Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

He always liked to have the morning well-aired before he got up.

Charles Macfarlane (on Beau Brummell)

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


Today’s deal sees North with enough values to drive to game facing a one-heart opening bid. Since he has a full opener and primary heart support, he starts by responding two diamonds, then jumps to four hearts to suggest a minimum game force and no slam interest.

Digressing for a moment, these aren’t my preferred methods. I’d like a jump to four hearts to be concentrated in the red suits with no controls in the black suits — but that isn’t a majority style.

Anyway, all routes lead to four hearts, and declarer should probably duck the initial spade lead, hoping to cut the defenders’ communications in spades if the suit is originally 5-2. He wins the next spade and plays a diamond to the king. When West gives count in diamonds East ducks the first round of that suit. Declarer now draws trumps in three rounds, then leads a second diamond. Regardless of which diamond declarer plays from dummy, East wins cheaply and returns a club. That lets declarer win in hand and play a third diamond. Now, since East has no spades left to lead, he must concede the rest after winning his second diamond trick.

If declarer makes the mistake of winning the first trick, the defenders will come to four tricks sooner or later. While there are lies of the cards where winning the first trick is necessary, they are few and far between: An original 5-2 spade break with the diamond honors misplaced is far more likely than that.

All three possible solutions to this problem are somewhat flawed. You could show your hand-type by rebidding one no-trump, even if the absence of a spade stopper is disconcerting. You could rebid your diamonds, falsely implying six; to some extent, your intermediates compensate for this. Or you could rebid two hearts, for which you are a heart short. The diamond rebid may be the least of all evils.


♠ 9 7 3
 K 10 5
 K Q 10 5 4
♣ A 8
South West North East
1 1 ♠ 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


bruce karlsonApril 9th, 2019 at 11:26 am

You have written in the past that you are not averse to,bidding a chunky 3 card major to support after 1D, 1H or S. That would suggest that 3H might be right in this situation. I do it with partners that are not impassioned about the ‘rules”. Decent success so far. Thoughts?

angeloApril 9th, 2019 at 3:00 pm

“all routes lead to four hearts” but 3NT is better, losing only to five spades plus DA in West, unlikely without a 1S bid. What about 1NT-3NT ?

bobbywolffApril 9th, 2019 at 3:14 pm

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for your response, since otherwise this important subject, for, if no other reason than frequency alone, would be unlikely to be thoroughly discussed.

Playing 4-3 fits, while usually, not as terrifying as thought, still should not be encouraged, but rather just sometimes accepted when better choices (like more combined holdings) lead to 8 card+ ones.

Therefore when holding three card support for partner’s responded major (4+) and at least one side shortness (2 or fewer) I think it best to raise that major suit.

Partner does not have to always hold only four in that suit and if his hand is relatively weak he is liable to (should often) pass the opener’s rebid and although the responder may have five+ of his original response a good fit in a major will not become trump (while somewhat important at IMPs, it is often vital for matchpoints).

Of course, while holding only four in the major and getting raised, but having enough to continue on, should almost never rebid that major, allowing the opener to later confirm or deny his holding only three for that raise. Therein that partnership will never play a 4-3 fit if rising above the two level.

Back to the bridge ranch then would suggest to not bid a 3 card major in response to a negative double that virtually guaranteed exactly 4 in that suit, at least in his immediate response. There are a few exceptions eg (holding a chunky 3 holding together with 2-4-4 and having after opening one’s best minor and then having a one heart overcall, (KJx, Jx, AKxx, Jxxx) might be a good example of that exception to just slide with 1 spade instead of 2 clubs or make diamonds 5 cards but relatively weak (K10x, Jx, Kxxxx, c. AQx).

Summing up, continue your experiment, but understand that it only an intended exception, but not a regular habit to introduce that relatively slight aberration as a “lesser of evils” choice.

Finally to conclude, what if a responder had’ xxxx, Q10xxx, d. x, c. Axx and responded 1 heart to partner’s 1 of a minor opening and heard partner rebid 1NT, wouldn’t it be nice to know that partner would have raised to 2 hearts with 3 of them or 1 spade with 4 instead of the 1NT rebid that most of us would (and probably should, pass).

If you or others would have further questions, please ask, since important subjects (again, because of frequency of occurrence) need to be thought about, therefore ironed out where minor disasters lurk, certainly becoming major, at matchpoints.

A.V.Ramana RaoApril 9th, 2019 at 3:33 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Instructive hand and there is an intriguing variation if east shifts to club at second trick. South must win and lead diamond to K in dummy which east obviously ducks. Now south goes down if he draws trumps and plays on diamonds. Instead , he draws two rounds of trumps with A and Q and leads another diamond and has answer to whatever east does. If east plays spade , south wins and leads diamond and club is entry for cashing diamonds. If east continues clubs, dummy wins and leads diamond. . If east wins and returns club, south ruffs pitching spade from dummy after which dummy is high and if east returns spade , south wins and leads heart to dummy’s king for cashing diamonds

bobbywolffApril 9th, 2019 at 4:19 pm


Yes, this supposedly simple looking hand becomes complex when, at trick one and after what could be the devastating spade opening lead is made. However if, after declarer, I think rightly, ducks the original opening lead and instead of continuing switches to a club.

It certainly feels like a reprieve for declarer and, no doubt locates the ace of diamonds with East. Therefore if East originally held the Ax in diamonds (instead of AJx) he would be giving away his holding to allow declarer to, after the original diamond duck to certainly guess it right on the second lead by inserting the 10 instead of rising with the now alone (in value) queen.

Just another detective like feature to which our great game possesses if you’ll excuise (in spades). Just to clarify my earlier inference, from East’s point of view if (while not holding the ace of diamonds) just inferred that declarer might hold it instead of the ace of hearts,, of course demanding a spade back at trick two.

The dog which did bark by not returning a spade at trick two instead of a gambling club back which only the possessor of the ace of diamonds would likely do. Unless we get into double, double crosses.

Aren’t we devils or instead perhaps dogs, but if so, healthy ones who can still bark?

Bruce KarlsonApril 9th, 2019 at 10:35 pm

Thnx for taking the time to fully respond. Much appreciated by me and, of course,future partners

TedApril 10th, 2019 at 3:47 am

Hi Bobby,

Just saw yesterday’s column. I would think David’s defense on the actual hand should be automatic. The Diamond Q promises second round control and West wants a club shift. If East had played, for instance, the J at trick one, how the defense should proceed becomes far more questionable.

bobbywolffApril 10th, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Hi Ted,

No doubt on a frequency percentage, David is directly on target with East ruffing the second diamond, in order to lead a club through declarer ASAP for the advantage EW.

However, the question remains that if East had the possible hand including the KJ doubleton spade (trumps) a low diamond from West would turn out to be a disastrous play snatching defeat from he jaws of victory.

Should West help his partner by basically forcing him to trump by leading a low diamond instead of continuing with the ace and allowing East to exercise his judgment, depending on what he held defensively (obviously when holding the KJ doubleton over the queen in dummy he would not trump.

However, there are times in defense when one player may take an unnecessary risk in order for that partnership to virtually force his partner to do what figures to turn out right for their side.

My vote is to do what David suggests, lead a low diamond and risk the unlikely hand that was presented later. However when doing so I think it prudent to discuss an unlikely holding which could occur which would make West’s underlead the cause of the misfortune.

Such are the trials and tribulations of our game, but since the hand given representing not wanting partner to trump is rare enough so that the practical defensive suggestion by David is surely the right percentage choice since to expect partner to trump your second high diamond is probably too much to hope for.

Finally, even the top players in the world are sometimes faced with similar dilemmas
and IMO the ones who are not occasionally willing to make it easier for partner to do what looks like the right thing is NOT the right thing to do.

Such is the case here, but I hope no one thinks it wrong to discuss both sides, if for no other reason, than to get practice at being in that position.

Finally, no one, not even our best players, are always able to know for sure the exact distributions and specific cards held by the unseen hands, making it sometimes necessary to make a second best theoretical play in order to achieve the desired result.

Thanks for your comment, which then enabled this I hope, informative back and forth. BTW, I do not agree that if declarer now played the jack, then leaving the nine at large, would then demand a different defense.

TedApril 10th, 2019 at 8:45 pm

Thanks so much for your detailed response. (My comment about the diamond J was intended to mean that East held the singleton J with South holding the doubleton Q.)