Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 24th, 2016

I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.

Louisa M. Alcott

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


Russ Samuel gave this column the following interesting deal from the first final session of the Mitchell Open Board-a-Match teams at last year’s Fall Nationals from Denver.

On the auction shown you reach five diamonds doubled as South, and ruff away the spade ace at trick one. How should you proceed?

It seems logical to cash both top diamonds at once, to avoid accidents. When East discards, he must surely be the favorite to hold the rest of the high cards, given his opening bid. You should therefore cross to the club king to ruff a spade, then run the clubs. West cannot benefit by ruffing in, or he would have to lead a heart to your advantage, so he discards a spade on the fourth club.

You have now reached a position where you have only diamonds and hearts left in each hand (two trumps in dummy, one in your hand). It doesn’t work for you to throw West in with a trump for a ruff-sluff, since you are out of trumps in hand. West would exit with a spade, knocking out dummy’s last trump. The opponents will then get a heart, a spade and a diamond for one down.

Instead, in the five-card ending you lead a heart to dummy’s king. East must win and give you a ruff-sluff (you ruff in hand and discard a heart from dummy) or lead a heart for you to run around to the 10. Either way, your second heart loser vanishes.

You have no reason to remove the double; but how much do you need to redouble here? At least another queen I’d say. Best is to pass; you have no reason to want to encourage your partner to take another call unless he has a clear action.


♠ 8 6
 K 10 7
 10 6 5 4
♣ K J 9 4
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.
1 NT 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


slarDecember 8th, 2016 at 3:25 pm

BWTA is a fascinating sequence. North is probably 5-3-3-2, or possibly 5-4 in the majors and not wanting to play in hearts with a bad break. East is showing a balanced 19. West is probably balanced with no controls, maybe a quack or two. If West runs, do you want to double anywhere (or everywhere) they end up?

jim2December 8th, 2016 at 4:44 pm

BWTA is not an actual hand, of course, but it amused me, as well.

For example, consider the layout if East is 1-4-4-4, which is certainly consistent with the bidding.

bobby wolffDecember 8th, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Hi Slar,

Your description may be close, though my choice for East would be short spades, yes a good hand, but not necessarily a balanced 19, but rather either a 1-4-4-4 or 0-5-4-4 (any suit) 16+ who is looking for a fit, but doesn’t expect a penalty pass since South’s NT bid was bid freely and thus needs more respect, before West would be tempted to pass with s. QJ109x, and perhaps another quack or two.

In these days of opening light, e.g s. AKxxx, h. Axx, d. xx, c. xxx perhaps North has stepped up to the plate and blustered forth. If so, and in 1NT doubled (all pass) my bet would be on the defense (with mature handling) to wind up with the majority of tricks.

However, set or not, neither side should become overconfident and sometimes these types of cat and mouse play offer a wonderful exercise of partnership defense vs. declarer shrewdness, necessary to win the battle.

However, perhaps West will have a 5 card suit, or while holding 5 spades will also have another 4 card suit. Then, if his spade holding is not strong, take it out and lesser stress will occur, although no doubt, South should play his partner for what you have mentioned, a random 5-3-3-2 minimum.

My overall guess is that the side with the stronger intermediates (10-9-8s) will emerge with the key trick and from the looks of South’s hand that side will be NS.

bobby wolffDecember 8th, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, of course, and the choice of final action by the last bidder, may even depend on the relative strength and experience of the then opponents.

Finally, if somehow East held, s. Axx, h, Q9xx, d. AKx, c. AQx with all four players being veteran players and then 1NT being passed back around to him, I would almost guarantee that he, depending on his experience, would simply say pass and let his partner lead. My guess is that his side would average winding up with 5 tricks to the declarer’s 8. And 2nd choice would be 4 tricks to the declarer’s 9.