Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 19th, 2014

The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.

B. F. Skinner

North North
Both ♠ A Q J 9
 A 9 3 2
 A 10 9 5
♣ 6
West East
♠ K 10 7 6 5
 Q J 8 7
♣ A 5 4
♠ 8 2
 Q 8 5
♣ J 10 9 8 7 3 2
♠ 4 3
 K J 10 7 6
 K 6 3 2
♣ K Q
South West North East
1 Pass
1 1♠ 3 Pass
4♣ Pass 4 Pass
4 Pass 4♠ Pass
6 All pass    


The White House Junior International is held every spring, attracting players from all around the world. Four years ago almost 150 juniors, including those from as far afield as Australia, Japan and the USA, arrived in Amsterdam for the event. Juniors tend to bid the spots off the cards, so for example the semifinals saw three of the four teams arrive in six hearts. All the declarers were successful, so their card-play proved that their confidence was not misplaced.

The bidding at one table was as shown in the diagram. West led the club ace, then switched to a low spade. Not surprisingly, the spade jack held the lead. How should South try to bring home 12 tricks now? Declarer had to negotiate trumps, but while that would be necessary, it would not be sufficient. South worked out what he needed when he played off the heart ace and took a successful trump finesse. The heart king drew the last defensive trump, then another spade finesse was followed by the spade ace for a diamond discard. Dummy’s remaining heart was overtaken in hand and the last heart cashed, West discarding a diamond and a club. But finally the club king squeezed West in diamonds and spades and the slam came home.

The key to the hand was the trump finesse. For the slam to succeed, West needed to hold at least three diamonds, and so be susceptible to a squeeze — which in turn implied he could be assumed to have short hearts.

While you have some extras, it feels wrong to introduce a major here. The main reason for doing that might be to escape a penalty double — but partner can always rescue himself if necessary, and you might guess badly if you bid a major now. You may get a second chance to come in, should the opponents bid clubs.


♠ A Q J 9
 A 9 3 2
 A 10 9 5
♣ 6
South West North East
1 Pass Pass Dbl.

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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


MirceaOctober 3rd, 2014 at 11:20 am

Hi Bobby,

On the BWTA hand, does South have another bid if East comes in with anything but 2C (followed by two passes)? In that case, a double for take-out looks right but on any other sequence, in light of partner’s initial pass, I would stay quiet with this hand. Am I right?

bobby wolffOctober 3rd, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Hi Mircea,

We can now, in answer to your specific question, answer appropriately by narrowing it down. You either are or you aren’t.

Assuming you meant to say West (not East) responding 2 clubs and having it go pass, pass, yes, then a TO double is called for, providing for partner to hopefully bid a 4+ card major (even with very few HCP’s to which he has already admitted by his original pass). Lacking that feature partner can always return to diamonds if he has 3+ (hopefully 4) and even if partner has no major nor diamond fit, if he sees fit to pass 2 clubs doubled for penalties we should provide him with enough tricks to set them, since he should then have club length and, hoped for, at least a modicum of strength (obviously, East not West figures to have the spade king, making our defensive trick taking possibility substantial).

Continuing to beat this horse, if for example, LHO responds 1 heart followed by 2 passes, I will then venture 1 spade hoping to catch partner with either 4 spades or perhaps belated diamond support among his meager assets.

Feint heart never won fair lady, nor at the bridge table many good results, without, at least some risk. When faced with choices tell the game you love it, by sometimes pushing the envelope in search of a fit.

One rarely gets rich by remaining wimpy, although often staying alive to fight another day, so that if West would have responded 1 spade, followed by 2 passes I would not bid 2 hearts, since the level is raised and no fit is guaranteed, a dangerous combination.

Can one now imagine the fun derived from playing the game we love, using imagination and zeal? Rigid bridge discipline does have its place, but so does some competitive risk.

Aye, that’s the rub in recognizing when, where and how much.

MirceaOctober 3rd, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Hi Bobby,

Sorry for mixing up East with West, it was too early in the morning when I submitted my question.

For the time being my problem is that I tend to be too brave and overbid often and then not be able to come even close to the very nice play the juniors made on today’s column, which is even worse. One area (among many other) that I struggle with, is balancing and rebidding as declarer after the opponents balance, hence my question today.

So I thank you very much for your detailed response.