Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Guides cannot master the subtleties of the American joke.

Mark Twain

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


At the Spring National tournament a year ago in Philadelphia, players came from all around the world to compete in the major events. The Vanderbilt Teams Trophy these days is roughly equivalent to a world championship, and the last eight teams could probably hold their own against most national teams.

This was a very nicely played deal by Tarek Sadek, a long-time regular on the Egyptian team, who had done well to reach the only playable slam on the North-South cards.

West accurately led a club; the lead of the six went to the king and ace. How would you have defended as East now? At the table, East returned the club jack. When given a chance to make his slam, Sadek made no mistake. The critical play was to pitch the spade jack from his hand at trick two, then ruff a small spade in hand. He could go back to the heart ace to ruff a second spade in his hand, then draw trumps and go to the diamond ace to run spades.

In fact, the defenders had two chances to beat the slam after the club lead. East could have removed a critical entry to dummy by playing either red suit, after which declarer would no longer be able to ruff out the spades. After a diamond shift (the best play, to remove the side entry to dummy), declarer could either play to ruff a diamond in dummy or for a spade finesse, allied to some additional squeeze chances. However, today, every line would fail.

If you felt that this hand was too good for a raise to two spades (which you might do without the club ace) but not good enough for a limit raise or a redouble — when you might get pre-empted — you are right. Modern science offers two solutions, the complex one being transfers after a double of a major suit. The simpler path is to subvert a two-club call to show three trumps and 7-10 high-card points.


♠ K 10 3
 8 4
 J 8 7
♣ A J 10 9 3
South West North East
    1 ♠ Dbl.

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 RaoApril 5th, 2019 at 10:35 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Perhaps west could have led one of those red suit tens giving the contract no chance at all

A.V.Ramana RaoApril 5th, 2019 at 10:48 am

Sorry , but doubledummy , on a heart lead the contract makes. Win the lead, spade A , spade ruff, draw trumps discarding two clubs and a spade, diamond to A in dummy, ruff another spade , cash K and Q of diamonds and lead a club. East is helpless. Whether he ducks or wins and returns club , south scores the slam . But on an initial diamond lead, there is no play for declarer

bobbywolffApril 5th, 2019 at 12:08 pm


Right again!

1. Proving our analysis is lacking but,

2. Even worse, leading a trump when partner was asking for a club lead may encourage others to do similar disobedience, which, in turn, may cause some shaky partnerships to split, which in turn will cause better matches to pair up, causing others, not me, to more likely win.

3. However I salute you for your thorough thinking and will also forgive you for both my embarrassment and for being responsible tor the possible chain reaction of breaking up partnerships.

4. If this continues to happen I will need to at least consider changing the byline to AVRR, which should encourage me to do a better job.

ClarksurgApril 5th, 2019 at 3:21 pm

Good morning Bobby.
Re the BWTA item:
The 2C call you mention would fall under the umbrella of Bergen’s BROMAD, where the jumps to 3C or 3D are normal four-trump Bergen raises, whilst 2C and 2D show the same strength ranges, but with only three trumps. A XX would show 10+ more than two trumps.
As I recall you and many others are not fans of Bergen Raises.
Could you comment on the merit \ lack- of-merit of the BROMAD scheme?

ClarksburgApril 5th, 2019 at 3:28 pm

Good morning Bobby.
Re todays BWTA item:
The 2C call would fall under the umbrella of Bergen’s BROMAD, where the jumps to 3C and 3D would be normal four-trump raises, whilst 2C and 2D show the same strength range but with only three trumps. The XX thus shows 10+ with no more than two trumps.
As I recall, you and many others are not fans of Bergen raises.
Could you comment on the merit / lack-of-merit of the above scheme?

bobbywolffApril 5th, 2019 at 6:48 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Under the general heading of making better use of heretofore not oft used bidding choices, sure it is probably wise to cross off a natural 2C (perhaps next will be 2D with 2H also in the crosshairs) after it goes 1S by partner, then a Dbl by one’s RHO. Of course the same, or almost, would go for 1H Dbl except 1 spade would likely remain to be natural.

While I think trump raises need closer gradations, giving up natural bids also become important (for offense, including evaluation, and for lead direction), so that likely it is a fairly close assessment as to which to choose. However the expert community apparently votes for trump raises over the above named advantage for natural.

However from a numeracy viewpoint one ommission of a natural bid can (and will) soon or eventually cause a significant loss while gradations of raises sometimes do mean different levels of fierce competition, but while doing so often that advantage is turned into a poor result by somewhat good, medium, or bad luck with many more trump raises availale

IOW, yes that particular treatment is probably better played, but it would greatly upset me, if someone who doesn’t see the disadvantage eg, falls in love with the newer process, he (or she) doesn’t understand the game we all love and yet to him or her, thinks himself to be thoroughly modern and clearly correct, to which he is not even close to automatically being totally right, only perhaps, but not certain, theoretically.

Finally Bergen raises are no doubt, descriptive, but also to the opponents and somewhat is similar to 4 card majors (to which I still have great affection) since while playing them, one’s opponents lose the advantage of being able to judge their offensive potential by also (with 5 card majors) knowing how many (or close) of their combined long suit they have which makes their judgment consistently better.

People, particularly bridge players, tend to fall for various suggestions without due diligence in evaluating the pros and cons.

Please forgive my intensity, but it always seems to bring out the same know-it-all attitude I appear to have. When a player simply asks, why do average players play so well against me? everyone now listening, should now know the answer to that one.

Strong letter to follow!