Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 9th, 2016

Sometimes, people trying to commit suicide manage it in a manner that leaves them breathless with astonishment.

Salman Rushdie

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


South’s jump rebid promises a balanced distribution and 18-19 HCP. North should not hesitate to carry on to game opposite these values, but his honor location strongly suggests no-trump – played by his partner – will be more sensible than a possible 5-3 spade fit played his way up, on a club or heart lead through the South hand.

When South wins the first club lead, he can count a total of eight tricks. If he tries to set up his ninth winner in spades or hearts, he will have to give up one trick in that suit and may then lose four clubs as well.

The best line of play here is to give up a club and let the opponents their tricks. If they do, a squeeze may develop; and if they fail to take their tricks immediately, they may not get a second chance. And if clubs are 4-3 you can always revert to ducking a spade.

South therefore leads back a club, and allows West to cash out his long suit. Declarer prepares to save spade length in the dummy and heart length in his own hand. If either opponent has the only stopper in both suits, he will be squeezed, as will be the case today.

As the cards lie, it will not do West any good to shift at trick three. Declarer sets up spades, keeping West off lead, and has his contract.

And yes, four spades by North can make after any lead but a club. I leave the details to the reader!

If your partner cannot break the transfer, do you really have enough to try for game? I say no. You would need to have stronger spade spots, or better honor structure than your actual hand. While you might make game facing the right maximum, the odds are heavily against it.


♠ K 9 6 3 2
 6 5 2
 K Q
♣ 8 5 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 NT Pass
2 Pass 2 ♠ 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuJuly 23rd, 2016 at 9:37 pm

Hi Bobby,Another bidding problem,pairs All nv dealer N. East 43 AKQT74 AT83 9-West K95 5 95 AKQJ742. N pass E 1H S Dbl W 2C ~N pass E 3H S pass W 3S~N pass E 3N pass out. What is the best contract here?Nobody got to 6C or 6N..3N by me was not good on a spade lead,making 9 trks. West makes more played by him.Pard did not bid on for fear of a diamond lead..N A862 J982 742 65 and S QJT7 63 KQJ6 T83.He did however consider finessing the ten of hearts if in six..?Would you bid the slam in teams?Your thoughts would be much appreciated. regards~Patrick.

BobliptonJuly 23rd, 2016 at 9:57 pm

Patrick, I think that both of you misbid. While your hand is definitely worth 3H, what is the rush? Given that there are plenty of hands where the correct contract is 6 diamonds, why show him just the seven hearts in your hand? Why not show him the nine red cards by bidding 2 diamonds? HE has promised you a second bid? Perhaps he will have four diamonds.

In a similar vein, partner has a hand for which the correct call is 3 Clubs, showing slam interest.

As it is, with a hand likely to produce eight tricks opposite a singleton heart. Surely you are worth a raise to 4 NT after partner’s 3NT.


Patrick CheuJuly 23rd, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Hi Boblipton, All that you say has great validity,my 3H bid was meant to show 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 p/tricks..

bobbywolffJuly 23rd, 2016 at 11:15 pm

Hi Patrick & Bob,

Even though South distorted the bidding with his TO double, there is no law keeping him from it, although at least an ace short of having his values.

At any rate and at your table I suggest:

North East South West
Pass 1 Heart Double Redouble*
1 Spade 3 Hearts Pass 4 Clubs
Pass 4 Diamonds Pass 4 NT
Pass 5 Hearts Pass 6 Clubs
All Pass

West should want to be declarer, trying to protect his king of spades (although the bidding doesn’t seem demanding of it, but in
reality it was necessary.

If North then gets off to a diamond lead (all other suits allow an easy make) then up with the ace and six top cllubs run by declarer. Only then can he make the judgment that the ace of spades may be off side and then, of course, a heart finesse is probably called for, but realistically the declarer might (should) probably play hearts from the top relying on the ace of spades to be in the South hand, down 1.

A strange combination of circumstances which, at least to me are about 50 to 1 against North having the ace of spades and of course, not leading it. The overall bidding belongs in Robert Ripley’s long ago column, “Believe it or not”!

Lessons to be learned: 1. *2 clubs is NF after South intervenes with his double so that bid should not be considered and redouble, as awkward as it seems, becomes the right bid du jour.. 2. Since East rebid 3 hearts not 2 (ostensibly from West’s hand with no club fit, he figures to have at least 2 aces but if in fact he has only 1 then we have to bite the bullet and sign off at 5 hearts. Of course if some other more modern ace asking is available which keeps the bidding lower and thus enabling West to sign off at 5 clubs while missing two aces then by all means, bid what it takes to do that.

All together a hand from the depths of despair to reach almost a laydown slam and then possibly go set with fairly normal play.

BTW, after South comes in the bidding and the bidding goes as I suggest the first round, I heartily agree with a 3 hearts rebid instead of 2 diamonds since it is never too early to suggest to partner that the opener has a good hand and very much heart oriented, rather than to rebid a non-descript suit not necessary IMO to be shown.

Patrick, are you sure you are not related to Jim2 or have suddenly contracted TOCM TM on your own?

To Bob, the last paragraph may not be understood, but Jim2 has a disease called the theory of card migration (TOCM) which always distorts the distribution to its most unfavorable holding. BTW, if Jim2 would have taken the heart finesse while in 6 clubs, and after a diamond lead, South would have produced the singleton jack.

jim2July 24th, 2016 at 2:29 am

Preach it, Brother Wolff!


Patrick CheuJuly 24th, 2016 at 9:42 am

Hi Bobby,It has been a wonderful learning curve here,hard at times but rewarding in every sense of the word and many thanks to you and our fellow contributors,especially Iain and Jim2.I was East,if West,my optimism will propel us into 6C,rightly or wrongly..Many thanks again for your succinct thoughts and humour, please No TOCM!Looking forward to the next hand and more slams!Best Regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffJuly 24th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Hi Patrick,

Yes, becoming a winning bridge player for all seasons sometimes involves itself with being a psychologist when, as above, South threw in that funny looking TO double having nowhere near the strength nor the distribution to so do.

Because of mini-psyches like that, sometimes attempted high-level bridge lands on rocky grounds, where only accurately guessing what might be happening, will lead to success.

Here West has to distort his description by redoubling (because of the intervention), instead of a GF to 2 clubs which would, of course make the auction to 6 clubs much smoother and then might elicit the lead of the ace of spades from North, which basically guarantees the contract.

However, while in the trenches battling away, some resourceful thinking is necessary and nothing is guaranteed (not that it ever really is).

Without trying to be condemning that kind of TO double reminds me in the insect world of a cockroach. They are known for almost never doing any good for themselves, but rather only talented for raining on other people’s parade.

In any event, if a bridge player’ is blessed with a long life of enjoying good bridge, almost every type of difficulty will occur and how he or she responds will likely be his or her destiny.

It is indeed my pleasure to get to know you and although we probably will never meet FTF,
all of your posts have brought me great joy.

Thanks for that, and let’s keep it going.

Many cheers!

slarJuly 25th, 2016 at 4:14 am

I’m seeing all kinds of psychotic takeout doubles. I got fixed yesterday after opening 1S. Doubler had Kxx/JTx/QTx/AKxx and landed safely in 3C. Partner didn’t hit it and we couldn’t find the 7 tricks on defense we needed to get any matchpoints. Bah!

Even worse was during my ill-fated GNT adventure when we brought back a -380. The auction went p(p)1C(x);XX(p)p(1NT);X and doubler had a 14-count with 3=3=2=5 distribution. I played the guy to have his bid and completely blew the defense, letting declarer run the clubs to make overtricks. That hand went a long way to our miserable finish in the qualifier which meant we got stuck playing the eventual winners in the opening round. We were the only team to give them a competitive match. It was the most exciting match I’ve ever played in and would have been a worthy final.

Anyway, beware of crazy takeout doubles, especially in high-intermediate levels and have those red and blue cards ready.

bobbywolffJuly 25th, 2016 at 6:54 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, moronic TO doubles sometimes work, but some danger in discussing them might revolve itself in the difference two players may judge.

For example, if my RHO opened either 1C, 1D, or 1H I, while holding s. Kxx, h. J10x, d. Q10x, c. AKxx, and regardless of vulnerability would offer a TO dbl. However if my RHO instead opened 1 spade I would probably not dbl. if I was vulnerable, but would if I was not. And I would be very close to also dbl. when vulnerable against some timid looking opponents.

I am not saying that everyone agrees with me, since they do not, but I am just saying that my opinion is to enter as many auctions, rather than pass, as a better strategy. To each his own.