Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

There is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom produces, and that cure is freedom.

Lord Macaulay

E North
None ♠ Q 9 6 5 2
 A Q 6 2
 K J
♣ 5 3
West East
♠ 7 4
 J 7 5 3
 A 9 6 2
♣ J 10 9
♠ 10
 K 10 9
 Q 10 5 4
♣ K Q 8 7 2
♠ A K J 8 3
 8 4
 8 7 3
♣ A 6 4
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 2 NT * Pass
4 ♠ All pass    

*Game-forcing, with spades


North’s jump to two no-trump is the Jacoby convention, showing game-forcing values with a real spade fit. In essence, North promises an opening bid and four or more trumps, although with an unbalanced hand including a singleton and trump support, he might jump directly to the four-level in his shortage, a splinter bid. South has minimum values and no shortage, so he shows this by bidding game at once. While other methods may be more effective, this has the virtue of simplicity, if nothing else.

After the initial club lead, declarer ducks (hoping the defenders will not shift to diamonds and put him on the spot). As hoped, the defense continue clubs, and South wins the ace at the second trick.

Next, he draws two rounds of trumps, ending in hand, and leads a heart to the queen and king. Back comes a heart; declarer wins the ace and ruffs a heart. Finally, declarer ruffs a club to dummy and a heart to hand, leaving himself with the diamond guess for his contract. Is it a blind guess, or can South tilt the odds in his favor?

All he has to do is to count the hand: The way the plays in clubs have worked out so far, he can reasonably assume East has the heart king and the king-queen of clubs. But he passed in first seat, so he cannot hold the diamond ace or he would have opened the bidding.

Thus, the correct play is to lead a diamond toward the king, intending to put up that card if West plays low.

Are you prepared to force this hand to game? I’m not sure yet, but I would start by bidding three clubs for the time being, bidding where I live. If my partner bids three diamonds, suggesting no heart stopper and no delayed spade support, I will plan to pass. If I bid over three diamonds, it sets up a game force, and I don’t think this hand is worth that.


♠ A K J 8 3
 8 4
 8 7 3
♣ A 6 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


PaulJanuary 15th, 2019 at 11:59 am

Hi Bobby,
In BWTA what would South’s bid of two spade indicate and would it be considered forcing?

Iain ClimieJanuary 15th, 2019 at 12:31 pm

Hi Bobby,

An interesting decision is required if West plays a small diamond at T2. Although it is more likely that West has the DA then the DQ (in the latter case he may be just giving a declarer with DAxx(x) an easy ride) declarer should realise he is home if West has the HK even if East has DAQ. hence assume that the heart finesse is wrong and play accordingly, in a similar manner to the column line. The CJ is far more likely to be from J109 than KJ10 although the latter is possible against an aggressive opening leader. Even then, the CJ is an easy and obvious lead whereas often there will be a more attractive alternative to CKJ10 even for the attacking brigade.



jim2January 15th, 2019 at 1:39 pm

Iain Climie –

I agree with you. In fact, I do not think I would have bothered to duck the club.

Rather, I would have won, drawn trump, and taken the heart finesse. Now, when loses, I also know that East began with a singleton spade before the defense gets a second lead. That fact greatly increases the probability that West has the AD, since East would otherwise have had not just 12+ HCP but also a singleton to further tilt that player to opening the bidding.

But, as you said, declarer probably should assume that the opening lead placed KC Q with East, meaning

Bobby WolffJanuary 15th, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Hi Paul,

If one would change South’s Ace of clubs for the deuce of spades, it would then represent what a typical 2 spade bid would look like. Not only non forcing (NF) but merely a correction, suggesting to partner that the final contract is now reached.

Even a jump to three spades, (perhaps adding a rounded suit king to that collection instead of a small card, plus, of course, that 6th spade) would then make our bid only invitational to game (3NT or, of course 4 Spades with a rare return to 4 diamonds showing no more than a single spade and possibly a void) allowing partner (who has shown a minimum and long diamonds) to then make the final decision.

With those bidding tools, it becomes a partnership effort in order to then be in hopefully the best contract, affording us a reasonable opportunity to score positively.

Finally, although holding (with the above example three small in partner’s suit, contracting to make a diamond game (partner’s rebid suit) requires taking 11 of the 13 tricks, a task to be regarded as only a last resort and with two balanced combined hands involved, to accomplish that goal is indeed unlikely, causing us to attempt to either choose a 10 trick contract (4 spades if holding 8+ trumps between us) or 3NT, the short 9 trick road to game, unless we do not have a suit stopped wherein it will become likely those worthy opponents will take the first 5 tricks. Of course, if the opening bidder had a singleton queen or higher in spades, his judgment may allow him to still raise to game despite between the two hands not holding 8+ spades.

Bidding discipline is relatively simple but very necessary to be a winner and it always involves both partners taking his or her own responsibility.

Good luck and do not hesitate to ask here or whomever is your bridge guru where you live with understanding basic but critical bidding disciplines.

PaulJanuary 15th, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Thank you. Much appreciated for the patience in answering and of course what I look forward to most the precious and rare counsel which no doubt would help most upcoming bridge players to become better and perhaps a winner in due course.

Bobby WolffJanuary 15th, 2019 at 3:06 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

Between the two of you, all (or almost) of the bases are covered when attempting to find evidence as to how the defensive diamond honors are distributed with two of the four possibilities (when both the A and Q are in one hand or the other, therefore making no never mind).

However, at least on this side of the pond there is a popular bridge leading convention, in vogue for many years leading the jack which, in turn, denies anything higher (and aptly named “jack denies” which allows partner to then know that partner while holding either the KJ10 against any suit or NT or AJ10 (against NT) will choose the 10 not the jack to lead.

While sometimes somewhat helpful to the defense, the declarer is also watching and such leads make it so very obvious what he should do at trick one or later as in planning the entire play of that hand.

The above has come to make me think (especially when experiences also dictate that sometimes critical tell, in today’s hand the jack of clubs denying the king, therefore, allowing declarer, as have both of you mentioned, to everyone who now plays that conventional approach, to think again about the wisdom of allowing a declarer to play so well against you, of simply whether that convention is worth playing.

I, of course, think it horrible to give those built in road maps, especially to worthy players who, after all, are the ones standing in the way of other aspiring players winning their share (or more).

The above disadvantage is seldom mentioned by either those who incorporate it or of course, bridge books who promote it.

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