Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

Generosity is a virtue for individuals, not governments. When governments are generous, it is with other people’s money, other people’s safety, other people’s future.

P.D. James

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


The British home international open series is the Camrose Trophy. From the English Camrose pretrials a few years ago, John Froztega played this hand very nicely; but it was Marc Smith, the injured party in the East seat, who generously reported it. Given perfect defense, it is hard to believe that any of the four or more top tricks that East-West have against four hearts could get away!

Peter Czerniewski as West had done well for his side, up to a point, by not sacrificing in four spades, which would probably have gone at least two down. Instead, he passed out four hearts and led a low spade, and dummy’s nine held. A heart to the jack exposed the 4-0 break, and there seem to be at least two inevitable losers in each red suit.

Still, Froztega did not give up hope; he set about playing a cross-ruff in the black suits. He cashed the club king and ace and ruffed a club, then took the spade ace and ruffed another club. When he then ruffed a spade, he had reached a five-card ending with three diamonds and two hearts in each hand.

Now came a diamond exit to the king and ace. Czerniewski could cash one more diamond to let Smith discard his club, but then had to lead either a spade or a diamond, which Smith was forced to ruff at trick 11. That in turn required him to lead away from the heart king into dummy’s trump tenace, to concede 10 tricks. Remarkably, the defense’s sure trump winners had completely vanished.

If your side isn’t in the midst of a bidding accident, you made a penalty double, and your partner has now shown a strong hand with long spades. Cautious players will bid only three spades, but I’d argue that the little you have may be very useful. So, I would simply jump to four spades. With an additional top honor in spades, I’d do more, perhaps a splinter jump to four diamonds.


♠ 8 4 3
 K 10 9 7
♣ Q 10 8 6 3
South West North East
  2 Dbl. 2
Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieJanuary 17th, 2019 at 12:26 pm

Hi Bobby,

A bit of a blast form the past as I knew Marc Smith years ago and I think we were teammates on one occasion in the English Junior trials in either 1983 or 84 – just a while ago! I wondered why declarer bothered to play the DK on the 10, though? If West overtakes, the defence either have to let declarer’s DK make or revert to the column line while if East is left on play and plays a club, the ruff and discard sees one of declarer’s losing diamonds vanish. Isn’t it more fun to give the defence an extra losing option here, or have I developed a mean streak?



Bobby WolffJanuary 17th, 2019 at 3:54 pm

Hi Iain,

No, I do not think you have developed a mean streak, just the natural desire to make every trick you can and in the most foolproof way.

With the way today’s hand was developing, it became obvious, and at a fairly early moment (when West showed with only 2 round suit cards) the eventual favorable ending for the declarer, making the final tricks for declarer a trip to bridge heaven.

And besides, the reporting of the play by the proud declarer, Johm Froztega, instead of your friend, Marc Smith might be considered a bit self-serving and immodest, so your alternate gambit, “while being more fun”, might have made it more awkward for even a slightly irritated Marc to even think of honoring you.

However, the above is pure speculation but my “mom” used to teach me, “you kill more flies with sugar than you do with vinegar” and like most parents, it bodes well to pay attention.

In any event, thanks for your valuable input and your history of developing your formidable bridge game, along with Marc Smith back in the early 1980’s. “Once learned, always improving” is usually true with bridge, especially when the on the way competition, continues to be reasonable.

Mircea1January 17th, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Hi Bobby,

Am I right to say that declarer’s thinking at trick 2, when he discovers the bad split in the trump suit, should be something like: “Assuming that DA is on my left, I’m going to make this on a cross-ruff, but only if my friend on the right has been dealt at least 3 spades and at least 4 clubs, so he doesn’t over-ruff me spades or pre-ruff me in clubs”.

Interestingly, from the play by play card analysis which I did on this board, it appears that if West started with Qxxx in clubs (in exchange for 2 small cards in spades or diamonds to his partner) and declarer chooses not to risk the finesse in clubs, East must trump the fourth round in that suit, just to avoid the end-play.

Ken MooreJanuary 17th, 2019 at 5:24 pm


North’s 3D bid appears to be one of those new fangled bids that both supports hearts and says I do not have Diamonds stopped, do you?

Is that correct?

Bobby WolffJanuary 17th, 2019 at 5:57 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Yes, your analysis is correct (I think, but haven’t gone deep into it).

However the thought process is slightly different and begins at trick one after listening to the bidding. When a low spade is led (actually the fifth best, but it is unclear as to the EW leading conventions) the declarer, if he is in fact as numerate as almost all top bridge players, he immediately can envision a two suiter held by West. Of course, when the heart break becomes known, it only confirms what the declarer suspected, West having at least 4 spades and therefore likely 6 diamonds, otherwise while holding some length in clubs, with or without the queen, he, being a highly competitive good player (if in fact he is) may have started with a TO double (especially by his being vulnerable instead of only a distributional overcall), since the possibility of a strong fit with his partnership, must not be shrugged off, if one wants to be a winner.

However unlucky for him, by the time West became eligible to bid again the auction had reached the 4 heart level, making it too dangerous for him to then bid his spades . Likely the tempo at his turn to pass the second round was somewhat slower than it usually would be, if only by a split second.

All of those non-official times at bat become firmly impressed on the others at the table, signifying whatever one believes to be the likely reason.

Because of the above, the really top worldwide players become adjusted to the conditions and thus become a less “tell” than other non- experienced, wannabe top players.

No doubt at least a quantity of “born” talent is necessary to reach the top, with hard work, the right partner (emotional and talent wise), tedious partnership work, selection of mutually desired conventions and system, natural numeracy and its advantages, but above all, the acquisition of experience against top level players become not only preferred, but rather required, without which, babes in the woods will stay surrounded by trees.

Bobby WolffJanuary 17th, 2019 at 6:39 pm

Hi Ken,

Yes North is using a new bid (perhaps only 7-10 years old) but slightly different than you suggest and BTW very popular, but is, in fact, a limit raise or better in the opener’s opening major suit opening.

No connection to diamonds being stopped or not, (but only agreeing that his partnership will play, or at least intend to, a heart contract). IOW, the information passed is singular about what trumps will be, but only TBD the level.

That adapted convention looks to be without fault, clear and easily remembered by those who adopt it, but in fact, like others which glitter has, at least a major disadvantage, when, and if, the opponents compete further and the opener then bids, with a hope to make, but the real reason being a sacrifice against those foes, who sometimes seek equal time in those auctions.

IOW, if the original cuebidder was intending to raise a return to 3 of the major to 4, signifying an intended possible slam interest with his original bid, but starting out slowly and making use of the world BETTER in the definition of the bid, then those ugly (but worthy) opponents
have not only become competitive, but worse,
caused the opening bidder’s side to be unsure as to what they are trying to tell each other.

Nothing terribly serious, but still distracting and IMO not overall being worth the effort to switch from old fashioned.

Perhaps my age is showing, but changing for current style admiration doesn’t make me dance for joy when it also causes at least to me, a significant minus.

Ken MooreJanuary 17th, 2019 at 9:03 pm

As a follow up, if West had bid, say 3 Spades, using this convention, how would North show a real Diamond suit?

Bobby WolffJanuary 17th, 2019 at 10:08 pm

Hi Ken,

From a practical standpoint, and all levels of bridge require it, if North had a diamond suit and a good enough hand, he would merely bid 4 diamonds. Lacking the strength to do so, he might try a negative double which normally shows support for both of the unbid suits, but if partner takes it out to 4 clubs he can then bid 4 diamonds.

Also if North had heart support he might overbid a bit and bid 4 hearts. Even good bridge is often either overbidding or underbidding in order to choose the lesser of evils, when and, of course, to pass is also a choice.

All I can do is explain what is involved even though sometimes, we all have to wiggle our way and hope to, in the long run, guess accurate enough.

Bobby WolffJanuary 17th, 2019 at 10:15 pm

Hi again Ken,

All this time and rhetoric without also explaining that, while playing an immediate cue bid as a limit raise or better, a jump to 3 hearts, when vulnerable, then becomes a preemptive raise: e.g. S. xx, h. Qxxxx, d. x, c. Qxxxx, informing partner you do not hold much and what values you do have are in distributional assets.