Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 1st, 2017

He sought the storms; but for a calm unfit, Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit.

John Dryden

S North
None ♠ A K 8 5
 9 5 4
 A Q 6
♣ 6 5 4
West East
♠ Q 10 9
 J 10 8
 10 8
♣ K J 7 3 2
♠ J 4 3 2
 K 7
 J 9 4 3 2
♣ Q 8
♠ 7 6
 A Q 6 3 2
 K 7 5
♣ A 10 9
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


An avoidance play relates to a position where it is important to keep one particular opponent off lead — because they have winners to cash, or can make a killing shift, while the other hand poses no such threat.

Here you play three no-trump rather than four hearts, when North sensibly eschews the 5-3 heart fit. On the lead of the club three, East plays the queen, and you duck. Now East plays a second club; should you win or duck again?

It is best to win; now to find a ninth trick you must set up hearts without letting West in; which means you need the king to be onside. If East has three hearts you can afford to finesse, then play ace and another heart. But what if he has the doubleton king? Then West would win the third heart.

To cater to both chances, cross to dummy and lead a low heart. If East plays the king, duck; if he plays low, finesse, then go back to dummy to repeat the exercise. If he plays low, rise with the ace; if he plays the king, you duck.

Do you see a counter to declarer’s play if he ducks the second club? On the third club East should dramatically discard the heart king. That way, declarer cannot establish hearts without letting West in.

This is why South should win the second club before embarking on the avoidance play. If East turns up with a third club, the suit is splitting 4-3 and the defense cannot take more than three club tricks.

It is a good idea to have a simple agreement. Every pass of a redouble sitting over the trumps is an attempt to play there. One possible exception is a pass of a support double; but I believe in all auctions of the sort shown here, where partner had a chance to make a cheap call and did not do so, then he wants to defend. So pass, and see which player at this table has lost his or her mind.


♠ A K 8 5
 9 5 4
 A Q 6
♣ 6 5 4
South West North East
  1 Pass Pass
Dbl. Rdbl. 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


bobby wolffJuly 15th, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Hi everyone,

The BWTA is incomplete. Where the auction appears to end with South’s reopening double, rather West then redoubles followed by two passes from North and East.

The problem then emphasized is, of course, the meaning of North’s pass. It should be played as good enough hearts and an attempt to penalize the declarer.

While South holding three hearts is a bit much for an usual holding when South does pass, that pass should be played as penalty oriented and thus South should be happy to cooperate and defend.

However, these sequences need to be discussed by a bridge partnership beforehand otherwise nothing short of chaos (plus terrible results) will occur.

Sincere apologies for this unforgivable gaffe.

Iain ClimieJuly 15th, 2017 at 7:36 pm

HI Bobby,

These things happen and I think most readers of this column would be able to work out what had happened and the intention; nonetheless thanks for the clarification and I quite agree with the proposed interpretation of North’s pass.

On the coilumn play hand, this is a good example of how often an obsession with 8 card major fits (esspecially 4-4) can misfire at IMPs. Given a hand like AJx Jxxx Ax Q109x opposite an opening stong NT, I can think of few more likely ways to lose a game swing than to drag out Ssayman instead of bashing 3NT. Of course hands can be constructed to the contrary but it is all too likkely that a 4-1 break plus an outside winner kills 4H with 3NT easy.



bobby wolffJuly 15th, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for your always very kind words, and I also have just been pleasantly informed that the original column hand (2 weeks previous) had the correct bidding sequence, complete with the opening 1 heart bidder doing the redoubling.

And to verify your bridge advice, just yesterday Judy and I arrived at 7 spades down one while I held s. AKxx, h. A, d. AKxx, c. AKQx opposite Judy’s s. Jxxx, h. KQJx, d. Qxx, c. xx. The diamonds were 3-3, making 7NT cold, but even if they were not, there would have been an odds on automatic squeeze available (I hesitate to say 100%, but still very likely) as there are threats in three suits.

However, in spite of these hands occurring, there still is a valid reason for seeking 4-4 fits, normally with lesser assets than the hand shown above, which need to score up 5 trump tricks (via a ruff in both hands) to score up the contract making trick.

Going back to square one is often a normal occurrence when our remarkable game is discussed.

Above all, more thanks for all your many varied and continuous valuable contributions to our site.

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