Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 26th, 2019

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

T.S. Eliot

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


We end our week of deals from the 2014 European Team Championships with what turned out to be the pivotal board in deciding the top spot in the open section. The featured match was between Israel and Monaco.

In both rooms, North opened three diamonds, but only the Monaco North-South ended in five diamonds. There were no problems in the play in that contract. Even on the spade king lead, declarer could unblock the heart king, cross to dummy in clubs and throw his losing spade on the heart ace before drawing trumps — plus 400.

The three no-trump contract at the other table was a more exciting affair. Declarer took the club jack lead in hand and conceded a diamond to East’s queen. Tor Helness returned the spade king. Declarer won with the ace, unblocked the heart king and reached his hand with a club.

The moment of truth had arrived, as the fate of the contract depended on a heart guess. After the heart ace, should declarer play for an opponent to have started with queen-third or with 10-third? The penalty for guessing wrong would have been 10 IMPs, but South got it right by leading out the jack to pin the 10, and Israel earned a push. They beat the reigning European champions by just enough to take the gold medal.

Had West hit on a spade lead, declarer might have gone after diamonds first, which would have conceded a vital tempo. That would have rejigged the final standings.

Partner’s three diamond bid is artificial, a temporizing call. If he had primary heart support, six spades or a good diamond stopper, he would have bid naturally. You have strong three-card spade support and should show it by jumping to four spades. Even if it is a Moysian fit, it will probably be your best game. Meanwhile, this bid tells partner exactly what you have, in case he has a good hand.


♠ A J 7
 A J 9 6 2
♣ A K Q 5
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
3 ♣ Pass 3 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


A V Ramana RaoNovember 9th, 2019 at 10:26 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
South certainly had a bidding problem after North’s flimsy preemptive 3 D bid. Is 3H bid by South forcing or not ? Grateful if you can reflect
And, interestingly , 4 hearts also makes despite the 5-1 fit if South guesses both majors correctly while 5 diamonds is cold anyway.

Iain ClimieNovember 9th, 2019 at 10:32 am

Hi Bobby,

I suppose the choice of 5D, 3H or 3N may depend on how manic the NS style of pre-empts is. NS are NV vs Vul but there has been 1 pass so it makes sense for the pre-empt then to be relatively sound. It is now only 50-50 whether you are fixing East or South by opening (say) QJ9xxx(x) with 3D.

Out of interest, would you prefer 3H (forcing I presume but could get raised on Qx or similar), 3N or 5D or would it be partner dependent?



Bobby WolffNovember 9th, 2019 at 3:05 pm


Yes, and no doubt, while my guess is that most high-level partnerships will play a simple change of suit forcing over an opening three bid, while a few may not.

The issue of whether or not, would turn around whether it is more important to possibly fly to a making part score, picture a more solid major suit, but without enough to anywhere near guarantee a game to a good two suited hand where both a player strongly preferred to make the first suit bid only a method of getting both suits in for partner to choose eg.: s. AKJxxx, AQJxx, x, x. And, of course the responder would always have the ability to chance jumping to game in a major, if in fact it may be playable if his preemptive partner would be kind enough to have one or two key features such as two or three trump or perhaps only the ace of the preemptive suit.

IOW, a small supply of optimism, instead of its opposite.

However today’s hand was the most difficult kind, a very good one, but not lending to either another good suit or to the likelihood of 3NT making. IOW it would be horrible for a player in the first or second seat to open a preempt with a solid suit AKQxxxx, or even perhaps AKJxxxx even while vulnerable, since it well may be partner who then will feel its eventual wrath.

BTW KQJxxxx might be alright since partner while holding Ax, and, of course, the right rest of hand, might rise to the occasion hoping not for QJ10xxxx and out, a very common type holding when NV, but not when V.

Fortunately it will likely not make a major difference, since that problem rarely occurs, and my memory does not recall ever (at least at a crucial moment in an important match).

Thanks for your usual to the point questions which lend themselves to discussion between both partners to be and for general thought.

Bobby WolffNovember 9th, 2019 at 3:38 pm

Hi Iain,

While your questions probe deeper and more specific into choices around today’s subject, the answers are certainly not clear cut, nor easy for any would be excellent partnership to plan.

The only word to suggest is consistency for both partners with any variance of that dependent on the game played (matchpoints or IMPs and rubber bridge).

No doubt the bidder (and your conservatism while following an opening pass by RHO, while second seat, is justifiable as there is now an equal number of both friends or foes (only one of each, still left in the equation).

The choice then should be discussed including both third and fourth seat preempts which would tend to take on a decidedly different type of hand with 4th seat possibly looking like either: s. xx, h. x, d. AKJ10xx, c. KJxx (an opening three diamonds) to perhaps: s. K, h. AKJ10xxx, d. xxx, c. xx (three hearts) where the bidder would like his opening bid to be followed by three passes (except, of course, when that opening finds a few trump with partner and a short suit somewhere else, with at least an ace or at least a couple of kings (with a supporting queen) also hopefully valuable, when a raise to game seems right.

Bridge, even high-level, offers few guarantees and depends on the mature judgment of both partners, a quality I judge more important than even spectacular technical ability. IOW, let others bring home nearly impossible contracts, not even close to being made at the other table(s), in favor of someone who always seems to be aware of almost always making the right smaller decisions while not occasionally taking a hand or two off in order to warm up.

BTW, the above (it seems to me) not very different in any of the other spectacularly popular professional sports covered well in the newspapers and on TV. with carelessness in defeat seemingly, at least to me, much more prevalent than brilliance in victory, although not necessarily covered that way by sports reporters.