Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

Everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit.

John Stuart Mill

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

*Spades and a minor

**Maximum with clubs


Safety plays are all well and good, but it pays to know when to use them.

North-South did well to brush aside the strong no-trump opening to reach a perfect-fitting game on this hand from the White House Juniors. South’s two spades promised a minor suit, and North — expecting his trump support, side ace and fitting honor in either minor to be useful — inquired with two no-trump. South had extra shape and all of his honors in his long suits, so he correctly showed a maximum with clubs. That was all North needed to hear.

The heart lead was won in dummy, and declarer saw that, apart from the three top losers in the minors, there was nothing to worry about but the trumps. Needing to avoid a loser with this spade combination, one would usually play them from the top, but when the hand on your right is known to be balanced and strong, the odds are clearly in favor of a finesse. Still, declarer would like to cash one top spade before finessing, in case West has a singleton queen.

Declarer looked deeper into the situation, though, and saw that he could not afford this safety play, for he might not be able to get back to dummy conveniently. East could have the doubleton club ace; if so, he would duck the club queen, take the second round, then tap the South hand and later over-ruff the dummy on the third club.

Judging this club layout to be more likely than a singleton spade queen on his left, declarer ran the spade jack at trick two and scored up his game without a fuss.

Overcall two no-trump. It may not be elegant, but you should strive to make the value bid when you can. Your hand is barely worth this call, but if you pass and partner has 9 to 13 high-card points with three or more spades, he will surely pass, and you can kiss your game bonus goodbye. Should you take this action if your partner is a passed hand? Maybe not!


♠ Q 6 2
 Q 10 8 6
 A K 7 5
♣ A 9
South West North East
      2 ♠

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


jim2November 20th, 2019 at 1:18 pm

On BWTA, what is the smallest change you could make to the given hand to change your answer to “Double”?

Iain ClimieNovember 20th, 2019 at 1:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

Change the SQ to CJ? Maybe even SQ to SJ although partner will bid 3C and you need the agreement that 3D isn’t extras. Lebensohl would help here of course so if he has CQxxxxx and nothing he goes via it to 3C.



bobbywolffNovember 20th, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

Although today’s John Stuart Mills’ practical quote on encouraging taxes is also true, my favorite quote is “We grow too soon old and too late smart”.

In bridge, at least to me, especially the high-level kind, is simply, when faced with a reasonably close choice (today’s BWTA), is always bid, never pass!

Whether 2NT or double is chosen is up to the partnership style (with each player deciding for himself or herself, still not the issue) but bidding one or the other is a necessity, not a much too wimpy pass.

Also, Lebensohl (in use after a TO double), a convention played by many top level partnerships, does, again IMO, have too many disadvantages rather than advantages, but also, that partnership decision on whether or not to play it, is not near the key issue, to which bidding one or the other is far superior rather than to pass.

Jim2, while double in this case is safer than 2NT, mainly because 2NT is more definitive, both to partner (good) but also to the opponents (bad) and if pass would have worked out much better (no doubt a possibility) your partnership may, with good fortune, avoid a disaster.

However, the choice between double and 2NT is very close indeed, with the doubleton club instead of holding at least three of every unbid suit together with four of the unbid major (done) also a worthwhile factor directing itself to choosing double. Another factor directing itself to NT, believe it or not, is, while holding the ace of their suit rather than secondary honors (QJx is perfect for choosing NT), the ace clearly suggests doubling since, especially with the lead now coming through your hand, partner’s possible shortness (singleton or doubleton) is mammoth for a suit contract.

In truth, the normal worry among many, horrible thought of opponents taking the first six tricks while playing NT instead of a suit is, in fact, exaggerated by its horror and lends itself to an emotional rather than a realistic optimism that all will be well which ends well.

Finally, winning at bridge, again IMO, requires an optimistic spirit, not only by one, but also by his or her partner and even more so while playing against peers. NO OFFENSE TO YOUR MALADY.