Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

I despise people who go to the gutter on either the right or the left and hurl rocks at those in the center.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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

*limit raise with four trump


This deal from the second final session of the von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs in Washington last summer was played by Rock Shin Yan. Yan was playing with Yichao Chen, whose jump to three clubs was a Bergen raise, showing four trump and limit-raise values. Strictly speaking it was not really up to him to redouble on an auction of this sort, since he had no obvious extras. However, he wanted to show that he had complete trust in his partner’s declarer play, and Yan rewarded that trust.

The opening lead of the heart six went to the king. Declarer knew that trumps would not be breaking, so it was important not to play on that suit. Instead he followed up by advancing the diamond 10, to the ace, king, and five. East exited with a heart to dummy’s ace and Yan now played the club queen to East’s ace. Yan won the club continuation with the king, ruffed a heart, ruffed a diamond and cashed the club jack.

He had reduced to a five-card ending where he had four trumps and a losing club in hand, while dummy had three trumps and a doubleton diamond. Meanwhile West had his four spades and a small diamond.

At this point South led his low spade from hand and West put in the eight to force the jack. Declarer won in dummy, ruffed a diamond low in hand, and exited with his club, to force West to ruff in with the 10 and lead into declarer’s trump tenace. That resulted in 10 tricks and +880 for declarer.

Although you have only four cards in partner’s suits, I’d prefer (I think) to give preference to hearts, not bid no-trump. It is admittedly tempting to bid three hearts, assuming all your values are pulling more than their weight. I would settle for two hearts, though, expecting partner to move if he has a king more than an opener. If that is not so, game rates to be delicate at best.


♠ J 7 6 5
 A K
 10 9 8 7 2
♣ Q 9
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 ♠ 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieAugust 8th, 2017 at 11:53 am

Hi Bobby,

I think West is entitled to throw rocks at East on today’s hand. Suppose North-South hit 3H for penalties (unlikely, I know) and the defence starts with a trump lead to the AK, then a diamond switch. East might well finesse (maybe he shouldn’t), when South wins and exists with a trump for minus lots (OK maybe not quite 880). West didn’t do anything silly and double 4S, but where did East find the extra bid from?

As an aside, what should East bid to show a take out double of 3S here, or should he just keep quiet as the trumps aren’t breaking and EW are Vulnerable and out-gunned? Left to his own devices, South might go one off or improbably just scramble home despite the bad break. As SJ Simon said at the start of “Why You Lose at Bridge”, do you double a suit slam with 2 Aces, aiming to get another 50 or 100 points if the oppo aren’t mad but risking a redouble and an extra hit otherwise? As an afterthought, and worse, what if your double talks declarer out of a 50% ruffing finesse and lets him try to ruff down one of your aces or play for a squeeze. Ike’s decent and tolerant advice may not apply in such cases, and I hope East apologised before the rock hit home, and that West wasn’t otherwise armed.



jim2August 8th, 2017 at 1:08 pm

I also enjoyed tinkering with 3H doubled!

Perhaps a trump lead is unlikely. If so, maybe South would gamble with the KD. Now what can East do?

Say, s/he tackles trump by leading low towards the dummy. North wins and advances the 10D!

That looks like 2 trump tricks, 2 diamond ruffs, 2 clubs, and dummy can ruff only 1 of the 2 long minor losers. Still, 800 is less than 880.

Bill CubleyAugust 8th, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Good quote from a very good man. Ike and Omar Bradley refuse to join 5,000 officers who resigned in the 1920s when Congress cut their pay. So we win WWII because they did not stray to the extreme.

BTW I beat 1,500 players in the Robot Nationals and still finished way out of the masterpoints. Finished 1,062 which is far below the final spot of 187th OA.

I did score a door prized in Columbia of a bottle of Pinot Noir and chocolate truffles. A director was walking around with it and I said I would take it if no one else wanted it. And she gave it to me!

Bobby WolffAugust 8th, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

Methinks a key factor in recording this as a real life hand, actually happening, begins with understanding where and when it happened.

The final session of an august 6 session pair game at an ACBL Nationals where top players have been battling for three straight days, making tempers on edge, partnerships reeling, and most of all, many in need of top boards in order to make respectable showings.

The above being often commonplace brings out both the red card (double) and even occasionally the blue one (redouble by North). However once North announced a 4 card+ spade fit, it would indeed be very unusual for South with only three hearts to the jack (often cannon fodder for sometimes East’s AKQ, meant as a lead director and of course, partner’s singleton instead of all things, both the Ace and King.

No doubt East had his warpaint on and was hoping that a possible horrific trump break for NS to succeed in his strategy of making a penalty double.

It is also worth noting that his partner did have the trump spots to usually produce two trump tricks and thus accomplish the goal, but stellar play by the declarer (after the information gleaned by the actions taken), foiled that master plan.

Of course, the upshot of East’s aggressive actions (bidding 3 hearts instead of a TO double or in this case perhaps a 3 spade cue bid as a conventional TO) allowed the declarer, Rock Shin Yan, to be written up as a star, since he took the ball and ran with it for +880.

Bobby WolffAugust 8th, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, my American history reminds me that Omar Bradley (supreme commander of the US forces in Europe during WW II) and Dwight Eisenhower combined to not only win that crucial war but then enabled “Ike” (BTW a bridge lover, who later not only became President of our country, but more importantly showed up at the ACBL Nationals when back in the day, they were held in Washington DC.

Congratulations to you on behalf of me and all those competing robots with your respectable finish in the Robot Nationals. Finally, I hope you enjoyed your Pinot Noir generously given to you by the female TD, who appears to have had a crush on you.


Robot Wolff

Iain ClimieAugust 8th, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Hi Bobby,

I used to describe bids like East’s as worthy of a Front Row Lemming (FRL) even though the poor little beasts don’t really jump off cliffs in reality. There again, East may have been in desparate straits with a correspondign need for tops, so thanks for the likely explanation. Oddly enough, I once worked for a company abbreviated to FRL which made equipment for in-flight refuelling, and had to assess & assure the safety of their product. Slightly worrying…

Congrats to Bill though; whenever I try what I think is a winning smile, I get a hard stare back or risk a slap. Not quite sure why.


Bill CubleyAugust 9th, 2017 at 1:11 am


Thanks. The other door prize winners had to have their section table #, and direction called. You are lucky you only get the hard stare. Kibitzed the Women’s Trials many years ago. One woman looked over her RHO with a look I have only seen [well, maybe done it my self] in singles bars or parties. Then she asked, “Do you have implants?” Glad I was not sipping coffee. The offended woman replied after much thought, “No. They’re real and they have never been used.” Tough game even to watch.


Bobby WolffAugust 9th, 2017 at 11:38 am

Hi Iain,

No doubt and likely because of both your life’s experiences and your natural sophistication, you have become adept at throwing deserved insults at errant bridge players, similar to what either Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw or even Oscar Wilde, may have offered.

FRL is a great example of describing a very aggressive player, especially when doubled, whose too often large minus results reflect his tendency.

To be able to vent feelings without everyone and his pet, understanding one’s positive relief by so doing, has to rank as a very underrated pleasure.

Some may just call it a cultural advantage, others may prefer simply not polite, but as long as at least some doubt remains about the meaning, my guess is that it will pass muster or, at least, come close enough.

You indeed, are a wonderful mentor in the art of staying politically correct, although sometimes, to use your above phrase, slightly worrying.

Finally to comment on your perceived rejection, perhaps the hard stare back only is the result of feeling ogled, usually conveying only a pretense of being annoyed, while actually feeling flattered.