Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

There is not a fool can call me friend.

W.B. Yeats

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

*Solid minor, asking for a spade


Today’s deal comes from the 1979 U.S. Bermuda Bowl playoff. Five diamonds would have been cold and six diamonds playable for East-West, but that was hard for East to find. West began the defense with two top diamonds, East throwing the club 10 on the second round. How would you have played the hand?

You need to take three heart ruffs in dummy, but entries to the South hand are limited. My old partner, Dan Morse, ingeniously discarded the club queen instead of ruffing, to leave West on lead. Morse ruffed the next diamond and cross-ruffed in hearts and clubs to reduce to a four-card ending with the lead in dummy, where East had all trumps while declarer had the A-K-10 of spades and a heart left.

When declarer played a club from the board, East had to ruff high. Morse over-ruffed and exited in hearts, taking the last two tricks on a trump endplay.

What opportunities had the defenders miss? First, West could have played a club at trick two to allow East to play a trump. Far harder, East could have beaten the game by ruffing the second diamond! Suppose declarer over-ruffs to prevent East’s trump shift, plays the heart ace and ruffs a heart, then leads the diamond jack. East will ruff again, and declarer can over-ruff and take a second heart ruff, but must play a club from the board. East wins his ace and remove dummy’s last trump. The defense scores no trump tricks, but they pick up two heart tricks and the minor-suit aces.

You could jump to four spades, but you might miss a slam facing a hand with a little extra shape and nothing in diamonds. The best way to get your fit and game-going values across is to jump to four diamonds. This is a splinter, showing your spade fit and leaving the door open for slam.


♠ Q J 8 4
 K J 6 3 2
♣ A J 10
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 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


Iain ClimieJuly 6th, 2019 at 10:27 am

Hi Bobby,

East could also stick to his guns and bid 4N over 4S at least if West is showing some extras as well as the long solid suit. In a strange way it is lucky for South that the spades are 4-0 here.

Also, can I seek your advice on an ethical problem that came up the other night? I held Q8xx Jxx Kx Axxx at adverse vulnerability and pairs and partner opened 1C (4 card majors, 12-14 1N). RHO bid 1D I bid 1S pass on my left and now a really long time before partner bid 2C. I now have UI of course – either he had a close decision between 2C and 2S or he had an alternative option e.g. a 1N rebid or even 3C. Grumbling quietly under my breath (I might have bid 3C or even 2N at teams with a normal tempo bid, I think it is marginal at pairs) I felt it was right to pass, Partner had taken a very cautious view with A AQ J8xx KQ9xxx so 3N romps home easily and we got a poor score, albeit an honest one in my view. Was this the right thing to do or is the hand worth 3C regardless? I’d sooner take the hit on my scorecard than on my reputation so I hope I got this right.



Bob LiptonJuly 6th, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Iain, your worrying about this speaks well of you, and partner might well have anticipated this sequence before opening 1C, taking his time before the opening bid. However, my potzer reasoning runs like this: partner promises at least 15HCP. Had partner been playing a 15-17 NT, you would have used Stayman, then jumped to 3NT. Therefore, you need to make an effort. My choice isn’t between Pass and 3C; it’s between 2D and 3C.

Given the weak NT, I don’t believe that partner’s 2C call is wrong.

Iain ClimieJuly 6th, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Hi Bob,

Thanks for that but partner’s bidding is compatible with (say) 12-13 points and 2-4-2-5 (if he’s chosen not to open 1N) or even 1-3-3-6 and similar strength. The question is whether I can take a punt here given that there could easily be 6 club tricks and a diamond quickly with 2 more to be found; there again, that might be all we make if partner has (say) Kx K10x Jx KQJxxx although ten the oppo might have raised diamonds.



Bob LiptonJuly 6th, 2019 at 2:33 pm

In that case, Iain, the answer seems to clearly be that your pass is correct. Your first duty is to limit your hand, and given the promised range, you don’t have enough. Oh, 3NT might make with the 22-24 points the two of you have, but that’s not the way to go. Pass, and if the opponents re-enter the auction, you can raise.

By the way, since he didn’t respond to your double with a major, isn’t partner unlikely to have a 4-card major? And, given what you have now said, partner’s 2C is absolutely wrong, and you may not take that inference from his pause.


bobbywolffJuly 6th, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Hi Iain,

First to address your brilliancy for suggesting a bid of 4NT, instead of the apparent slam dunk call of DOUBLE.

High level players are indeed separated not because of their strict technical ability (all of them are givens for that, with usually little to choose from) but rather for their imagination, when at the same table challenging each other.

At least to me, your choice of 4NT instead of double would not be even close (IMO) among them, but in retrospect makes strong sense.

However, With that East hand, and the bidding, every now and then the other 39 card layout is different enough to make 4 spades go several off (give North a spade or so fewer and an extra heart and East’s double would have resulted in a harvest, while 4 NT could easily fail mightily (especially against good defenders).

However, even to consider 4NT instead of double is what champions become known for, and rightly or wrongly you should get great credit for your vivid (and optimistic) evaluation.

Now to your problem hand to which I am now briefed. Yes, by your partner’s very slow 2 club rebid, no doubt, some sort of UI is in the air. But to a TD’s or any bridge player’s judgment, in which direction should it apply?

It may be that partner held: s. AK, h. Kxxx, d. xx, c. Qxxxx making even taking 8 tricks in clubs (on a very bad day) problematical. IOW your partner, while only becoming caught by surprise with this rebidding problem, breaking tempo, thus somewhat distorting the bidding progression, we all need to live with such events, leaving it up to the ones effected (in this case, directly you) but our great game was lucky this time in that it was in good hands.

However, all you can do is make what could be called an innocuous raise to 3 clubs or even (in my view), 2NT which, at least to me are your two main choices.

Of course, and on this hand, either will land you in the right final contract, 3NT, but for your question to be answered, it is only then, after arrival there and of course scoring up a make will your opponents be tested by their reaction.

If they immediately or even not so, but firmly call the TD for a ruling on the UI, it would be very strange to just horrible for a TD to do anything but first allow the result, but also chastise your opponents for calling the TD since it should be obvious that whether you bid 3 clubs (being converted to 3NT by partner) or raising your 2NT bid instead to 3 that nothing even slightly devious had occurred, except of course for the opponents looking to get something for nothing, plus disturbing the equilibrium of your table by acting like “spoiled children” wanting something for nothing,.

And so it goes, likely where ever bridge is played around the globe, but to my thinking a good TD will know enough about the game to chastise the proper partnership when the occasion presents itself.

You leaned over backwards, making sure that type of unpleasant event wouldn’t occur, but perhaps it would be a good learning experience if, after what I suggested did happen, for the participants, if indeed they did call the TD, would then have become sorry for the embarrassment a good (and experienced) TD would (should) have caused your very greedy (and misdirected opponents).

Strong letter to follow, but anyone who disagrees with me (in any of my possible exaggerations) please do not hesitate to say so, since these types of experiences need to be thoroughly aired, so that they will occur less frequently.

Thanks Iain for bringing this up, though I feel that, yes you are on the right track, since some TDs (too many) worldwide, do not fully understand what their responsibilities should be, with their main one, being to educate as many bridge players as possible on what is right and more importantly, if necessary., flagrantly wrong.

bobbywolffJuly 6th, 2019 at 2:58 pm

Hi Bob,

I was not, nor am not neglecting to interfere with your’s and Iain’s discussion, but suffice it to say my letter to Iain could (and probably should) have been sent to you as well, but your discussion was directed to the bridge of the matter while mine was to the ethics to which Iain concluded.

I appreciated reading your back and forth making anything I could add not worth saying.

Thanks to both of you for your views which in addition to me, will be of interest to others.

Iain ClimieJuly 6th, 2019 at 9:26 pm

HI Bobby,

Many thanks for that, much appreciated. I felt partner over analysed this, although I take the point about not bidding.close games at pairs while it was unlucky to find me with almost exactly the wrong hand.