Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 16th, 2021


A V Ramana RaoSeptember 30th, 2021 at 10:46 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
But perhaps, South’s bid of two NT with a five card major appears to be a little odd. South would be very comfortable playing four hearts. Your view please

Iain ClimieSeptember 30th, 2021 at 11:16 am


This does seem to be a modern trend but one way round it is to play 5 card stayman where 2N 3C 3D shows an unspecified 4 card major, 3H & 3S show 5 and 3N denies a 4 card or longer major. This of course assumes that North remembers to use the convention! AS you say, 4H is much easier.

Hi Bobby,

If East holds (say) HA10x or West ducks the first heart for that matter, how should play then proceed?



bobbywolffSeptember 30th, 2021 at 2:01 pm


No doubt a heart game is superior to 3NT, but only because of a potential ruff in dummy (short trump hand).

The good news is being in the right game, the not so news is that it is next to impossible to envision when the dummy will provide that opportunity.

An advantage in masking specific distributions
(here, only 19 hcps, but a 5 card suit, which to me is worth more than only 1 point, but that, of course, is on average value, not always jelling with the whole 26 cards held). However, that masking, instead of only a 1 of a suit opening, is an effective long range solid advantage, especially during a rather long bidding experience which (while playing against top ranked honest players) may cause basic double dummy defense, starting with the opening lead, which will take its normal toll against the scientific bidders, perhaps impossible to estimate its disadvantage on a hand to hand basis.

FWIIW, my take is obfuscation, so I too, will open 2NT as often as the cards will allow.

Whether my actions have benefited or not is forever a mystery, but since I started out a few hundred years ago and at a fairly early time, chose camouflage, rather than abject science, is an indication, at least to me, that I would do it again.

However, when and if I was playing against possible evildoing opponents, it would be wise to not expect them to defend jam up. And, of course, jam turns quickly into DAMN. but that subject being talked about, soon becomes very depressing, thus to be avoided.

Finally, my take is that my choice above, is more the common one, especially the ones who prefer being very difficult to play against, rather than follow perfect partnership manners with always being sound and worse, predictable.

bobbywolffSeptember 30th, 2021 at 2:43 pm

Hi Iain,

Your advice to AVRR sounds OK, but whether it is better than other methods becomes someone else’s responsibility and as you so deftly imply, different strokes for different folks often provides memory problems for older players, beginning in their early 30’s or even before then, rendering some of the best intentions on such an usual ho hum subject, a fatal flaw.

Being both at the table and knowing who is sitting at your left when your king holds will play a large factor in my decision. Possibly the best play at IMPs or rubber would be to cash two diamonds, (probably three, depending on the table action) and then lead a 2nd heart toward the queen.

Do not underestimate the number of times an early lead toward the king in hand is done without the queen as its backup, relying on the normal 50% success, and in addition when one’s LHO wrongfully ducks with the ace.

Mentioning this for its value and also to encourage my future opponents (not as many left as I would like) not to pull that fancy ducking play against me.

However I must admit ducking my ace when declarer, early in the play, led from xx in dummy to his Kxx and I ducked my ace while sitting behind him for trick #9 in 3NT. I’ve since wondered how he is getting along in life, although to this day I do not remember seeing him since.

For those skeptics, I did not also have the queen.