Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 4th, 2019

The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?

William Shakespeare

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


Opinions vary as to whether South should bid diamonds or spades here in response to one club. With less than an invitation, you might prefer to respond one spade; the problem with auctions where you bid diamonds is that opener must then either bid a major if he has one (which makes it hard to get to clubs with confidence) or rebid one no-trump if balanced. In the latter scenario, you might miss a 4-4 major-suit fit.

Here, in a teams game, South reached three no-trump on the lead of the spade seven to the king and ace. East figured the auction had marked declarer with both missing spade honors, so he found the threatening shift to the heart 10. What would you have done as South after West contributed the jack to this trick?

Declarer could see that ducking might leave him behind in the race to five tricks, after a club shift by West. So, he took the trick and ducked a diamond, with West winning his jack to return a heart.

Declarer now resisted the temptation to win and play on diamonds — in case one defender had four diamonds and four hearts. Ducking the heart would at worst cost the overtrick, but today it left West unable to continue the suit. West shifted to a club, which declarer won in dummy, remaining vigilant. He led a second diamond from dummy, and even though East tempted him by following with the queen, he ducked again. Now he had three tricks in diamonds and two in each of the other suits.

This hand is way too good to pass now (even though I can imagine that we might not be able to make anything). The choice is between a raise to three clubs and a double. The former suggests extra shape; the latter, extra high cards. I prefer to double, assuming that, if necessary, my partner can repeat clubs. If partner does pass out two spades doubled, I’d hope to beat the part-score on heart ruffs.


♠ K
 A K 4 3
 9 3 2
♣ A K 4 3 2
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 ♠
Dbl. Pass 2 ♣ 2 ♠

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 18th, 2019 at 2:06 pm

Hi Bobby,

If the auction on today’s play hand started 1C 1D 1H 1S (assuming the partnership treats this as 4th suit but not Game Forcing) what should North bid? I can see why South preferred a slightly cautious 1NT, though, with poor intermediates and a club misfit.

Can I also ask how you recommend this particular instance of 4SF be treated e.g. should 2S be a “real” (and GF) 4SF, does 1S always guarantee a real suit or what?



Bobby WolffJanuary 18th, 2019 at 3:35 pm

Hi Iain,

An extra necessary question and needed to be clarified by experienced and optimistic, bridge partnerships.

Many uniformly practiced partnerships play, on the sequence between only a specific partnership of 1C, 1D, 1H, 1S, the 1S bid is only a one round force including at least but usually only at least 4 spades and although a one round force is not a GF.. However after the different one of 1C, 1D, 1H, and then 2S that bid is artificial, a strict GF and may or may not possess length in spades.

Of course, the opening bidder will just bid naturally and, in the first sequence, if holding 4 spades will, of course, merely raise (jumping if strong).

Upon reflection most, if not all bases, and by this exception finding sometimes cruciial 4-4 spade fits will be uncovered at a low enough level logically because when the partnership has at least game potential, they will have the bidding room to not miss their fit.

On today’s hand I sympathize with South for making an exception and rebidding 1NT (instead of the more conventional 1S simply because if partner does not have 4 spades (the odds being against it) 1NT may be the last contract which will succeed (not only if Dame Fortune has her way but also the earlier bidding has the tone of a misfit).

Summing up, a 1S rebid by South guarantees at least 4 spades but is not GF, while a jump to 2S is a GF but, does not in any way indicate any special length in spades.

“Aren’t we devils” may have been the radio response of Ralph Edwards while emoting as MC of “Truth or Consequences” about 75 years ago.

Not really, only bridge logical, I’d today respond.

Mircea1January 18th, 2019 at 6:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

Given the auction and text in the column plus the discussion between you and Iain, what is your opinion on making the opening lead in clubs, the longest and strongest suit, on this board?

David WarheitJanuary 18th, 2019 at 6:15 pm

It’s not easy to see, but I think E should not play SA at trick one. Then when S starts ducking D to set up that suit, the defense switches to C, leading to Mircea’s question.

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2019 at 12:44 am

Hi Mircea1,

Sure, a club intermediate is a fairly normal choice, but, on this bidding I prefer a spade, the eight, (or whatever is conventional with that pair) since dummy could be short (and is).

However, many times and especially vs. NT (part score or game) the opening lead becomes a lucky or unlucky stroke, therefore while playing matchpoints and against a better than average declarer, try one’s best not to have to defend NT, simply because your pair’s likely result will be somewhere below average whatever one does (unless luck comes to the rescue).

On this hand, if the jack of clubs had been dealt to South, EW will be headed for either a zero or close, when and if he lets the club ride.

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2019 at 12:50 am

Hi David,

It is difficult, to say the least for East to duck the opening spade lead since South will then be holding his QJ behind West’s ace, hardly ever an advantage.

However, on these type hands it is usually best to plead guilty and pay the lowest fine, meaning to accept a very few matchpoints and look to the future (other boards) for greener pastures.

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2019 at 1:05 am

To all,

Although, discussing the defense to this hand is not going to be ultra pleasant, it may be worth it for me to discuss leading discipline.

To surprise partner by leading the eight or nine from J987x may give the opening leader some originality, but then having partner duck the ace (at trick one), thinking the declarer has that KEY jack, is enough to thwart that partnership’s longevity.

Its called iron discipline to not do that sort of thing to partner, although there are many players out there playing, who still think that bridge is a game of you playing your cards and partner playing his, forgetting what it takes to beard that lion.

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