Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Great contest follows, and much learned dust
Involves the combatants; each claiming truth,
And truth disclaiming both.

William Cowper

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



At the Dyspeptics Club, the rivalries are more than about winning and losing, since there is an unspoken contest between North and East, each of whom considers himself far superior to the other.

While neither of them would consider criticizing the other directly (as opposed to eviscerating their hapless partners) when the opportunity arises, a cryptic aside can turn the knife just as sharply as a direct criticism.

Today’s deal gave North the opportunity to add insult to injury after an unsophisticated auction had led South to a marginal six spades. When East competed over North’s transfer bid, you can hardly blame South for joining in, and that led North to something of an overbid when he took control and drove to slam.

West led the heart eight to East’s ace, and when that player returned a trump, declarer could simply draw trumps and claim, disposing of both dummy’s diamonds on the winning hearts.

While South was waiting for his partner to acknowledge the brilliance of his play, North turned sympathetically to East and commented on what a difficult opportunity he had missed. Stung, East asked what North meant. Can you see the answer?

West’s spot-card lead had to be from shortage, so taking the heart ace was virtually conceding defeat. The only real chance was that partner would hold the diamond king, so East should have followed at trick one with the heart jack.

Declarer will not lose a heart trick now, but he will have two inescapable losers in diamonds!

Since two hearts by you would be natural and forcing, a jump to three hearts sets diamonds and show shortage. That is sensible, but you might now miss a 6-2 spade fit. It is far from clear that the alternative of a three-club call would see your partner support spades with a doubleton. So maybe the splinter is best, since otherwise partner may be focused too much on no-trump with no spade fit.


♠ K Q 9 5 4 3
 A 7 4
♣ A J 10
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 2 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


Iain ClimieJune 20th, 2019 at 10:09 am

HI Bobby,

The Dyspeptics club often features South (who is an absurdly good card holder, so presumably ill-starred in love) butchering contracts which he should make. North’s reaction then should presumably be a “well-defended” comment to the world at large. When E/W say that they didn’t have to do much, North can then say that he was talking to his partner.

I’ve learned the hard way that such comments (along with “Hey you could have made that 4S 3 boards back if you’d just…”) really don’t do any good at all though, although why do N/S and W/W put up with each other I wonder? It is a good hand today, emphasising the need for East to put his brain in gear at T1 regardless, and even if declarer plays from dummy immediately.

On BWTA, although 3H may seem to set diamonds, there is every chance for partner to bid 3S with Ax although Jx may be more ambiguous. Is the default interpretation a cue-bid (not a void, clearly) or some level of support here, or should it be regarded as a matter for partnership agreement?



bobbywolffJune 20th, 2019 at 4:34 pm

Hi Iain,

Your posts often seem to penetrate not only right on point, but, to include, like American baseball, all the bases.

First base, mention of any, but sometimes intense to bitter competition between at least some aspect of the two competing partnerships but frequently just toward partner. Second base concerns the weapon chosen, whether direct embarrassment, but usually only subtle jabs, often understood by almost everyone at the table, but sometimes excepting the intended target.

Third base usually concerns itself with the play itself and its ramifications, often laudatory, but almost never, regardless how brilliant, to a player, partner or opponent.

Eventually, home plate, a summation of various factors, pro, but sometimes con, carefully completing the various other aspects which may accompany the specifics necessary to
finalize any aspect left untold.

Interesting? of course, necessary? usually, on point? always entertaining? absolutely!

With the BWTA, it could and usually would be extremely dangerous to, while playing matchpoints choose a final diamond contract instead of spades (even if partner only held a singleton jack) since making 10 or 11 tricks in spades will outscore 11 or 12 tricks made in diamonds, at least to me a bastardized subject unworthy of discussion, but to not, is self-defeating, if not playing rubber nor IMP bridge.

While holding Axx of partner’s rebid suit, it should be considered adequate to assume that suit to become trump with attention now drawn to either game or slam (maybe even a grand, if the hands indeed mesh: s. A, h.Axxx, d. KQJxxx, c. xx), although with a club lead a bit dicey, but not, s. A, h. Axx, d. KJxxxxx, c. xx which doesn’t appear fitting once partner responds 1 spade, but then becomes very different after partner shows diamond support and shortness in hearts.

Finally, once partner jumps to 3 hearts (showing diamond support and short hearts), in the absence of partner later making a unilateral decision, his immediate response is definitely a cue bid and shows at least a 2nd round control, never (at that time) a suit preference.

One may contrast that with some new, sometimes brilliant innovations for possible slams, namely an impossible 3NT (mild slam try) or what is called Last Train where in a forward going sequence, but up to then not suggesting slam, one partner or the other bids a suit, usually at the four level, below the agreed suit which shows a little extra and asks partner to then re-look at his hand (and, of course the previous bidding) to see if a good slam is still possible.

Iain ClimieJune 20th, 2019 at 6:27 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the guidance and also the information on Impossible 3N (that could go wrong, I suspect) and Last Train methods. I have to say that I haven’t really worked much on my bidding systems since I came back to the game unlike the late 1970s when one partner and I had 3 pages of notes on defence to Multi 2D alone.

Not sure I enjoyed the game as much then as I do now, which suggests I fell between the twin stools of ambition and relaxation, possibly achieving neither. A slightly calmer and more sober approach to the game might have helped, as Alan Sokal noted in “The Bridge Bum”. He said that many of the rules on the Precision team were aimed at certain players but all were aimed at him!



angeloJune 21st, 2019 at 8:27 am

Hi Bobby,
Since two hearts would be natural and forcing, how do you bid with a weak 5-4 or 5-5 in majors ? Does it makes sense a direct 2 Diamonds?

bobbywolffJune 21st, 2019 at 2:10 pm

Hi Angelo,

Not sure exactly what you mean as to choices and in what hand, (assuming you are talking about the BWTA). If the opening bidder, then his 2 diamonds merely shows a diamond rebid, possibly only a good 5 card suit, but usually at least 6. With only holding 3 spades for partner I would almost always prefer a 2 spade raise to a diamond rebid, even while holding 6 decent diamonds.

However if you are directing attention to the responder, then while 2 hearts would be forcing over 2 diamonds I would never do that without at least a heart suit, unless I perhaps held:
s. KQxxx, h. Axx, d. Kx, c. Jxx, and wanted partner to choose between NT, spades, or merely rebid diamonds without a club stopper, and finally, a heart raise with a minimum and 4 hearts. If I held: s. KQxxx, h. Jxxxx, d. x, c. Jx
I would bite my lip and merely pass 2 diamonds (one of the major reasons I prefer him to raise spades with only 3 of them).

Sorry for the long answer, but I am unsure of what you are asking.

angeloJune 23rd, 2019 at 3:37 pm

I didn’t explain myself, my fault.
I meant:
-over a 1D opening, with a weak 5-4 or 5-5 in majors,
-if you start with 1S,
-after 2D (see BWTA) or even 2C, since two hearts would be natural and forcing, how do you bid ?
– what about a direct 2D answer (1D-2D) to show weak majors & 5 spades ?
Thanks for your kjndness & availability