Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 14th, 2019

I was playing pairs, second to speak, with ♠ A-Q-7-4-3,  K-4,  Q-7-3-2, ♣ 10-2. With no one vulnerable, I heard three clubs on my right. Was I wrong to pass here? My partner had a flat 13-count with king-jack-third of clubs, and we sold out even though we were cold for three no-trump.

Sold Out Steve, Sunbury, Pa.

I have a lot of sympathy for you. When in doubt, act with shortness in their suit and pass with length. But here, you did not really have the values to consider bidding, as opposed to balancing, when I would definitely bid. The only consolation I can offer you for passing and scoring badly is that it will reassure your partner that next time when you do bid, you have the right hand to act.

Recently, this question was posed in Bridge World: When holding ♠ A-Q-J-10,  A-7-5-3-2,  A-Q-9-6, ♣ —, what would be your call after hearing one spade to your right? I understand your explanation for doubling, but I bid two spades, Michaels, and wonder why my bid was so unpopular.

Down Under, Vancouver, British Columbia

The problem with the Michaels Cue-bid (promising 5-5 shape) is that partner may not imagine you holding high cards, as opposed to your good defense but lack of shape. It is occasionally acceptable to force partner to the two-level with Michaels after a minor-suit opener, specifically with 4=5 in the majors, holding 10-13 points and concentrated values in the majors. The difference is that on that sequence, you let your partner bid more cheaply.

I heard the auction start with one club to my left and one spade to my right. I bid two no-trump for the unbid suits. When asked, my partner explained it as the minors. What should I do — and when, if at all, should I explain to the opponents what has happened?

Texas Scramble, Houston, Texas

As a defender, you should say or do nothing until the hand is over and then explain the position to declarer. As declarer or dummy, explain before the opening lead what the position is. You should always correct a mistaken explanation by your partner in this way. During the auction, however, you must bid as if he had explained your call correctly; if he bids three clubs, for example, you must assume he has a good hand and is trying for game.

My partnership plays regular signals for attitude and occasionally for count. Please comment on the use of suit preference in trumps by the defenders — is it the most useful meaning for a signal within the trump suit or in a side suit?

House Warmer, Steubenville, Ohio

Some people play a trump echo as indicating a desire to ruff; others use it to show an odd number of trumps. Trump suit preference is far more useful. To start with, you can convey the desire to ruff just as well by giving appropriate suit preference. Moreover, your number of trumps normally becomes apparent for other reasons early on in the hand, and it is rarely a critical factor in the defense.

My partner and I use a cue-bid of our right-hand opponent’s opening bid as Michaels. Recently, I came across a reference to Non-Leaping Michaels, which, to my uninformed eye, didn’t look like a cue-bid at all. Can you explain how one can make a cue-bid without bidding the opponents’ suit?

Bear of Very Little Brain, Laredo, Texas

Leaping Michaels is a jump cue-bid over a two- or three-level pre-empt to show a two-suiter. Some experts have expanded the concept to use simple overcalls in a minor over a three-level pre-empt as two-suited. So, four clubs over three hearts would show clubs and spades. For more information check out:

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


David WarheitApril 28th, 2019 at 10:30 am

Frank Stewart’s hand today has N: Q752, Q753, AQ5, 106. S: A8, 4, K987432, AQ3. W: K103, KJ86, void, J98742. S plays 5D and W leads a C to the K and A. Declarer cashes dummy’s DA and W shows out. The actual declarer now tried to ruff the third C in dummy but got overruffed. Down one. Stewart correctly says that S instead should play SA and a low S towards the Q, making when W rises with the K.

My questions: what do you think of W calmly ducking the second S, and if he does so, should S still play the Q?

Bobby WolffApril 28th, 2019 at 5:17 pm

Hi David,

At least to me, yours is a great question, first to be asked and then to be discussed.

My take has little to do with bridge percentages, but rather with bridge personalities and everything to do with both who was sitting West and, at least sadly to me, whether we are playing matchpoints or IMPs which also includes rubber bridge.

First, from a percentage standpoint the odds are in favor of the king being with the four cards or longer, not with the three, so theoretically it also has to do with what club West led, trying to guess if it was from length or only from three or fewer. Next it would be slightly important to know the habits of West, again a difference between matchpoints or not, where every trick, overtrick or not, becomes vital so some players take fewer chances on giving away a key trick, while others go after defeating the contract and almost always prefer an aggressive lead, (away from a king) as long as the suit was not bid or even sometimes when it has.

Another factor is, as it often occurs, how many NT this hand will make. Of course it depends on if North is declarer with or without a heart lead. Did North bid hearts or would they usually do so if South opened the bidding with one diamond to which the answer is yes. Of course who knows about the later decisions which may or may not have prompted North (at other tables) to stop off at 3NT after South rebid his diamonds and possibly showed the black suits stopped.

Obviously, not much time can be nor need be thought about all of the above. Most Wests would rise with the king, if only to prevent an overtrick, so that would dictate playing low, hoping for the king and shortness (three or less) to be with East.

It also becomes critical as to whether the diamonds are 3-0 and we, of course led low to an honor therefore not enabling us (when diamonds are 3-0 to have enough entries to take advantage of Kxx with East).

Yes, I am of the persuasion to play the specific opponents and am usually aware of who they are and how they may think. However that factor does not in any way make me anywhere near always right since sometimes (too often) I may exercise poor judgment in my overall assessment.

Obviously if I shoot out a low spade from hand before finding the diamonds 3-0 (which I may be inclined to do, especially against a very good player who may not rise with his king, if he has it) his table reaction (the better the player the less tell it will be) may help guide me.

You can see that you struck a nerve with your question. However at matchpoints (not my favorite bridge game), it becomes
a battle between the declarer (always advantaged by seeing all 26 of his assets instead of the defense (13 of each plus his partner’s choice of opening lead and how that trick resulted. together with the tempo).

Finally David, it as I am sure you already know, the better the West player the more likely he is to duck the king. However if someone leads toward the queen of spades in dummy it could be from Jxx and cause him to not waste his king on a small spade.
However it is not likely that a declarer would lead a spade before tackling trump while holding Jxx, but doing it from only Jx could cost West the contract trick by rising.

Result: don’t know without being at the table and knowing who my opponents are.

Sorry for the length of the answer, but, believe it or not, there is likely even more to evaluate before deciding what to do.