Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 26th, 2019

Life is a very sad piece of buffoonery, because we have … the need to fool ourselves continuously by the spontaneous creation of a reality … which, from time to time, reveals itself to be vain and illusory.

Luigi Pirandello

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


At the Bermuda Bowl in Shanghai in in 2007, the end of the RoundRobin match between USA1 and Norway featured two good reporting opportunities for the assembled reporters.

In the first, North felt his hand was far too strong to splinter in spades at his first turn, so he jumped in his side suit, then decided to bid slam over the value-showing rebid by his partner.

As you can see, despite the 4-1 trump break, six hearts is cold because the club king is onside. Say West leads a diamond. Declarer can win the ace, draw two rounds of trumps to uncover the split, ruff a diamond and throw two diamonds from dummy on the high spades. Then he finesses the club jack, ruffs another diamond to hand and repeats the club finesse. That produces 12 tricks; two of dummy’s four diamonds are ruffed in South, and two pitched on the winning spades.

However, Tor Helness (West) had his own idea about that. He gave declarer a difficult guess when he led the club five! After much internal cogitation, declarer went up with the club ace, and down went the contract. Only the bad trump break would have defeated him, so it is hard to criticize him unduly.

Although the Norwegian North-South failed to derive the maximum benefit from their teammate’s excellent lead, as they had rested in game, Norway still picked up 11 IMPs.

Curiously, on the very next deal, USA1 had a chance to turn the tables, but this time the opportunity arose in the other room. More tomorrow.

Two hearts. You must force to game, and the most economical way to start getting your values across is with a twoheart reverse. To jump to three clubs would take up too much space and perhaps lose the heart suit. If partner bids three clubs over two hearts, you can raise to four clubs. This gets your shape across — though at the risk of going past three no-trump.


♠ —
 A K Q 5
 A 6 5 4 3
♣ A Q J 7
South West North East
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


jim2January 9th, 2020 at 12:55 pm

I confess that I would have bid 4C as South.

The singleton in my partner’s opening suit and all my HCPs in one s/he did not bid only look good if pard understands we have a club fit.

A V Ramana RaoJanuary 9th, 2020 at 1:35 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Perhaps you may please reflect on how to reach six clubs on this hand which appears to be a better contract ( as Jim2 was insinuating) which can be brought home most of the times unless east unexpectedly turns up with J to four hearts and K to four clubs, but then there is no slam.
And wrt the quote: Yes Life is nothing but an illusion. ( called Maya in Hindu Philosophy) Call it Einstein mentioning “ God does not play dice” or Stephen Hawking mentioning “ God indeed plays dice”. In the end God has the last laugh and we get wiser only afterwards every time. And God definitely is a better Bridge player as he knows all hands

Robert LiptonJanuary 9th, 2020 at 1:56 pm

Jim2, it strikes me that there are many ways to better bid this hand, but that depends, of course, on the details of what 3 Spades means. A sequence like 1D-1H-3S (splinter) might lead to the club slam. Note that the position of the Club King that makes 6H cold means that 7 Clubs is likely icy double dummy — so long as west has four diamonds.


Iain ClimieJanuary 9th, 2020 at 2:31 pm

HI Folks,

Once again, the obsession with 4-4 fits (even good ones) bites good players in the backside. Yes, they are often a good idea but quite often do they misfire, especially with bad suits compared to 3N? Imagine QJx Jxxx A10x KJx and partner opens a strong NT. Of course you can construct hands where 4H is good and 3N off but finding K10xx Qxxx KQx AQ or similar opposite would hardly be a surprise.



bobbywolffJanuary 9th, 2020 at 4:33 pm

Hi Jim2,

First to be said, yes an extremely interesting bridge hand, together with a very deep quote, both (at least to perhaps some) comparing the vicissitudes of both bridge and life.

Second, I wholeheartedly agree with you that South should raise 3 clubs by partner to 4 immediately, therein (at least in most cases) enabling partner to know what is (at that moment in the auction) what suit should be trump.

Strangely, that is exactly what North failed to do, when he chose not to do the same favor for his partner, when he instead declined to immediately show his more than great support for his partner’s suit.

Result, wrong contract, although understandably so with in the aftermath some sympathy for what happened.

Thanks for your “shout out” to a given, almost inviolate, winning strategy at the very highest level in bridge, let partner know ASAP what suit should be trump, even though circumstances sometimes, like life itself, creates unusual roadblocks, difficult to solve. Stay tuned for continuous discussion.

bobbywolffJanuary 9th, 2020 at 5:28 pm


No doubt 6 clubs is a better contract than 6 hearts, if for no other reason, than the possession of the ninth combined trump.

However, with the discussion of that conundrum comes the contradictory subject of while holding AKQx of a suit partner has first bid, that another suit should be trump relates back to who and why bridge lends itself to throwing those dice we are talking about.

While no doubt confusing, it still relates to why it is so crucially important to show excellent trump support immediately, so that principally that partnership can turn their attention to showing both sources of tricks and especially for slam purposes, controls so that the defenders will never be able to take the first two tricks defensively against a small slam unless by a dastardly surprise trump (same of course for a grand slam, but only paying off to the initial trumping by the partner of the opening leader).

However, when two suits (such as here) seem adequate for declaring, it rarely, but sometimes necessary to resort to dice throwing in order to be lucky in choosing the winning suit.

I, for one, loved your discussion of the history of the world’s geniuses, together with God being in control. However, for those whose religious beliefs do not want to compare deities with card players, we might change the cast of characters by just commenting, “Don’t f… around with the falcon”, when even perhaps only Dame Fortune rather than that bird calls the shots.

In any event, I profited by your knowledge.

bobbywolffJanuary 9th, 2020 at 5:48 pm

Hi Robert (not Bob),

First, please pardon my above note, but since I suffer from the exact name change, I will commiserate.

Since one of the prime reasons for the jump response in another suit (3 spades in this case)
is to isolate the eventual trump suit, it is extremely doubtful that such a choice may lead to another suit eventually becoming trump since a later club bid by South will be taken as a control rather than length, but I agree with you that to find a way to secure clubs as trump may and would have made a material difference in the end result.

And, of course, yes, since clubs becomes the right strain on this hand, it could mean that 7 clubs is on, while 6 hearts is likely to go down, (with a club lead) and since that is what happened, all of us can “feel” for the victims.

However, since my motive tends to exonerate the 6 heart contract, I feel conflicted to even begin to congratulate a pair who would instead reach a grand slam in clubs, in spite of winning being its own reward.

MirceaJanuary 9th, 2020 at 6:05 pm

Hi Bobby,

Playing with your favorite partner, who would you bid this hand?

bobbywolffJanuary 9th, 2020 at 6:32 pm

Hi Iain,

I have been recommending for many years the non-use of Stayman when holding any 4-3-3-3 hand opposite a normal 1 or 2NT opening.

The argument against is that partner may have a slightly unbalanced hand (4-4-3-2 or even more so), and matching your 4 card major in number.

Of course true, but there are other, IMO major advantages, of merely just raising NT instead of
going through the Stayman routine.

When Stayman 2C and sometimes 2D (2-way Stayman with 2D GF but 2C not) much information can be gleaned by the defense, which may (and often does) give the defense, both the opening leader and his partner, critical information, allowing them great advantage for 1. choice of opening lead, and 2. as the play develops, counting played suits in addition to knowing what the declarer hand has then already shown in the bidding which too often leads to double dummy defense by the opposition.

IOW it is, so to speak, a slam dunk (at least to me) to lose the relative small disadvantage of not probing, rather than supply the opponents with what often turns out to be the determining factor in the success or not of that hand.

Since I am old enough to sadly remember during World War II, the key phrase from the U.S. Navy, likely the Royal one too, being “loose lips sink ships” .. also, in its own way, applies to bridge.

bobbywolffJanuary 9th, 2020 at 6:49 pm

Hi Mircea,

Here goes:

South North
Pass 1D
1 H 3S (shortness, agreeing H)
4 H (content) 5C (control)
5 D (control) 6H

Sad, but realistic.

bobbywolffJanuary 9th, 2020 at 7:13 pm

Hi everyone still interested,

However, since the bidding has almost forced a club lead (from whatever West had in clubs, except, of course, a void) there is a solid reason to not play him for the dreaded singleton and merely finesse it, likely increasing chances for a make with many combinations of the opponents cards.

I’ll leave it up to the superior analysts on this site (you, and the rest of us, know whom you are) to estimate whether I am right, close to right, close to wrong, or merely wrong.

Obviously I do think it is close, and who the opponents are, their tempo in choice, mannerisms (do not expect a really good player to give it away), but, in truth if I was dean of an advanced bridge school, there would be many questions of this degree in the bridge laboratory. Perhaps by the year 2075 the playing of bridge will be well enough thought to have such schools, that is, if world wide bridge cheating is totally eradicated and history is set straight, two from the heart wishes which are, so very tragically, unlikely to be honored.