Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 13th, 2019

The power to guess the unseen from the seen, to trace the implication of things, to judge the whole piece by the pattern, the condition of feeling life, in general, so completely that you are well on your way to knowing any particular corner of it — this cluster of gifts may almost be said to constitute experience.

Henry James

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


Today’s deal is the last thematic one of the week, all of which are concerned with negotiating a missing queen when you have the ace, king and jack.

Declaring three no-trump on the lead of the club jack to East’s king, you elect to win for fear of a heart shift. If that came, you would be forced to duck, after which a reversion to clubs might prove very awkward. Having taken the club ace, how do you plan to maximize your chances in spades and diamonds?

If you lead diamonds from hand, West will play low without concern, and East will win and continue with clubs. At this point, you will need to guess well to come home with nine tricks.

A better line is to pass the spade jack at once. When East wins, a heart might be best but if he returns a low club you duck — since West cannot lead hearts effectively. If West next plays either a heart or a club, you win and overtake the spade king to run the diamond jack. The defenders can win, but will have at most one trick to cash, as the card lie, before letting you back on lead. You can cross to the spade 10 and run the diamond 10, coming to two tricks in each black suit and five winners in the red suits.

Incidentally, if the spade jack holds, you are probably supposed to lead a spade to the ace and run the diamond jack. Then you can play for three diamond tricks to bring your total to nine. You will go down only when West has both diamond honors guarded and five clubs, in which case you are doomed no matter what you do.

A call of one no-trump here shows 18-20 and is surely the best way to advance with this hand. Although no-trump might be better played by your partner, the possibility of stopping low facing scattered values is a sound one. Your partner can introduce a second suit, rebid a five-card spade suit or try for game, of course.


♠ K J 7
 A 10
 A 9 8 3 2
♣ A Q 5
South West North East
Dbl. Pass 1 ♠ 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


Patrick CheuApril 27th, 2019 at 7:12 pm

Hi Bobby,Please could you suggest a possible sequence for this hand from pairs: Dealer South.NS Vul. North AT85 76542 A AQ3 South KQ7432 T K9643 K.Playing Acol,our bidding went 1S-2H,2S-4S pass.I thought maybe North could have bid 4C after 1S-2H,2S-4C,4D-?what next?North did not try slam cos of empty Hearts..Regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffApril 27th, 2019 at 8:10 pm

Hi Patrick,

Assuming South opens the bidding:

South North
1 Spade 2NT(GF spade raise
3 clubs (singleton) 3 diamonds (cue)
3 hearts (control) 4NT (ace ask)
one KeyC(KS) or no aces 6 spades

Very difficult once responder bids 2 hearts and not his 4 card+ spade raise to reach
the virtual laydown slam.

North’s hand is very powerful with three aces, good support and a side singleton.

However, as you mentioned he needed his partner to have a heart control and once he bids the suit his partner will find it difficult to show shortness in that suit, since to do so often is a minus rather than a plus.

With the North hand and also not playing an immediate trump fit convention I would
prefer bidding 2 clubs rather than 2 hearts to show where my values are, then allowing South to at least think about showing his control iin hearts (singleton) rather than belated support.

Bob LiptonApril 27th, 2019 at 9:13 pm

I don’t recall whether it was Terence Reese or S.J. Simon who noted that if you have a hand so that if your hand is worth one call, then the news that your partner will be very glad to hear that you have support for his suit. Likewise, if you have a hand that can offer four-card support for a five-card (or longer) major, it is likewise a fine idea to let partner know that.

Another way of thinking is that a forcing raise in support of a major isn’t just a statement that we should be playing in game. It is in fact, a mild slam try; a sequence like 1S-4S is a statement we should be playing in game, but can and should be made with a much weaker hand, with responder having Kxxxx Kxxxxx xx x. There are lots of ordinary 1Spade opener that can moke 4S with utterly ordinary 1S openers and a bit of luck (AQxxx Qx Axx xxx can be enough).

I myself don’t like splintering qith a stiff Ace, since it’s a definite turnoff when declarer has KJxx in the suit where you have a singleton. However, playing Jacoby, a forcing raise, whether it be 1S-3S or 1S-2NT will give partner a chance to tell you about his singleton(2) either by bidding 3C and seeing if partner can cue-bid diamonds, or by splintering (if you like it with a stiff Ace) and giving him the chance to tell you.

If partner insisting on showing me 5 Hearts to the 7 (yech!) instead of four-card spade support to the AT, I would discuss this hand with him at length after the session.


Bobby WolffApril 27th, 2019 at 10:18 pm

Hi Bob,

Of course, happy that you agree with me so, naturally I’ll try and gild the lily.

If one holds: s. Jxx, h. Qx, d. AKxx, c. Kxxx, and after opening one diamond and having partner respond one heart I, like everyone playing a normal system, would, of course, rebid 1NT, but if partner responds 1 spade instead, I prefer a raise of 2 spades with the opener’s hand.

Obviously it is close, but advantages range from playing 5-3 fits when partner is fairly weak to making it more difficult for the opponents to then get in the bidding. Also, a partnership will never have to play a 4-3 fit (although not nearly as treacherous as some may feel) beyond the 2 level since the original responder will never (at least hardly ever) rebid his 4 card suit (even though supported) leaving it up to partner to decide when and if the bidding gets higher.

Try it and I think most may like it. Besides, one of the pleasurable times in bridge is when partner supports your suit. It is usually a positive time for going plus and even if the bidding gets higher, the opponents may fear if they hold three cards in your bid and supported suit that his partner may also hold three rather than be relatively sure he has two or fewer.

Patrick CheuApril 28th, 2019 at 6:04 am

Hi Bobby,If the bidding goes 1S-2C(as suggested,though we don’t play 2 over 1),2D-2H*,2S-3S or 4C? How would South bid after that?4D or 4H?

Patrick CheuApril 28th, 2019 at 6:14 am

Or after 1S-2C,2D-2H*,2S-Should North bid 4D(KD or AD)?

Bobby WolffApril 28th, 2019 at 11:11 am

Hi Patrick,

I’ll be brief (sort of), to the point, hopefully help, but sometimes, especially at bridge with its partnership responsibility, it may take a while for both of you to realize the root cause, accept it, and then change your system to cater to it.

Until a fit for what will turn out to be the eventual trump suit is known to both partners all bidding is more just noise than constructive.

The simple and IMO only way to provide for that necessity is to finalize the agreed trump fit on the first round if possible, but when holding only three card support for partner’s 5+ major suit opening (of course, if playing 4+ card majors many things will be different within that system), it is fairly standard practice to not immediately support since there are many hands which easily make game with 9+ combined trump, but sometimes have a much more difficult time with only 8.

The above fact carries over mightily for bidding and making slams with 9+ combined trump instead of only 8, providing the only sensible exception for not disclosing the eventual trump suit the 1st round.

Delving deeper, after trump fits are disclosed to both partners, side suit bids become cue bids (controls, 1st and 2nd round, A&K + voids and singletons).

When we talk about short suits rather than high cards, then, of course, combined lengths in trump fits become extremely both important and necessary (assuming that partnership doesn’t have a combined hcps of, very rare, approaching all 40). The above is especially true and therefore even more necessary when strongly considering the slam zone.

IOW, since the difference in showing side suits as opposed to cue bidding is as different as it can be, meaning that both partners need to know ASAP when they have gone from finding their trump fit to now determining the final level with, of course, what will eventually be trump the first order before cue bidding officially begins.

Finally, but necessary to keep in mind, bridge bidding is merely a communication system wherein that partnership makes a bond with each other to be on the same wave length as soon as practical, and a mutual understanding of what will be trump is the prime order of any one hand and needs to be done first (not by innuendo but closer to hitting each other over the head).

Please excuse my unnecessary emotion, but you are far from the first partnership and will not be nearly the last, which no doubt with much promise to conquer each problem with our often difficult game, but extremely important to handle these conundrums like they kill elephants, one at a time.

Patrick CheuApril 28th, 2019 at 2:11 pm

Hi Bobby,Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us which will no doubt improve our bidding and further our enjoyment of this game.Best regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffApril 29th, 2019 at 5:07 pm

Hi Patrick,

While it always is very nice to hear your appreciation for answers, just your presence in these occasional discussions is more than enough, at least for me, to thoroughly enjoy being a liaison to convey, at least what I think, to be a small blip in your partnership improvement.

IOW, if only more bridge players like you or only wannabes like others, had the great attitude you obviously possess, both the bridge world and the world wide real world would be so much better off.

It is indeed my pleasure to merely just write to you, since by doing so I can, believe it or not, feel your desire to improve, if for no other reason than to show argumentative partners how the cow ate the cabbage. However in fact, a bridge reason that at least I think, is worth learning gladdens my heart to just convey to you for whatever it is worth, sometimes, very little.

Meanwhile, back at the table and this time worth emphasizing, show those trump fits as early as possible, and let the opponents, not you, sleep in the streets.