Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Silence more musical than any song.

Christina Rossetti

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


Today’s deal comes from the Brighton Teams in the UK, from a couple of years ago.

At one of the tables in a team game South opened four hearts, silencing West, so there was no reason for declarer to suppose any opponent was more likely than the other to hold the heart length. After ruffing the second spade at trick two, declarer crossed to a club and led a heart from the dummy, hoping to cater for the possibility of East’s holding the singleton heart ace. Now a vital entry had gone from the dummy; but even so, it was now critical for East-West not to play spades again. When West correctly shifted to clubs, declarer could not avoid losing a further trump trick, and eventually a diamond as well.

In the other room on the sequence shown South ended up in four hearts after West had overcalled in spades. West started with two rounds of spades, the second of which was ruffed by declarer. Not blessed with second sight, declarer led the heart king from hand, won by West’s ace.

West now switched to a club. South won in hand, and cashed the heart queen, finding the bad news. He then cashed the other top club from his hand, crossed to dummy’s club king and ruffed another spade. This was followed by a diamond to dummy’s ace and another spade ruff. Finally declarer exited with a diamond, and waited to score both the heart jack and nine at tricks 12 and 13.

Never be afraid to introduce a major, no matter how weak it is, into an action of this sort. After all partner has promised both majors (admittedly only three-plus cards) when he doubled one club. There will be time to introduce diamonds later if necessary. But note that a double of one heart is penalty not responsive.


♠ 8 5 4 3
 A 8 7 5 4
♣ K 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ Dbl. 1

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


Iain ClimieJanuary 5th, 2016 at 9:14 am

Hi Bobby,

Was South’s play at the first table actually an unsafety play? It does cater for East holding HA singleton but H10xxx is more likely, while a singleton H10 makes no difference. Good defence on the 2nd occasion though; it is all too easy for the defence to doze off and play a safe 3rd spade.



Iain ClimieJanuary 5th, 2016 at 10:54 am

Oops, brain in reverse again. HA10xx is more likely with either defender. Then the play can get interesting if that defender holds off twice; declarer may still be able to bring about a similar position.

I think I’m giving up mornings in 2016!


Jane AJanuary 5th, 2016 at 2:06 pm

What is the meaning of north’s double in the column hand?

Bobby WolffJanuary 5th, 2016 at 4:46 pm

Hi Iain,

Hi Iain,

Breaking it down, the winning play while playing game in hearts is simply the ability to ruff 3 spades in hand in order to cater to the specific 4-1 defensive holding allowing the trump coup to come to fruition.

Although opening the bidding with 4 hearts has much to recommend it, the “loose lips sink ships” famous wartime admonition will cause a competent declarer to take advantage of a spade being continued at trick two.

When one spade was overcalled, the odds on the overcaller having 10xxx in hearts drops totally off the charts as a possible alternative, making the “right” declarer play, especially on this hand and to an observant declarer, close to a “slam dunk”.

What to do about it? Absolutely nothing as, at least IMO, it would be absurd for West to not bid 1 spade over 1 heart, but not, at the other table when 4 hearts was opened, a very dangerous 4 spades (to the tune of at least -800), if he gambled it, over 4 hearts.

Besides the technique of providing for a trump coup just in case, what lesson is to be learned today? Likely, only the experience of understanding how important good judgment really is, in the quiver of the bow and arrow marksman if such was the determination of just how good a declarer can get in his zeal to become the best player he can be.

No wonder, there are not now, nor probably ever will be, what Wolfgang Mozart was to music as a child genius in bridge, merely because of the experience necessary, not just talent, to reach those heights.

And on a more practical subject, please do not give up your mornings in 2016, because otherwise you would have to waste your afternoons instead, for recovering from all the fun you had, the previous night.

Bobby WolffJanuary 5th, 2016 at 4:57 pm

Hi Jane A,

After partner has made a TO double, followed by a new suit bid by the responder to the opening bid, a double then is always for penalty (unless some new convention is in use which I know not of). The reason being (and particularly when LHO has opened a one bid, partner has doubled and RHO then bids a major). In days of yore that bid sometimes was a psychic (likely xx or so) in the hope of conning their opponents into missing their best suit fit (almost always a major suit).

That tradition continues on, making the double for penalties, showing up the usually intended psychic. Who says bridge history doesn’t help in player development?

Jane AJanuary 5th, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Are we talking about the same hand? I was asking about the hand at the top of the page, not BWTA. South opened one heart, west bid one spade and north doubled? If he had one more club it could have been a negative double but with only three clubs. five diamonds and a stiff heart, the double makes little sense to me. I know what the double means in BWTA. I better, after all these years!

TedJanuary 5th, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Hi Bobby,

Along with Jane A, I also wondered about that double from North. Is it simply showing values, is it negative, or something else? If negative, do you agree with it here on a 5,3 pattern?

Also, if East had bid 2S, West may recognize the potential danger of a spade continuation at trick 2. At favorable or neutral vulnerability, would you bid 2S with that hand?


Bobby WolffJanuary 6th, 2016 at 1:50 am

Hi Jane A & Ted,

Yes, I was thinking about the BWTA hand, not the negative double made in the column hand proper.

The answer is that negative doubles are used more loosely than you have thought. The general idea:

1. A hand not suited to maKe a free bid like 2 diamonds (not enough strength).

2. Still a hand which would like to hear from partner and if partner bids 2 clubs then a response by the negative doubler would be a simple 2 diamonds showing 5+ diamonds, but not enough to bid 2 diamonds the first time. It is definitely non-forcing, but still open to correction, if and when partner then decides to bid something: (1) perhaps now a rebid of 2 hearts with six of them, or (2) a rebid of 3 clubs with an original 5-5 in the rounded suits (3) A bid of 2NT with extras (perhaps 3-5-1-4) while holding 15-16. or even (4) a rebid of of 3 diamonds holding: s. Qxxx, h. x, d. QJ109xx, c. KJ. Again the idea of going the negative double route is to limit one’s strength but still show a desire to compete. Of course, the negative doubler would return to hearts while holding 2 of partner’s suit as long as he deems that action to be the more constructive of the choices.

And yes Ted, as partner of the overcaller I would look to immediately raise with honor third in spades and around 5-6 hcps. It is usually better to bid early rather than wait till later since taking bidding room away from the opponents is usually good strategy to employ.

Perhaps we can all understand some of the misconceptions going around certain levels of the bridge world about strict requirements. The idea is not to be rigid, but when a fit is established, some action should be taken and only when the hand appears to be a misfit for our side does conservatism enter.

I apologize for miss reading Jane’s thoughts and did think she was asking about the BWTA.