Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Morality is a private and costly luxury.

Henry Brooks Adams

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


Modern bidding has advanced tremendously from the early days in the area of cue-bidding. When I was growing up, cue-bids were reserved for aces; gradually one learned to cue-bid kings and secondary shortness. But it was the Italians who managed to formalize cue-bidding to a point where bypassing a suit almost denies a control of any sort in that suit.

Today’s deal shows both the upside and downside of that approach. After North-South set spades as trump, with North raising to three spades to suggest some extras, South cue-bid his club ace. North now showed a heart control, bypassing the diamonds; South knew there was no diamond control, so he closed up shop in four spades.

Of course, West was listening to the auction, too: he led a low diamond, and suddenly four spades was in jeopardy. Can you see how the defenders should prevail?

When declarer played low from dummy, East put in the jack, led a low diamond to his partner’s king, won the third diamond with his ace and led the 13th diamond. Whatever declarer does now — and presumably ruffing low is correct — West will score his spade queen sooner or later. If East cashes his diamond ace at trick two, the trump promotion is unobtainable.

Does this mean North-South did something wrong? I don’t think so, since if you bid every hand correctly and pay off to the opponents leading accurately, you will do better overall than if you hit and hope on every deal.

This does not look like the sort of hand where you want to bid clubs at the three-level and have to ruff hearts in dummy with high trumps. Instead, settle for the relative security of spades. Bid two spades, which implicitly suggests a doubleton or a dead minimum hand with three spades. Otherwise, you would already have supported spades.


♠ Q 5
 10 9 6 5
 K 10 6
♣ 10 8 3 2
South West North East
    1 ♠ 2
Pass Pass Dbl. 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


A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 27th, 2019 at 2:05 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
West was very attentive and deserves credit for the brilliant defense. Clearly the hearts values are wasted for south and instead of QJ of hearts , if he were dealt diamond Q , south could have prevailed but is there any mechanism in bidding to play this hand in 3 NT ?

A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 27th, 2019 at 2:08 pm

Please read diamond J instead of Q

jim2March 27th, 2019 at 2:29 pm


West will always have a third spade in 3N.



bobbywolffMarch 27th, 2019 at 2:50 pm


But what if EW had 5 diamond tricks available on defense vs. NT but the unprotected queen of spades with East rather than West?

One of the most difficult social (and winning) attributes of a high level player is not to be a results player (and in no way am I suggesting you are since you only asked an intelligent and relatively benign question).

Of course, if the NS hands also included the jack of diamonds then, no doubt 3NT would be superior, a laydown. Even then, unless a player is prepared to give a good bridge argument (eg specific bidding sequence which sensibly, (and for the right reason) eschewed a 9 card major suit fit for the safety of not having happen what did, on today’s example.

The above is mostly cosmetic, but while moving up a bridge ladder to success, the above subject can become a huge factor in securing the perfect partner for a great run in our beloved game.

IOW, as I’m sure your experience has validated the above, to be a great and winning partner, leaving out results in all discussions about the game, should be as close to mandatory as is practical.

Thanks for your always valuable input.

bobbywolffMarch 27th, 2019 at 3:05 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, but against everyone else either not including the queen, or while including the queen, either many diamond holdings which do not allow the cashing of three immediate diamond tricks. not to mention holdings like Axx which is not likely for a small one to be led (forgetting you as the exception).

The good news is that in the many years of the forthcoming future there may then be composed two opening lead charts to be generally followed, one similar one to now and another to be used against TOCM TM victims. If so, your name may be forever memorialized as the cause.

A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 27th, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Hi Jim 2
If west has three spades to Q, neither Four spades nor Three NT makes on diamond lead as the cards lay

bobbywolffMarch 27th, 2019 at 4:41 pm


Yes! However this forum has given me a reason for me to go to what has become a favorite rant of mine. One, which if discussed in the high level community (and BTW I judge this site to be very close if not eminently included), is often met with strong feelings about what I am not 100% sure about, but do seriously feel has much validity and have for many years, perhaps 40+.

When the enemy is listening (and they are always, at least when decent+ players are involved) it, at least IMO, much more often than might be thought, science needs to bow to practical in the business of getting good results.

Both North and South could have prevented this disaster and in several different ways. North could have merely bid 4 spades at his second turn or even 3NT for a winner and South may have chosen 4 spades instead of 4 clubs, not only to not create a blueprint for the defense, but because a singleton ace of one’s partner presumed best suit is not pulling its weight (Note an extra club or especially two instead of those horrible diamond losers).

Science is wonderful to talk about and overall bidding in bridge, among the elite the world over, is definitely improving, but what about the results.

Of course, my ammunition is limited, especially against those whose number one love for bridge comes from its science attachment. But the one constant in deciding who is right and wrong is always RESULTS, certainly not the beauty of execution.

In truth and on today’s hand, NS got a big break in that neither East nor West was dealt a diamond holding that anyone would like making the opening lead from (especially against a suit contract), yet the beauty of the exploration, which many very good players love, is, unfortunately calling loudly for a diamond. If I am anywhere near correct, more of an albatross than a dove.

Everyone may be glad that I do not have much more to say except keep an eye out for what happens at the conclusion of hands like today and then honestly appraise the results, but be sure your analysis includes playing against better than average players who take advantage of listening to your auction and then acting on it, starting with the opening lead.

At least it is something to ponder about, even if official records are not being kept.

John HoffmanMarch 27th, 2019 at 5:27 pm

If North-South played non-serious 3NT, then South would bid 3NT over 3S to show a mild slam try, and North would sign off in 4S without informing the opposition. Declarer would score 12 easy tricks after the normal 10 of hearts lead.

The above is consistent with your theme of avoiding disclosure. Of course, there is always a tradeoff, such as not getting to 3NT after we have found our major fit.

Thanks as always for informative and entertaining columns. This is my first ever comment.

Iain ClimieMarch 28th, 2019 at 12:21 am

Hi Bobby,

I agree with your thoughts on bidding, partly because the 1S 3S (limit raise) 6S auctions often unnerve the player on lead. Andrew Robson made a fair point specifically related to pairs. Either bid the slam or don’t but do not go through cue-bids telling the oppo what to lead. This can be different at teams, when an overtrick isn’t really a concern (although today’s hand is different) but I can see his point.



bobbywolffMarch 28th, 2019 at 2:02 am

Hi Iain,

In some critical areas, our beloved high-level game is still in its infancy with accepted theory.

And while we can proceed and still achieve great satisfaction since and, of course, trying to prove our own ideas and twists, superior.

However, when all that is done, we still will have a myriad of essentials to take care of, including the meeting of great bridge minds, essential total honesty in all the rules of the game (no laughing matter), and both logic, transparency, and at least some flexibility with conditions of contest.

When all that hurrah and shouting is over, I hope to see you and all members of our little AOB clan and be the first one, where ever we are (I am not hoping for pitchforks laying around) to first shout “Table Up”!.

Always returning your regards,