, four-card support in the major, and no singletons or voids. We played splinters, which I will get to at the end.

Over 1M-2NT, opener’s rebids are
1: a new suit at the 3 level promises a singleton or void; if partner simply rebids the major at the 4 level, 4NT is RKCB Voidwood, asking for aces, the King of Spades and, when available, the trump Queen, ignoring the splintered suit. To show slam interest against a a Simple game bid, declarer will cuebid his cheapest 1sst round control.

Partner is required to cuebid his cheapest Ace

2: A rebid of 3NT shows 15-17 HCP with no Singleton: partner has the option of cuebidding or showing the dead bang minimum by bidding the game.

3: a rebid of 3 of the original major show 17-20 HCP and no singletons or voids. Partner is required to rebid his cheapest Ace.

4: a new suit at the 4-level shows a second 5-card suit. Note that if the bidding goes 1H-2NT-4S, opener is promising at least 6 Hearts.

5: if opener simply rebids his opening suit at the 4-level, he shows a minimum opener and no Singleton.

6: If opener bids 4NT (e.g. 1H-2NT-4NT), it is 1430.

7: a double jump by responder in a new suit promises at least 12 points, at least 4 cards in opener’s suit and a singleton or a void in the bid suit. Opener has the option of rebid his suit at game to show a minimum, bidding his cheapest 1st round control, or 4NT, which is 1430. Once opener has stated slam interest by cuebidding, responder must bid his cheapest first round control beneath game.

Should opener simply rebid his suit at the game level, showing a minimum, responder May continue looking for slam via cuebidding, or bid 4NT, which is 1430 Voidwood for the splintered suit.

We found this method very satisfactory, reducing the amount of judgment we had to use, since the ranges were more closely defined.


bobbywolffNovember 30th, 2018 at 8:19 pm

Hi Bob,

Little doubt your method is exhaustive, effective, and efficient, but how about easily remembered?

Great for bidding to the right theoretical best contract, but a pox on anyone who might preempt early against it or, curses to bad breaks taking it down.

However only kudos to throw your way for inventing it, but sympathy to one partner or the other for a simple forget.

All the above subject to a very tired brain, with, and of course, an apology attached.

Above all, no likely accurate critique from any still sane player which, in itself, is quite rare.

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