Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 10th, 2017

He has gained every point who has mixed practicality with pleasure, by delighting the reader at the same time as instructing him.


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


At a Fort Worth sectional, one of my readers, Dick McLamore was South. When he produced a strong jump shift to North’s one-heart opener(!) he heard North jump to five clubs, suggesting good clubs. So he took a pot at the grand slam, once he found a spade control opposite.

When West doubled, North masochistically passed, but McLamore decided that the double had to be based on a club void, the so-called Lightner double. This asks the hand on lead either to attack dummy’s first-bid suit, or to give his partner a ruff. Accordingly he escaped to seven no-trump.

This was logical reasoning, but wrong in every respect. Admittedly, the complete deal would have come as a complete surprise to just about everybody except North, who had had a bidding box accident at her first turn.

Against seven no-trump McLamore captured the spade king lead with the ace. If diamonds were 3-3, he could see there would be 13 tricks for the taking, but West showed out on the third round. Can you see how to advance the play?

Declarer simply ran the clubs, throwing a spade from dummy on the fifth. He already knew from the bidding and play thus far that West had the spade queen and the hearts guarded, but even if East had held four hearts as well as West, the last club would have successfully squeezed both players.

In that scenario only a heart lead would have broken up the squeeze, and anyone who found that would have my admiration.

My guess would be to lead my second highest club, because with such a bad suit I want my partner to be alive to the idea that he might need to shift to a second suit in order to beat the opponents. If I had two sure entries on the side, I might lead fourth highest here.


♠ Q 3 2
 10 4
 A J 6
♣ 9 7 6 4 3
South West North East
      1 NT
Pass 3 NT All 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Michael BeyroutiApril 24th, 2017 at 12:04 pm

The moral of this story is that West should have never doubled 7H. He is the only one at the table to guess that N-S had a bidding accident. Would North have converted to 7N in the absence of a Double?

Iain ClimieApril 24th, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Hi Michael,

Surely the answer to your question is yes here – if South held AKJxx in hearts (possible) then 7H still has no play at all. West’s double was silly but North will surely run.



Michael BeyroutiApril 24th, 2017 at 12:37 pm

… and he, West, shouldn’t double 7N either!

bobby wolffApril 24th, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Hi Michael,

My correspondent didn’t know whether he would have, without the double, converted 7 hearts to 7NT, but since he didn’t after the double, it is indeed reasonable to consider without the double he would not have either.

This hand, like all dealings in the financial world, proves that the thought to be most dangerous factor for one (or sometimes both) parties to have, and the one which most often sinks that ship, is simply GREED, the one most evident and exemplified by West.

Thanks Michael, simply for pointing that out.

bobby wolffApril 24th, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Hi Iain,

Surely, after the bidding box accident, one would think that North would run, but here he didn’t, even after the double, but South cleverly imagining a club void with the non-opening leader (vs. seven hearts) and ran to what he hoped had a chance for all the tricks and was proven correct chiefly, because of his deft play.

jim2April 24th, 2017 at 4:47 pm

On a heart opening lead, declarer:

– runs clubs, pitching spade from hand,
– runs diamonds ending in hand (if they split AS is the entry)
– runs hearts, pitching spade from board on first discard

The three card ending, with West needing to pitch on third heart

—— N

—– –
—– 8
—– –



—— S

—– 3
—– Q2
—– –
—– –

jim2April 24th, 2017 at 5:38 pm

My last post got scrambled.

At the two-card ending with the lead in the South hand:

– South will have a small spade and a small heart
– North will have AJ of spades

What will West’s two cards be?

jim2April 24th, 2017 at 5:42 pm

The key is to run the clubs and then play three diamonds ending in hand, since the opening heart lead removed that late entry to the closed hand.

At that point, the top hearts squeeze West, and since spades were NOT the opening lead, the AS remains the dummy entry.

Thus, the opening lead simply switches which suit is the squeeze vehicle.

ClarksburgApril 24th, 2017 at 8:34 pm

Unrelated to today’s column.
In the auction 1m X 1M X, what should advancer’s X be showing?

Iain ClimieApril 24th, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Another case of Napoleon’s dictum on generals – I don’t care that much if he’s good, is he lucky? South was and North was in terms of choice of partner. East was rather less so….


bobby wolffApril 25th, 2017 at 12:25 am

Hi Jim2,

Yes, squeezes sometimes take on different forms and the one you suggest winds up as a simple squeeze against West since only he had the major suit guards.

Of course, assuming a heart lead instead of the more likely one, of the king of spades.

Thanks for your versatility.

bobby wolffApril 25th, 2017 at 12:37 am

Hi Clarksburg,

100% penalty, ever since the early days of contract bridge. Reason being that after someone opened the bidding and the next player doubled, then, at least for some number of years, it was fairly common practice for the partner of the opening bidder to psyche 1 of a major while being short in that suit, since it would seem to him that the short major would steal that suit from his competing opponents, but if he bid it first, it may scare the TO doubler’s side from competing in their best suit.

Therefore, the best defense was to make a penalty double of that suit by the partner of the TO doubler and then likely, depending on the level and strength, bid that suit the next round or allow the original TO doubler to bid that suit when next it was his bid.

IOW the defense to that “baby psyche” needed that defense to keep from being intimidated out of a competitive auction to allow those defenders their day “in that auction”.

To this day, perhaps 80 years later, that double has remained penalties, at least to those who have been taught proper fundamentals.

bobby wolffApril 25th, 2017 at 12:56 am

Hi Iain,

Yes, good luck hardly ever hurts, whether it is a game, transaction, or just life itself and Napoleon never picked a bone about admitting it, even if only to save his elbow.

I hope no one was expecting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

jim2April 25th, 2017 at 1:43 am

My point was that the column text implied that a heart lead — by breaking up the first squeeze — was worthy of your admiration because it defeated the contract, but the heart lead would NOT defeat the contract and only change which squeeze was executed.

ClarksburgApril 25th, 2017 at 2:29 am

Thanks Bobby
Supplementary question.
What combination of length / strength in the suit would be required to justify that Double?

bobby wolffApril 25th, 2017 at 4:20 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Not much since its main purpose is to counteract
a possible psyche, which used to occur with regularity so perhaps KJxx or even 4 small hearts with perhaps 9+ HCPs, keeping those conniving opponents from stealing the hand from us.

However, since that psychic doesn’t occur often anymore (at least not where I play or played) not to worry, but just stay aware of that possibility. Obviously if partner has a big hand but perhaps only 2 hearts included, he will suspect that his LHO was legitimate when he bid hearts and thus TO your penalty double.

The above is just a “heads up” which may have stimulated whatever caused you to ask about it, but no doubt, the double of the 1 of a major response by the partner of the opening bidder is for penalties once 2nd chair has made a TO double of 1 of a lower ranking suit by his RHO.

ClarksburgApril 25th, 2017 at 11:36 am

Thanks for the advice and the related history lesson. Appreciated.
Why did I ask?
Well, although I’d perhaps never encountered it, nor given it any thought, a Partner asked about it.
On the ACBL website material on Conventions, as an example of what’s NOT a responsive Double, it says “five of them, or a good four-card suit”.
But, at least one very accomplished Player, and well known current teacher of Intermediates, says “This is a matter for Partnership discussion” and then “My personal preference is responsive in all situations”.

bobby wolffApril 26th, 2017 at 6:51 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

It is pleasing to me that you are, in fact, interested in bridge theory, certainly its application, and almost as important, its history.

To upgrade one’s game it is almost vitally necessary (not true in many cases, but nevertheless worth doing) to understand why, after all these years of hoped for bridge sophistication, to be able to think for oneself the pros and cons of bidding choices.

On such a subject was your last question about 1C, Dbl, 1H, Dbl, forcing me (if indeed I am conscientious) to tell you how important it is to play that double penalty, not responsive.

Likely depending mostly on the level of the participants (not the level reached during the auction). It is the only practical defense to the partner of the opening bidder while holding, s. s. Jxxx, h. xx, d. Qxxxx, c. Qx responding 1 heart (which at one time was commonplace, no doubt, less so now, but still subject to happening among shrewd and experienced opponents, but definitely available.

Of course, if and when, the partner of the TO doubler ventures 2 hearts that obviously should be a good hand, forcing, short in both hearts and clubs and close to being game forcing, with partner only able to pass an invitational raise when next it is that player’s turn to bid. IOWs 11-12 points minimum.

Why is this important to me? Only because I want to give the very best bridge advice to you, while at the same time warning you to beware of other player’s advice who may well be talented and also on the “up” elevator to success, but not familiar with some of the nuances of the game which will be necessary, at some future time, to think logical and not be a surprise when first heard.

I could give other reasons, but enough for now, and hope you understand that I consider my job as mentor as serious enough to not let a theoretical fundamental go virtually unnoticed.

ClarksburgApril 26th, 2017 at 9:13 pm

Thanks again. Most appreciated.
Actually, I did an informal poll at and after yesterday’s game at a few Tables, asking mostly our Club’s stronger Players. All but one have been swept up in “modern” bidding and would not play it.
The one and only exception said he thought it could be played both ways, but that stronger Players would play it as Penalty.
When I, each time, explained that the main point was to “protect”, against being psyched out of a Major fit, one of the supposedly lower tier players, and perhaps least expected, said “Oh yes, I’ve done that psyche” !! So they’re still out there, lurking!!

Judy Kay-WolffApril 26th, 2017 at 9:55 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

I enjoyed your questions and rerorts. Been there, done that! When I began playing exactly sixty years ago, everything was a mystery. Of course, I eventually realized that the game I was playing was NOT bridge. I began socially, then tried duplicates and eventually tournaments; however, it was not until I met my late husband, Norman Kay (who was partnered by Edgar Kaplan, of KS fame) that I began to understand what the game was really about. And, after remarrying in 2003, not only was my happiness restored, but I learned many new ‘treatments’ .. and of greater significance, Bobby explained the reasons, advantages and alternatives for his way of thinking. Even as an old fuddy-duddy, it has helped me to keep my head above water.
Believe me, mentors are a blessing !