Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 25th, 2021


A V Ramana RaoJune 8th, 2021 at 11:15 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Nice hand but my query is : to what extent south is justified in opening one NT on 4=4=4=1 hand ? I think this practice was not there earlier and is a recent trend
Grateful if you can opine

Iain ClimieJune 8th, 2021 at 11:27 am

Hi Bobby, AVRR,

I remember a partner of mine trying something similar in the 1980s opening a hand with a singleton SK with 1N (12-14), the next hand intervened with a conventional bid showing hearts and a minor so I competed with 2S with a few values and 5 ropy spades. Opponents missed their chance to penalise us, over-competed and got a poor (pairs) score. One asked me if my partner was allowed to do that and I pointed out I’d hardly be putting our necks on the block if I thought he might have such a holding. There does seem to be a modern trend to try this though and I’ve opened 2N on 4441 hands with a singleton Ace or King despite the risks.

In terms of the South hand, I’d be more likely to open a weak NT than a strong one with that, even though Aces are underrated by the Milton Work count. Playing 4 card majors it is possible to make an exception to the normal rule (that 1H-2C-2D shows 5 hearts) on this specific hand shape but 4441 hands seem to be tricky to handle and often don’t play as well as (say) 5431 shape.



Iain ClimieJune 8th, 2021 at 12:15 pm

I love today’s comment as well. AS one cynic said “Don’t wake (poor) partners up or encourage the to think. If they’ve got 5 cards left in their hand and are on lead, it is at worst 4-1 against that they lead the right card. Get them thinking and there is little to no chance.”


A V Ramana RaoJune 8th, 2021 at 12:30 pm

Hi lain
But you need to give at least eight chances to someone for guessing which day of week it is ! and the problem is some of those palookas play bridge too

Iain ClimieJune 8th, 2021 at 1:24 pm

– like it

bobbywolffJune 8th, 2021 at 1:50 pm

Hi you two bigots,

One important caveat to first learn and then apply: The more palookas one plays against is sure to mean either 1. (preferred) a larger personal bank account, or 2. more scalps on the wall in tournaments.

They have got to live too, and just because they do, all records will indicate the above to your advantage, whether it is falling for your good or sometimes even mediocre, traps.

Me also, and while most of the time, we, good guys (by our own admission), usually don’t have to send transportation for them to appear, we owe it to not embarrassment them beyond the point of bridge playing, since to do so is stupid, beyond belief.

Even a false compliment to them for just following suit seems wise. You get more butterflies with sugar.

Certainly no insults allowed, but even if we fall off the wagon, they might think that we were only practicing our bounce.

Shame on US! BTW, I have nothing against opening any number of NT, even possibly a preemptive (long solid minor) 3NT with a singleton king. First of all, as declarer you usually will have two chances out of three, even if unlucky (no other stop, nor blockage, in sight), to win the trick, if anyone but the partner of the opening leader is dealt the ace.

Not only that advantage, but in order to protect one’s reputation, a singleton king holder can always excuse himself for forgetting that he or she was either playing or not playing transfers and then, of course, do whatever is necessary to bar partner before then responding. (only kidding, that is, well, or of course but and however, I think depending on how fast he does it). ALL LIES ABOVE, at least in this paragraph.

Iain ClimieJune 8th, 2021 at 2:01 pm

Just realists, Bobby. I had something happen at Trick 4 once with a reasonable (not strong) partner whom I knew held a certain card from the early bidding and early play and that playing it would be a disaster – anything else would be better. I summoned up every ounce of concentration willing him not to play it or even hoping he’d shuffle the cards and pick one at random (90% safe) and of course out it came. C’est la vie; I can’t even claim that he picked up anything from my facial expression or body language because his eyesight was very poor (he had a form of tunnel vision develop in the early 80s poor fellow) but maybe the “vibes” led to the disaster.


bobbywolffJune 8th, 2021 at 2:59 pm

Hi Iain,

Sort of like holding 4-4-0-5 distribution, while playing matchpoints and, of course, vulnerable vs. not and having the opponents chirp 1NT on your left and, of course the usual 3NT on your right, all pass. Then having partner lead a diamond, particularly the deuce, while playing the normal 4th best leads.

Having only now seen the first card to be played, could fairly well forecast one’s result
already. Even 25% of the matchpoints could be forecast and thought to be an overbid by most,
at least in that moment in time.

Perhaps even while holding: s. 10xxx, h. 10xxx, d. void, clubs 10xxxx and sitting over the 3NT bidder might call for some kind of action other than pass. However that kind of bravery is unusual.

Iain ClimieJune 8th, 2021 at 4:47 pm

Hi Bobby,

A possible bidding / lead problem for you. You hold xxxx None xxxx 109xxx at favourable and RHO opens 1D you pass, and LHO bids 1H. Partner passes, RHO bids 1N, raised to 3, partner doubles (demanding a heart lead so clearly holding something like KQJ10xxx and an Ace) and RHO redoubles. Would your answer be different at teams and pairs?



bobbywolffJune 8th, 2021 at 5:13 pm

Hi Iain,

My 2nd choice would be to remind partner that my illegal signal earlier showed my heart void, and especially important to NOT overlook before doubling.

My first choice is to suddenly proclaim that I had already played this hand during the last duplicate held at this club and then find a way to mix two hands cards before it was necessary to call the TD.

However, perhaps the most thoughtful defense is to do something untoward, serious enough to warrant a director call and admit to seeing this hand earlier at another table, making playing it now illegal or worse.

However, I would never define what I thought was worse.

All the above would, of course, be front and clear in Stephen Potter’s next book on, of course, Bridgesmanship!

In a pinch and as a last resort, hide a card, eat it, if necessary, and claim holding 14 cards, then when only 12 show up. perhaps a great TD (suggested great because he accepts bribes0 should be asked for specifically to insure the hand is thrown out and thus demand an Ave+ instead of just a plain average.

Then, and most important, discuss what happened to partner after that game has finished and if he didn’t enjoy what happened, vow to never play with him again.

Iain ClimieJune 8th, 2021 at 9:58 pm

Hi Bobby,

As I’m sure you realise, bidding 4H on the void (!) is the least horrendous result making 5 heart tricks, the outside Ace for -800 with a small chance of -500 if the defence mess up and set up a trick outside. The hand opposite had pretty much the hand I described but I enjoyed the frenzied attempts to escape the carnage!