Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

All men are liable to error; and most men are, in many points, by passion or interest, under temptation to it.

John Locke

E North
None ♠ A 8 7
 A K 9 6
 K Q 10 8
♣ J 5
West East
♠ K 3 2
 Q 10 7 4 3
 6 4
♣ A 10 2
♠ Q 5
 J 8 5 2
 9 7 5 3
♣ K 9 4
♠ J 10 9 6 4
 A J 2
♣ Q 8 7 6 3
South West North East
2 ♠ * Pass 4 ♠ All pass

*Spades and a minor


East found a simple yet effective defense on this deal from a knockout match. South’s twospade opening was two-suited, showing spades and a minor. North might have angled for the no-trump game, but he simply raised to the suit game instead.

The play began along normal lines. Declarer ruffed the heart lead in hand and ran the spade jack to East’s queen. Seeing little future for three tricks in the side-suits, East focused on promoting his partner’s spade king. The idea would be to force the dummy, and in so doing, preventing declarer from repeating the spade finesse.

There was only one suit in which this could be done: clubs. East needed his partner to have the club ace, and presumably the queen as well, or declarer could just win the third round in hand. However, East saw a way to give his side an extra chance by a timely deception.

By cashing the club king and leading the four to his partner’s ace, he would give declarer an extra losing option. When West continued clubs, South had to decide whether to discard, risking defeat on a ruff when West had started with a doubleton trump king, or to ruff with the spade eight, which loses the contract on this layout.

When declarer fell for the trap and ruffed in, East-West had managed to set an apparently unbeatable contract. Had South begun with 5=0=4=4 shape, he could have saved himself this guess by throwing two clubs on the heart ace-king. As it was, though, he had little room to maneuver.

You should bid two spades and not consider doing more. It is perfectly acceptable to hold a maximum for your bidding now and again. The hand is potentially powerful in support of spades, but it does not have nearly enough to warrant a limit raise, either directly or through a forcing no-trump.


♠ K 3 2
 Q 10 7 4 3
 6 4
♣ A 10 2
South West North East
    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 ClimieJanuary 14th, 2020 at 4:09 pm

HI Bobby,

These weak two suited openers have become very popular recently (Lucas 2s, although there were Tartan 2-bids over here in the mid 1970s to 80s which were similar. One suggested lead is a trump; it doesn’t work today but give North HAQ instead of HAK and it is effective. Do you think it is a reasonably sound idea on auctions like today’s at least in the absence of something more obvious like HQJ10x(x)?

I suspect all the Losing Trick Count enthusiasts will have gone to 3S on BWTA though. How good, bad or indifferent do you think the method is, or is it best used to decide in marginal cases?



Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2020 at 5:13 pm

Hi Iain,

Your post concerns itself with important technical issues regarding both system preferences and evaluation.

With choices of the meanings of opening bids having much to do with frequency of occurrence I prefer simple weak 2 bids (only in the majors) with 2 diamonds reserved for Flannery and while I think the majority of recognizable good players prefer WTB to two suited bids (the drawbacks on 2 suited is that too often, over immediate interference, the minor suit held becomes enough of a mystery to warrant an overall not as good as we thought attitude, after a reasonable time of experience). Also sometimes aggressive players have a bit too wide a range as to strength, which, almost by definition, subtracts from its results, while WTBs tend to sometimes be less than perfect, but at the same time, like chicken soup, usually does not hurt (except, of course, when it does).
However, in regard to choice, there is no harm for an aspiring partnership to experiment for themselves, trying to justly decide the value.

Although, and on any one hand, a trump lead can be deadly and the bad news is that a sizeable number of times it will happen to the leader, since leading a trump first and third instead of 2nd and fourth too often hurts. And, of course, the other disadvantage is preventing a lucky stab of needing to go after immediate defensive tricks instead of waiting and losing the tempo to get them. So. my vote is the opposite of the old chestnut, “when in doubt lead trump” and instead restrict trump leads to only when it looks somewhat obvious to do so.

Regarding the choice between (on the BWTA) a “limit raise” as against only a simple raise my judgment, while not especially the majority view is to shy away from three card limit raises (despite a 5 card major system) and break ties in favor of conservatism (such as above) since with 4 trumps instead and perhaps a queen less, the jump to 3 may have an unseen advantage while holding 4, since it may preempt the opponents out of competing, sometimes a major gain, but one which is much more likely to accrue to a partnership holding 9+ trumps than only 8+.

Yes, this last discussion is marginal and while I have never really gotten into the Losing Trick Count theories, they do exist, however it remains to be seen (and IMO will never be proven either way) just how effective they are. However, playing a different method always provides a crutch for an excuse, a process which all of us use, but disguised each in our own way.