Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

Truth is on the march, and nothing can stop it.

Emile Zola

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


The format of the Gold Coast tournament, which lasts for just over a week at the end of every February, is a three-day pairs event with qualifier and final, and a five-day teams event with three days of qualifying and two days of finals.

In the early stages of last years pairs tournament, I thought Joan Butts (one of the leading teachers and players in Queensland, where the event is held) did very nicely here. Johnno Newman opened a gambling three no-trump in front of her, and when Matt Brown took the low road by bidding four clubs, pass or correct, Newman duly bid four diamonds.

This was passed back to Butts, and she bravely bid four hearts to end the auction. (Five diamonds would have been a cheap save, even at unfavorable vulnerability.) The defenders led two rounds of diamonds, and she ruffed the second. What would you do now?

Butts read the position correctly when she led a spade to the ace to take the heart finesse and draw a second round of trumps. Then she played a second spade. The defenders could take their spade winner, but they had no way to get more than one trick out of the club suit; declarer had an 88% score on the board.

Of course, if declarer takes an early spade finesse, West gets the spade ruff to defeat the game. Declarer knew not to take that finesse, since West’s gambling three no-trump opener had practically denied a side ace or king.

It is tempting to bid spades at the two- or three-level now, but it might be better to give preference to two diamonds, since your spade intermediates are so terrible and your heart king isn’t pulling its full weight. You may still be able to get to spades if your partner keeps the auction alive. I’d bid two spades I suppose, but I’m conflicted.


♠ K 7 6 5 4 3
 9 7 6
♣ K 7 6
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


Iain ClimieMarch 6th, 2019 at 9:54 am

Hi Bobby,

Another cheap save as it turns out is for East to pass 3N, although running if doubled. The defence get 7 tricks assuming no accidents in cashing out but that is still cheaper than 4H. Would South have the nerve to bid in that situation, I wonder?

Could I ask your advice on a hand form Monday, though? At Love All IMPs (actually Teams of 8) I held QJ9xxx A Axx KJx so opened 1S (4 card majors) 2C overcall 4S 5C. What would you do now, please?



Bobby WolffMarch 6th, 2019 at 12:39 pm

Hi Iain,

It’s precisely 4AM in the morning here in LV and Judy, I and the rest of our congenial team are not doing well, at least at this point of the tournament. We start out OK, reach kind of a high point, look forward to success, then our devious and uncompromising tough game takes over and CRASH, BAM, NOT SO THANKS MAM, we collapse.

However enough of that, and on to the more delightful prospect of discussing theory rather than harsh reality.

While there appears almost no chance the opponents will make 5 clubs, even though one of our opponents is likely void in spades, so is our partner having no more than 1 club and perhaps even 30-40% to be void. Therefore my choice is to simply bid 6 spades and hope to make it (partner providing the ace of spades and a source of hidden treasure in one red suit or the other (hopefully diamonds).

To even suggest that my choice of bid is somewhere “Over the Rainbow” is to go lightly, but who knows what good could happen, particularly when and if the Ace of clubs is led.

And once upon a time in OZ the wicked witches (aka, the opponents) took a costly sacrifice (7 clubs) obviously giving me credit for being sane.

In any event, I will not have to apologize to my partner and teammates, when I am wrong (barely possible), but who am I kidding?

In whatever case, when dealing with your ever present great compassion for bridge adventures which explode, I will likely only hear from you if I was right, so that yes, I am taking for granted your soulful personality to my advantage.

Much thanks for having that question waiting for me, when not being able to sleep through our current bridge disasters right here in River City, fantasy home of the Music Man, aka Las Vegas.

BTW, while discussing your highly volatile hand, my bid sort of worked, except for partner having: s. Axxx, h. xxx, d. KQxxxx, c. void and they bid a grand slam at the other table and found a vulnerable king of spades from their shocked opponents and, of course, made it, with several overtricks

Iain ClimieMarch 6th, 2019 at 1:52 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for that. I bid 5S (I think I should bid 5H) but Christmas is early for you, at least given the lie of the cards. Partner has K108xx Q98xxx xx None and LHO curiously doesn’t find the diamond lead from Ax J10x KJx AQ9xx. Hearts drop nicely and only a diamond lead kills 6S which was bid by one of our opposing pairs. Whether RHO should save in 7C with NOne Kxx Q109xx 10xxxx is a moot point but it can be only -300 if declarer gets everything right and should be -500 at worst. The 6S bidder did discount his clubs, but simply reckoned partner must have red suit goodies.

I hope things improve for you; this was one hand which made the difference between winning and losing an inter-club match by 7 IMPs; there were others, to be fair, but this was a spectacular one.



Bobby WolffMarch 7th, 2019 at 5:19 am

Hi Iain,

Seemingly, the large swings are of great interest to the relative newcomers, if for no other reasoning, than to imagine the thrill of victory, especially when playing against famous players.

However, for the consistent player, the so-called normal hand is best for the them, since their technique tends to bar tiny errors, which in turn, usually becomes the difference.

In any event, almost all classes of players have good reasons to play our game. At least to me, the major reason always being the stand up alone ordinary logic which is very evident on a large percentage of hands, whether as declarer or defender and even with the choice of opening lead.

However, unless and until our game becomes known of good ideas brought to life with intense concentration, together with a set of voluntary ethics in stone, the masses out there,unaware of what they and many others are missing, our game will never get the credit it deserves.