Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 4th, 2015

Pray for the repose of his soul. He was so tired.

Baron Corvo

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


For many years the three major US tournaments, the Vanderbilt, Spingold, and Reisinger were used as qualifying events for the US trials, so the fields effectively consisted only of American players. When the trials opened up to everyone, about 20 years ago, foreign players started to come in greater numbers to the US national tournaments.

As the events got stronger (they are basically the equivalent of world championships now) foreign winners started to emerge. But it took until 2008 for a Polish team to win the Vanderbilt, and their performance was even more impressive when you consider that they played throughout as a team of four.

But, of course, when you play every board, you will not get everything right. Krzysztof Martens showed me this deal to indicate how tiredness can get the better of everybody. Four hearts is not a great spot — especially on a spade lead. Martens took his spade ace and played on diamonds by taking the finesse. East ruffed the third round, so Martens overruffed and played a club to the king, which held the trick. Then a heart towards the king left the defenders no chance.

The defenders could and should have prevailed by winning the club ace and under-leading in spades to allow the lead of the fourth diamond, ruffed with the heart ace. That promotes the heart queen to the setting trick. And declarer could and should have countered that by discarding his spade on the third diamond.

When passed for penalties on an auction of this sort, you should run, rather than sit it out. One possibility is to bid one spade, but you have no real certainty this will be much better. One alternative is to redouble, planning to sit for one heart if partner bids it, or to redouble one diamond if that is where he escapes to.


♠ K 9 8 6
 A 5 4
 8 5
♣ A 8 3 2
South West North East
    Pass Pass
1♣ Dbl. Pass 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Shantanu RastogiApril 18th, 2015 at 9:15 am

Hello Mr Wolff

In BWTA if North has 3334 distribution what action would he take over redouble – sitout or bid 2D for South to bid his major ? Since North is a passer redouble may not work so well.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Shantanu RastogiApril 18th, 2015 at 9:29 am

Hello Mr Wolff

Just a few more points:

1. South with 4423 is supposed to bid 1H for pass or correct to 1 S. So redouble promises one major.
2. Over1 C Double if North has 5 card diamond and short clubs he should bid 1D if that is played as non forcing. So 2 D really can be played as bid major suit on redouble.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Shantanu RastogiApril 18th, 2015 at 11:44 am

Hello Mr Wolff

OOps – there is a typo in first comment. 2 D should read as 1 D.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Shantanu RastogiApril 18th, 2015 at 11:47 am

In second comment also – “2 D really played as …” should read “1 D really played as …”

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Bobby WolffApril 18th, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Hi Shantanu,

The running from an ill-fated low level contract doubled contract is much more an art than a science.

It is more likely to happen at the one or two level after a minor or a weak NT (12-14) is opened, one opponent has made a TO double and his partner has passed for penalties.

The accepted practice for run-out which I prefer by the responder when a weak NT is doubled and the responder decides to run from it due to his holding a very poor hand, usually 0-5 HCPs is the following:

1. If holding a balanced hand, for example:
s. Jxxx, h. Jxxx, d. xx, c. Qxx respond with 2 clubs, starting out as a natural runout.

2. Then, if doubled by either nasty opponent for penalty, bid 2 diamonds and if again doubled (as expected) redouble which shows 4 cards in both the above suits (in this case the majors) and demands partner to take a choice of the two above suits.

3. If holding, s. Jx, h. Qxxx, d, J10xx, c. xxx again run to 2 clubs and when doubled then redouble to again show 4 of, this time, each red suit (two immediately above).

4. Will this always work? Heavens No, but at least your poor pair have the best chance to wind up with 8 trumps to work with. And furthermore sometimes, an evil opponent with a 5+ card good suit will not double one of the earlier bids and away then will go the primary problem of that possible doomed partnership.

The same type of run out can be used with today’s BWTA, if the distribution will allow it.

Better yet is to be lucky enough to intimidate those worthy opponents into not daring to double your partnership for penalties by playing well enough to scare them away from it. However the immediate above is dreaming and might happen, and if so, at least the lifeboats may be ready.

If you have any further questions, please ask, with the proviso, not mentioned earlier, that with any 5 card suit, just run to it and hope for the best, even it it means taking one’s lumps.

DO NOT let the opponents of the vulnerable side (not red like the board, but rather you, being susceptible to being doubled and severely set) show externally their profound weakness (by turning pale or otherwise giving away one’s palpable poor hand) but rather maintain a feigned confidence which may, if done right, and on occasion, ward off the evil spirits.

In other words, with the above conditions, good luck, since when the time comes, and it will, your side will need it.

Mircea1April 19th, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

Assuming declarer errs and over-ruffs the diamond trick, how easy is it for top level defenders to find the line indicated?

Is East allowed to take his time to think how to play on the first club trick (whether to win the ace or not) or is that considered to be a hesitation?

Bobby WolffApril 19th, 2015 at 10:40 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Of course, East is allowed to think whether to win the ace of clubs or not on the first club trick and no, a hesitation by itself is not an ethics violation.

Because of the bidding West should be allowed to play his partner for the ace of clubs regardless of the telltale hesitation ending with a duck. Although that could end the discussion of West’s ethical responsibilities it would also seem a “slam dunk” that if declarer had the ace of clubs, together with the long, reasonably strong suit his 4 heart jump indicated that too, would be enough to basically guarantee it is East, not South who possesses the ace of clubs.

However, it should point out to you, how important it is for bridge appeals committees to be excellent bridge players as part of the requirement for being selected to be on one.

And, Ay, there is the rub, which too often is not honored which, in turn, can indeed cause chaos in the end result. There is, at this point, not enough “spending money” available to dictate the ability to have all avenues of administration covered in order to insure an honest and fair ruling.

However, when newbies are selected to a committee, I, when I was chairman, tended to only suggest to them to view this as a learning experience, by asking all questions they felt like, also giving private opinions during discussion periods afterwards, but before the verdict is rendered, but before voting be extra careful to not firmly voice decisions until they were sure he (or she) knew what he was doing.

Yes, at times that process became somewhat sensitive, but in the long run (and mostly with the WBF to which, over time, I chaired hundreds of relatively important committees) it worked out quite well for not only almost always reaching the right decision, but, just as important, not having any backlash either by committee members, but also by appellants and/or the TD who gave the original decision.

As far as I am concerned all committee chairman MUST take a relatively similar course as I did, or else be prepared to face a great deal of dissension, not to mention errant decisions, later.

Also it is extremely necessary for the chairman to have great experience at all times, and be prepared to write it up for both clarity and transparency with all members of the committee, even ones who abstain, accounting to the process by saying how they voted, why, and being accountable for what they thought.

Back at the ranch with your question, I would suspect once I, the declarer overruffed East to then lead the 10 of spades immediately would give me the best chance to get an imperfect defense. Finally and as a last resort, and down to playing the trump, clearly after leading the 9 from dummy and having it go low, I must play the king, hoping to catch the singleton queen as the only way to make the contract assuming I could only lose 1 trump trick and still make the hand.