Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

The moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast, the light
Gleams, and is gone.

Matthew Arnold

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

*Both majors, weak


A few years ago, the Mixed Teams at the European Championship (held in Antalya) was won by an England-Israeli combination. Although they did less well the next time out, even in what was a disappointing performance overall they still had some opportunities to show their class.

At some tables North-South were playing a strong-club system, so North opened one diamond, leading to an eventual contract of five diamonds by North. East led a top spade, (who would not?) and that was the end of the defensive prospects.

But Lilo and Matilda Poplilov bid to five diamonds, with Lilo as South becoming declarer. West, who had opened the bidding to show both majors and had doubled five diamonds, led the club 10, which looked suspiciously like a singleton. If declarer simply plays a diamond, West wins, puts East in with a spade, and a club ruff sinks the contract.

There was a no-cost play, found by Lilo, which gave him the extra chance of West being asleep! Declarer won the club ace, then played ace, king and another heart, discarding his spade four. When West (who had not unblocked his honors) had to win the heart, he could not put his partner in to get the ruff; so the game rolled home. A classic, if flawed example of a Scissors Coup.

Would you, as West, have been alert enough to unblock two of your heart honors in order to let your partner win the third round of the suit?

Your three-club call ought to set up a game-forcing auction (though in some cases, one might play four of a minor as forcing) so you should not pass now. Rather than bid three spades, which might get partner to bid three no-trump with a half-stopper in spades such as a doubleton queen, bid three hearts now. Partner will not raise without four trumps, and if he bids three no-trump, you can pass happily.


♠ 9 6 3
 A K 2
 J 5
♣ K J 7 6 3
South West North East
Pass 1 2♠
3♣ Pass 3 Pass

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


jim2November 12th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

In BWTA, do you plan to pass four hearts?

Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, once partner raises to 4 hearts it is cause for a close and thorny decision.

Partnership system, involving bidding discipline, definitely enters the room and, at least on this hand, is as big as an elephant.

Some partnerships would require the 3 club bidder to double first, announcing the holding of a 4 card major (hearts) in spite of longer clubs which, at least to some, works better than just to bid suits in normal order, according to length.

If so, certainly when South now rebids hearts, he would deny 4, almost certainly just 3 good ones, but looking for less than an 11 trick game contract (either minor but more likely diamonds). If partner held: s. xx, h. QJ10x, d. AKxxxx, c. A, 4 hearts would be excellent by not ruffing in dummy when 3 rounds of spades are originally led.

Of course, the 10 of hearts becomes critical, usually allowing that 10 trick contract to score up with a normal 4-2 break. Since no other game is available that particular imagination required will score a big gain.

Sometimes South holding: s. A, h. 9xxx, Kx, AQ10xxx would eschew his negative double (I would) to bid his much better club suit, both for potential strain purposes, but also to better describe his hand with what is sometimes called picture bidding, attempting to paint a Rembrandt, for even sometimes, an even good slam result.

Perhaps, needless to say, bidding tendencies should be known to each other, and, if so, different types of approaches are OK within a partnership if both know what partner prefers.

I do believe that bidding choices are perhaps the most important single problem in any aspiring (or already there) high-level partnership. Having said that, proper adjustment to each other will overcome the smaller demon of only embracing it.

Overall, I do also believe that expert bidding is similar to a very graceful dance team, arriving at the right ending (on one’s feet in dancing, right contract in bridge) is the goal and while shown grace is what audiences expect of dancers, excellent results are what do it in our great game.

Sorry for not a better disciplined answer which most very good players are interested in for bidding problems, but bridge, certainly allowing for different strokes, just do not always fit any particular hand.

Never forget that the devilish Dame Fortune is in control and there is little we can do about her demanding visualization.

Iain ClimieNovember 12th, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the play hand today, isn’t west being over keen with that double? True, the defence is clear, taking an early trump and putting partner in for a ruff, but who says partner has an entry? That 3S bid could be mischief on (say) KJxxx Kxx x Jxxx or Kxxxx xxx x QJxx, even hoping to push oppo some way but not into slam. What if an opponent with extras redoubles? There again, maybe 3S involved some extra meaning, but it is a risky way to steal 3 IMPs.



Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, no doubt West’s penalty double lacked any real credibility for anything but a shot in the dark.

Also, in the fullness of time, any player or partnership which practices aggressive tactics will, basically demanded by the immutable law of averages, suffer setbacks, some substantial, as in redouble.

The above is only theoretical, but specifically on this hand West’s double had a plan and would have worked if West had used a descriptive term, proper technique, when following suit to this clever declarer’s line of play.

I can say from my heart, that West’s not unblocking his hearts from the get go is indeed weak, not that it is easy to forecast, but, especially when playing in important events and against worthy opponents, keep one’s concentration on the game, to the exclusion of worrying how one looks, what’s for dinner, or whatever other thoughts may enter one’s mind.

Loose lips (in the bidding) sometimes sink ships (and also contracts) lack of proper technique (flexibility in discarding) allows one’s train to be derailed and so it should be, making total concentration absolutely mandatory, unless one enjoys losing.

Since I strayed from your excellent question, I will totally agree with you on the dangers of so doubling, but I do not hate such actions since by doing so, your partnership will get the reputation of not being easy opponents and thus somewhat dangerous (like a poker player who sometimes bluffs) which, in turn, may keep certain opponents from being too aggressive and therefore profiting from such, by not being afraid of an occasional speeding ticket, from their heads up opponents.

Most questions and always ones from you and many of our other good friends on this site present two or more points of view, including this one. As always, thanks to you and Jim2 for what I consider subjects worth pondering.

Rebuttals are always welcome since, especially in bridge, there are unexplored reasons hiding, ready to be let out of their cages.