Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 13th, 2021


Iain ClimieAugust 27th, 2021 at 10:52 am

Hi Bobby,

Credit to East for not doubling although if he’d had the S9 instead of the 6 (say) it would have been more tempting although the result would be the same. Dummy would need the SQ or J for that to work. Having said that, suppose East had 6 spades; now double might see the opponents run to 5D so greed really isn’t so clever.

6D only fails on a spade lead and later ruff given the spade finesse works; if this were teams it would be a very painful way for NS in 6D to find they were plenty of IMPs out instead of in.



jim2August 27th, 2021 at 11:18 am

In BWTA, what would you do if the pointed suits (rather than the majors) were reversed?

A V Ramana RaoAugust 27th, 2021 at 1:12 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Perhaps south should have bid four diamonds indicating long suit. Now, If north bids four spades, south would be glad to pass but equally, north’s double with such a flimsy spade suit may not be in order. South’s three spade is s bit shaky. He knows that partner at the most has a four carded spade .As can be seen, six clubs is cold ( south doesn’t need the spade finesse even as diamonds provide adequate tricks) but virtually impossible to reach. A competent pair might reach six diamonds which goes down only on a spade lead as the cards lay as west happens to hold two diamonds.
And paradoxically, if south is competent enough to score four spades , he must have landed in six diamonds unless his declarer playing skills are better than bidding skills.

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2021 at 2:50 pm

Hi Iain,

The first sentence in the prose says it all, but likely taken out of context, since 3 hearts by West could be the poster child for that preemptive effort. IOW, all who are afraid to so do, should instead be afraid to not do, otherwise, in team play, one’s teammates should rebel to have to face such roadblocks while their adversaries at the other table have free reign (and oodles of bidding room).

Finally a 5-1 trump break is not as likely as a 3-1 diamond break, with the singleton on lead, so the moral could be, “when faced with a lead which might defeat a slam, play it in your short suit with the bad break so that the opponents cannot trump a trump”.

And, of course, apologies for that stupid comment.

Regarding penalty doubles, IMO, when having a pronounced trump stack, but very few outside tricks is not the time to do it, since one’s defense falls off markedly should their wily opponents, after getting doubled, run to safer havens.

Also a good time for irritating teammates to shape up (which, for future success, they vitally need to do) since playing results, rather than understanding what a complicated game, (with all the sometimes close decisions needed) is never easily accepted.

Another way to explain the above might be to say, “Better to remain quiet and thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt”.

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2021 at 3:04 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since I think it more advantageous than most to open the bidding I would open 1 club rather than pass. However if I had a decent 4 card diamond suit (certainly not 4 small) and 4-5 distribution then I would likely distort with diamonds first and then clubs, risking eventually playing in the wrong minor, but since minor suits are usually last choice contracts, the risk, at least IMO, is not as severe as it may seem (sorry for torturing you about TOCM).

2d choice, 1 club, 3rd choice pass, but then a 1NT rebid if my OX responded 1 heart opposite my singleton ace.

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2021 at 3:14 pm


Your post covered many contingencies, all of them possibilities, and perfect to discuss here.

However, at the table and while playing against good competition, choose whatever one thinks best to bid and then fit the remaining auction around that. At least to me the road to success is not so much close choices, but rather entire bidding sequences by both partners being hell bent on matching up consistently with each other.

Doesn’t always work, but in reality, the psychology of blending becomes most important, as well as the combined laughter, rather than stern talk, which should follow failures.

jim2August 27th, 2021 at 3:38 pm

The BWTA point was that an easy 1S rebid was available for many sequences, and that this factor was a heavy one in cases of otherwise marginal openings — I completely agree!

You nicely highlighted the difference in the decision if the hearts and spades were reversed (Pass) — I agree with that, as well.

I offered the reversing of diamonds and spades because it is in between the two other choices, and I tend to agree also with your thoughts if the 4-card diamond suit were better. But, of course, it is not — which is why I found it more interesting.

Here, “we” hold:


If the opponents bid, we can usually pass to show weakness or an absence of a good rebid.

Let us consider what we would do in noncompetitive auctions. The 1S easy rebid over a 1D/1H by partner is not there, nor is the 4-card raise of 1S to 2S.

1N in response to 1H certainly looks okay, as you noted.

Will we raise 1D to 2D? Will we raise 1S to 2S? Or will we rebid 2C?

As long as we are reasonably comfortable with those rebids, then 1C looks less attractive. I confess, though, I would probably open 1C anyway, even with a reduced comfort level. Two aces do that to me.

jim2August 27th, 2021 at 3:40 pm

I lost a phrase. I meant to say:

As long as we are reasonably comfortable with those rebids, then 1C is fine. If not, then 1C looks less attractive.

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2021 at 5:20 pm

Hi Jim2,

Similar to your style, you seem to cover more bases than almost any and every expert, but one most important, at least in my thought, has not emerged,

That aspect has to do with an original pass (with the specific hand or hands in question) as opposed to opening, and what if partner is dealt a poor hand with only a couple or fewer high cards and our LHO opens (usually with a major suit and then eventually becomes declarer after a fit is found in either game or even a part score.

The absence of a one club bid by us, getting the lead, could be the difference between success or failure. I can remember many times wishing I had a chance to help partner direct what figures to be the best chance to take as many tricks as possible, rather than to risk leaving that incredibly difficult task up for grabs.

Sure, there is a downside which deals with also giving the declarer a roadmap, when, of course, that advantage is necessary. but at least in my mind, the positive advantage of mighty help in choosing that right opening lead is what led that famous 1930s English bridge expert, Brown (I think his first name was John, but not sure) to make his famous quote (mentioned, over the years by me, several times) “If an otherwise very average bridge player made the best lead possible every time that he was on lead, he would win every World Bridge Championship”.

Since I believe he is correct, but yes I would also open 1 club with: s. Kx, h. A10x, d. KJx, c. Jxxxx in spite of that, though wishing I was playing a weak 1 NT opening. To then decide not to open it, picture oneself then having to deal with LHO opening a 2 or 3 level pre-empt back to you

Color me stubborn or not practicing what I preach, but one needs to take the bad with the good and maybe we will be defending NT with partner having a very balanced hand.

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2021 at 5:45 pm

Hi still again Jim2,

Yes, at least where bridge is concerned, it is hard to get me to shut up.

My advice is to not shy away from raising partner to two when you hold three of his major suit bid and not a 3-3-3-4 or 3-3-4-3. Sure you easily might have only 7 between you, but, at least to an experience player, that type of 7 card fit usually plays better than expected.

Waiting for 4 cards to support partner’s early one level major suit bid could liken to, wearing a bullet proof vest nowadays when we decide to go outdoors, might on occasion save a life, but not doing so, loses preemptive value and never, or almost, have to play more than a two level contract, since the four card holder will almost never venture forth beyond that level by rebidding his already supported suit, but instead, try another suit or NT even after being supported, relying on his partner to correct with four.

Not “much ado about nothing” but also that small factor also leads to indecision from the sometimes competitive opponents when they in turn hold three of your proposed trump suit and shouldn’t be cock sure his partner will never have more than two.

Small advantage, but in more cases than others may think.

Promise not to give anymore alerts, at least for a few minutes.

Jeff SAugust 27th, 2021 at 8:46 pm

Hi Bobby,

It looks like I am late to the party. I have a question about the alternate-reality bidding path where South bids 4D. How likely is it that N-S will end in 6D as opposed to 5D? West ate up a lot of bidding space and is suggesting he has seven hearts (and neither partner has any reason to doubt him based on their own hands). He could easily have a singleton in a black suit.

After 4D, does North bid 5D or explore for more? What would that look like? And how much would the final resting place depend on the players’ perception of where they stood overall in the tournament? That is, if they were behind, would competent players be aware of the risk, but always go to 6D figuring the odds were in their favor or might they hold back at 5D hoping the other room goes to 6D and fails?

That’s a lot, but 6D looks like a pretty strong favorite to fail as the singleton lead suggests itself so it is a very interesting question to me. Thanks!

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2021 at 10:37 pm

Hi Jeff S,

With reality, very little of what you are concerned is present. The NS players, while contemplating a diamond contract, do not (and should not) be overly concerned with what is happening at the other table while playing a team game.

Also, although West has taken valuable bidding space away from NS, to worry about where a singleton may be (much more likely in diamonds) and should have little influence in the strategy.

In order to take up the game, progress and then even consider intelligent slam bidding and what to look for and discuss later, requires time, thought, an inclination toward numbers, and most of all gleaning a great deal of experience playing.

There are no real child stars just born, but instead, just people who develop a love for the game (IMO, bridge is by far the best mind game ever invented), surpassing chess, since it requires superior “feel” instead of just genius in order to compete with the best.

Both games are very scientific, but indeed “luck’
plays an important issue with bridge, not with chess, but that luck evens out over time (ask any bookmaker) and winners emerge, based on their natural and innate talent.

Your post, while well asked, doesn’t actually apply, or rather better said, shouldn’t, since
there are so many intangibles happening, it becomes nearly impossible to predict anything
close (on most hands, especially in the subject of slams) to how and what is happening at another table on that specific hand.

Therefore, and for the NS partnership, all they can do is try to get across to partner what they have in hand so that together they can arrive at the best contract and then face having to play the hand to best advantage in order to secure the best result possible.

No more, but no less, and no shortcuts work in making it easier, only knowledge gleaned from repetitious playing, especially with the same partner.

Sorry for not making the above simplar, but try as I may, you need to play more and either it will become easier or else possibly you’ll only become a bridge lover and get better, or you’ll decide you just do not have the time or the inclination to pay the price.