Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 7th, 2020


Iain ClimieJanuary 21st, 2020 at 9:46 am

HI Bobby,

With regard to BWTA, many players now play Lebensohl after (2H/2S) X (P) 2N asking for 3C with a weak hand so a direct reply of 3C / 3D is stronger. it doesn’t work so well over 2D dbl (although I suppose it is still OK if you’ve got a club response) but do you think the idea is reasonably sound? Obviously a natural 2N reply is lost.

Also, the display today and yesterday has changed to Black & White with a different layout. Has this happened to everyone or just some?



A V Ramana RaoJanuary 21st, 2020 at 10:35 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
In a lighter vein : south should have made the contract if he assumes that both black Dames are in the same hand. Accordingly he strips red suits and plays A K and small club. Now , if east wins. , he is endplayed with south making the slam and if West wins, south going by his conviction, finesses West for spade Q ( and as may be seen south always makes the contract if West holds both queens. He makes seven in fact . Also makes if West has at least one Q and south guesses correctly but playing three rounds of clubs is more than even money)

Iain ClimieJanuary 21st, 2020 at 1:38 pm

Hi again,

At teams the spade to the 8 is clearly indicated; after all even if West has S109x and splits them, East is still on lead. At pairs, this looks for once like a slam everyone will reach so South’s line of play works if either black suit finesse works or spades are 3-3. If West has SQxx 13 tricks roll in easily. Just goes to confirm how twisted pairs scoring is at least unless Butler methods with IMPs gained or lost against average are used.



Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2020 at 3:35 pm

Hi Iain,

In regard to Lebensohl over TO doubles of weak two bids, I am probably in a minority in not approving its use.

My main reason is that perhaps a natural 2NT is the most usual single response to a double of that WTB (IMO) although I have no way to prove it, but guess that it will occur perhaps 15-20% of the time with bidding the unbid major at the lowest possible level a fairly close 2nd. That fact alone tells me not to give it up, since a natural 2NT (7+-10+) with their suit hopefully stopped, is keenly descriptive.

In addition simply add that to, at least to me, the utility of a natural 2NT is just too valuable instead of the hoped for return by changing it to artificial. Further, although playing Lebensohl in that spot does provide a key valuation advantage, there are other problems with that artificiality between selecting suits by the responder to the double such as when holding a 2-4-4-3 or 4-3-3-3 (any) weak hand (not to mention holding 4-3 in diamonds and clubs and making the puppet 3 club response which, of course, is normally selected, in case partner has 5 clubs but perhaps a less than perfect distribution for a TO double, but still one we might all prefer to choose ex. (s. Ax, h. AK10x, d. AQJx c. xxx when 2 spades is opened). I would pass a 3 of a minor response over a 2 spade WTB followed by my double, but what to do, besides bidding 3 clubs if partner responds a Lebensohl 2NT and he has: s. xxxx, h. Qxx, d. Kxx, c. xxx or s. Qxx. h. xx, d. Qxx. c. Jxxxx

If the above is not crystal clear as to disadvantages, blame my description, but to thoroughly go through the disadvantages is more boring than it is instructive.

However, since many top partnerships still play it, possibly with understandings of shoring up the weak spots I need to respect that, but to me, it is like the dutch boy sticking his finger in the breach to stop the flood. Summing up “You pays your money, you takes your choice”!

And definitely yes, Iain, it is a lot more fun, both at the table while playing and, for that matter, in describing a hand like today, where the opponent’s goose is cooked, rather than only hoping for a make at the death.

Thanks for allowing me to join you with these types of discussion, which can be the essence (at least for some) with going all in to get the most out of our unbelievably challenging great game.

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2020 at 3:49 pm


Yes, your line is most effective if either all females like to have a close girl friend, or perhaps queens of a feather flock together,, but if the opposite is true, then, at the very least, especially at bridge, the right percentage line of play, will most likely produce the better result.

And yes, superstitions sometimes work, except, of course, when they don’t. But, all of us need to keep in mind at least some excuse why we make the plays we do, especially when, and if, they are not as successful as we would like.

And lighter vein or not, I, for at least one, always appreciate your views.

Patrick CheuJanuary 21st, 2020 at 4:16 pm

Hi Bobby,At pairs,North held J A986 AKQ963 K6 and pard QT854 KQJ52 752 void.Bidding went: 1D P 1S P-2H P 4H passed out…+2.Please could you advise as to how we might reach 6H? My thought being after 1D 1S 2H 4C/4D being cues,so here 4C and North bids 5H asking South to bid 6H with good hearts.KQxx or KJxx or QJTx..does that tally with yours? Regards~Patrick

Iain ClimieJanuary 21st, 2020 at 6:23 pm

Hi Patrick,

I was about to ask why it’s a good slam with 2 Aces off but then spotted the void; I’ve had one of those days with a sinus infection clearly spreading to my brain! Barring 4-0 breaks in either red suit, it is excellent even with wasted black suit values. I think the 4C splinter is sensible although 4D, 5C then follows and North has to decide how good his partner’s trumps are. Years ago I’d have bid 5C over 2H to show the void and outstanding H support.

I’m playing with Chris Stevens tonight (who you sometimes partner), so you may want to check the Weymouth bridge webs site for the result; we usually have at least one cheerfully over-ambitious attempt at slam ourselves.



Patrick CheuJanuary 21st, 2020 at 7:25 pm

Hi Iain,Thanks for your thoughts on the hand. I do know Chris,please convey my best regards to him.Hope you have a good game for there is never a dull moment playing with Chris…;) Regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2020 at 7:54 pm

Hi Patrick & Iain

Let me add a slightly new slant to our now three way conversation.

While I appreciate your lobby for 4 clubs and understand Iain’s possible 5 club effort, I can easily accept your partner’s 4 heart choice.

After all, although great hearts and an outside void, he is somewhat lacking for values and just because you opened 1 diamond doesn’t always coincide with having all the tops in that suit.

However, the opener did hold the turned out worthless club king, but instead the crucial spade singleton, at least to me showing bridge itself, not any of the three of us, is in control.

However, the law of averages being what it is, would get me to bid 5 diamonds over 4 hearts, suggesting great diamonds in addition, of course, to some slam interest,

Then, responder’s club void jumps out as spectacular, causing me to still be interested in going forward. Then, even if partner only returns to 5 hearts, I would, because of my control in spades (singleton) venture 6 diamonds, but partner with his KQJxx in hearts should, especially at matchpoints, return to 6 hearts. BTW, even if the opener’s rebid of 3 hearts was bid with only Axx in hearts, a rare
possibility, the responder’s heart holding is indeed strong enough to return to that suit should the opener had re-returned to only 6 diamonds.

Although the above does represent different strokes for different folks, the thinking was primarily the same, with the end result being favorable.

And realizing the two of you know each other is new and encouraging to me and proves that great bridge minds may also think alike, as well as us too.

It is a great world wide world all three of us live in, but it also shows how really cozy it can be.

Finally, I’ll take Iain’s advice about checking the Weymouth bridge webs site for the results and look for all of their minus 50s and 100s, depending on the vulnerability.

Down only one sometimes indicates great declaring, but also sadly, somewhat over-optimistic bidding.

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2020 at 8:09 pm

Hi again,

Please forgive my error of saying rebid of 3 hearts instead of only 2 hearts. Warning, I sometimes claim my contract instead of the down 1, I actually go.

Since I do not make many mistakes, claiming less than I make, understand I don’t do that intentionally. However, the above strategy does seems to work out pretty well.

Patrick CheuJanuary 21st, 2020 at 8:16 pm

Hi Bobby, So you are suggesting 1D 1S,2H 4H,5D* 5H,6D* 6H..have I got it right?

Patrick CheuJanuary 21st, 2020 at 8:31 pm

Hi Bobby,I do not believe I have ever met Iain,but only through your web site…here.

Bob LiptonJanuary 21st, 2020 at 9:01 pm

Hmm. I thinknat The table I might win the first trick, draw the opponents’ trump and play the diamonds, ending in hand. Take the spade hook. That fails. I would win the inevitable spade return, and see if they split 3-3. Then I would play out the remaining trumps, to see if East has any problems, throwing a spade from hand unles East holds onto the fourth spade. Thn a club from hand and probably misguess and play the Jack, cursing myself for not trusting the squeeze.

Bob Lipton

The line

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2020 at 11:08 pm

Hi Patrick.

I am suggesting:
North South
1D 1S
2H 4H
5D 6C
6D 6H

Sorry for the confusion.

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2020 at 11:17 pm

Hi Bob,

You are basically playing the hand the way most players would, instead of drawing trump, eliminating the diamonds, ending in hand and lead a small spade to the eight, losing to the nine, but enabling you to claim.

Then celebrate, honoring the “mighty 8 of spades”.

Losing both finesses, plus getting a foul spade break is unlucky, but……..

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2020 at 11:30 pm

Hi again Bob,

However if you were playing matchpoints, perhaps your line is best, since a heart small slam is a normal contract and by finessing the jack of spades, you are a solid favorite to make 12 tricks, in the hopes of making an overtrick, but, and of course, runs the risk of going down in 6, if you now miss guess in the end game.

Is it right to try for seven?…. you tell me. My take is, I do not know, but, at least to me, it makes matchpoints a bastardized game, since insuring one’s contract, especially a slam, should always take priority!

jim2January 22nd, 2020 at 3:34 am

On Patrick Cheu’s hand, I would not make a 4H closeout bid. Pard has reversed, despite my 1S response.

That’s a forcing bid despite what appears to be pard’s belief that we have not yet found a fit. I interpret that to mean a red two-suiter, unfazed by my spade bid.

With my club void, 3-card diamond support, and monster heart fit, I think I would HAVE to bid 4C.

Patrick CheuJanuary 22nd, 2020 at 4:48 am

Hi Bobby,Thanks for your kind help and patience in getting to the gist of this hand.There will be plenty of discussion to be had with pard,is this not why we play this game to have more to talk about!? 🙂

Patrick CheuJanuary 22nd, 2020 at 5:39 am

Hi Jim2,It’s really good to hear from you.I too would bid 4C with that hand but the auction after that….perhaps Bobby could enlighten us on how it might go via the 4C route..

Bobby WolffJanuary 22nd, 2020 at 5:44 am

Hi Jim2,

Perhaps you are right in rebidding stronger than does 4 hearts.

However a jump to 4 hearts in this situation is not a close-out since bidding only 3 hearts e.g:
s. KJxxx, h. Jxxx, d. xx, c. Qx might be construed as not even forcing. While reverses show an intermediate hand they can be bid with: s. AJ, h. A10xx, d, AJ9xxx, c. Q. No doubt while holding 3 small diamonds rather than 3 small clubs is a significant plus, but a fair percentage of the time it becomes an illusion.

However, it can be a partnership agreement that a shortness jump doesn’t promise much more than the plus or minus that bid indicates.
However, and from the old school of mine, to show shortness I like to have some extra values, in this case a diamond honor, even if it is only the queen.

For starters, with that great trump holding it might be better to hold only one or two diamonds so that we will not have a later round loser, but again, lady luck, as always, is the one who matches up the partnership hands. I would open 1 diamond and then bid 2 hearts over 1 spade with, s. AJ h. Axxx, d. QJxxxx, c. A and I would also while holding, s. KQxxx, h. KJxx, d. xx, c. Jx respond 1 spade over 1 diamond, but pass if partner rebid 2 diamonds while at the same time I would raise 1 spade to 2 spades if holding, s. xxx, h. A, d. KQ10xxx, c. Kxx rather than rebid 2 diamonds.

IOW, I believe in trying to find a fit ASAP and if not, choose to pass it out at the lowest level possible.

My judgment, like most everyone else, is based on my own experience and I agree with you that, if possible and after a fit is established, shortness becomes critical, but whether the side values match up right is also a factor to consider and while I would accept a 4 club bid here (if holding the king of spades instead of the queen, potentially a key value), I would worry about just how good are partner’s diamonds, length yes, but overwhelming strength, problematical.

No doubt, if my partner only bid 4 hearts I would certainly bid again, but perhaps others wouldn’t. I did suggest responder to bid 6 clubs as a grand slam try with the void after partner continued, just in case this became a magical fit for all the tricks: s. Axxxx, h. KQJx, d. Jx, c. xx. but with that hand I would not, of course, bid only 4 hearts over 2, but rather 3 hearts if forcing or possibly 3 clubs and then jimp to perhaps 5 hearts next.

Needless to say that bidding involving reverses by the opener sometimes become difficult and are often the weak spots in even the top players bidding system.

Bobby WolffJanuary 22nd, 2020 at 5:59 am

Hi Patrick,

No doubt the overall most important road to bridge success lies with the partnership basically agreeing when to bid natural and when faced with a valuation problem, discussing the factors which influence the optimism or pessimism.

It is important to be consistent, but before that a thorough discussion should be decided before conventions are chosen, discipline enforced, as well as tactical bidding (preempts), when and how often it will occur so as to stay out of each other’s way as much as possible.

From there the more experience gleaned the better the partnership, as well as both partners always coming to play seriously, regardless of the event.

Patrick CheuJanuary 22nd, 2020 at 6:05 am

Hi Bobby,If you bid 3C with your hand of Axxxx KQJx Jx xx and jump to 5H,what are you asking?

Patrick CheuJanuary 22nd, 2020 at 6:13 am

Hi Bobby,Perhaps 1D 1S,2H 4C,4D 5C, 5H(opener has hearts worry),responder bids 6H now..

Bobby WolffJanuary 22nd, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Hi Patrick,

First, while appearing to beat this horse to death, the good which should appear, at least among an aspiring partnership is that, both partners should, no doubt, learn to understand (and thus evaluate) the simple case of why or why not an early raise of three hearts from the original responder (on the hand under discussion), is better played forcing than optional, if only for that partnership to firmly know that hearts are going to be the eventual trump suit, so all bids then forward carry with the implication that they are slam invites with the trump suit already determined.

Yes, it then prevents that partnership from stopping at three hearts, just making, when holding my above example hand of: s. KJxxx, h. Jxxx, d. xx, c. Qx possibly held over partner’s reverse with: s. AJ, h, Axxx, d, QJxxxx, c. A. Yes these two hands feature two jacks of spades, but one can be changed to small without this conversation losing its possible value.

Many partnerships would play a simple raise to the three level as a total force, virtually establishing an 8+ card trump suit before the level is established which could then range from only game to possibly a grand slam.

If so, this caveat needs to be firmly established so that neither partner will flinch about its meaning. Yes, something is sacrificed, not getting too high on some routine hands, but to accept that, in favor of what might be labeled as the common good or rather simply, the lesser of evils.

But please, like all want to be serious good players, because of the code language we use named simply bidding, there are limitations. We must accept them and be prepared to deal with less than perfect landings due to the shortage of language (called bridge bidding) in order to accept the lesser of evils we agree on.

Finally, keep in mind, that exactly because of the above strictures newly named conventions are often invented by imaginative bridge progressives in the attempt to have our cake and eat it too. Sometimes, until these new ideas are rolled out, for everyone to inspect, we haven’t gleaned the experience necessary to yet view their worth, and until then, the jury will be out testing the value as usually against the former possible meaning or meanings those bids had previously meant.

However, good luck to all of us in our journey to make our sometimes complicated but sensational game, the best it can be.

Patrick CheuJanuary 22nd, 2020 at 5:15 pm

Hi Bobby,Your thoughts as usual are much appreciated here and will further our partnership understanding as regards what to look for during slam tries.Thanks yet again for all your help. Best Regards, Patrick

Bobby WolffJanuary 22nd, 2020 at 5:20 pm

Hi Patrick,

Your question(s) about what the bidder is asking, when he either bids or jumps to 5 of a major may have a simple answer, “nothing in particular, but just to evaluate ones hand as well as he can and do you think the combined hands have the controls, source of tricks, and trump suit strength to attempt a percentage favorable, biddable slam. Bridge has not yet found a way to incorporate all of the above correct answers to those above questions, mandating judgment into action.

And, at least IMO, separates the very best players (in their respective partnerships) from the others who are all similarly qualified, about the same, in their technical knowledge.

Methinks the above is the roving fact which the top players do not talk about, while in reality, similar to most other enterprises in life, tend for ALL of of the candidates to usually overrate themselves, since that subject is very subjective and almost impossible to scientifically prove, except to study the results and compare them with how many times he or she has competed against peers and, of course, come out ahead.

Describe the game we play as best one can.

Challenging, difficult, Sometimes very frustrating, and with very tough psychological match-ups, but with great “ego” awards.

However, and in any one tournament, one match, or even one significant hand, lady luck is the only difference. The above is only an overall opinion on the greatest mind game ever invented, which could be a great stepping stone for aspiring young people to simply learn life’s logic in the way which would, in turn, make it perhaps the most important step any person can take in early life as far as being successful in whatever life he or she chooses to lead.

Quote the Raven: “Nevermore” or less!