Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

O O O That Shakesperehian Rag It’s so elegant So intelligent.

T. S. Eliot

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


One of the lessons we are all taught at our mother’s knee is to retain control of the trump suit. But there are some deals where we go out of our way to surrender trump control. Although these hands may be few and far between, they possess an unmistakable elegance. Let me show you one of them in today’s deal.

In today’s exhibit it might have worked better for South to double three hearts for take-out, when North would have passed it out and led a trump, holding West to seven tricks. But naturally South bid spades and North guessed to raise to game.

Against four spades West led the heart king and shifted to the diamond five. With both diamonds and spades lying so unfavorably you might think declarer would now have his work cut out.

Curiously, though, declarer has a roadmap of the lie of the hearts and can come to 10 tricks without a finesse. He wins the diamond ace, takes a heart ruff, then cashes the spade queen and leads a spade to the ace to take a second heart ruff. Now East is out of hearts, while South is out of trumps. Unperturbed, Declarer crosses to a top club and takes dummy’s remaining top spade, then presses on with clubs.

East might as well ruff in, after which he does best to lead away from his diamond queen. South wins his jack and reverts to clubs to establish his 10th trick one way or another.

Your partner cannot have a single-suited diamond hand or he would have acted at his second turn. You cannot commit to no-trump or you might find yourself off the club suit; but are you supposed to raise diamonds to try to cater for a possible 5-3 spade fit, or jump to five clubs to show shortage and a slam try? I might do that were my heart queen the king, but as it is, I’ll just bid four diamonds.


♠ J 10 8 6 2
 Q 10 6
 Q 9 7 6
♣ 8
South West North East
  Pass 2 ♣ Pass
2 2 Pass Pass
2 ♠ Pass 3 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 ClimieSeptember 27th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Hi Bobby,

Fascinating hand, although I suppose it is a dummy reversal which works whenever East has 4 or 5 spades and 3 hearts, regardless of the other cards. Can I ask your advice on a comedy of errors last night. As it was an informal club game where I was visiting I didn’t kick up a fuss but maybe I should have done.

You’re playing with a decent player who bids to the full (example with 8xxxx x J8xx Jx at game all he heard me open 1C (X) P (2H) 2S (6H!) he bid 6S) but here you are 4th at adverse, pairs. You have Axx AK8x J108x Jx and it goes 1C from LHO Pass 3C (not alerted) P from me P, partner asks about the 3C which LHO can’t remember whether it is inverted but it is on the card. The card shows it is, and partner doubles. Next hand passes, so:

a) What do you bid now?
b) If you bid 3H as I did (I wondered about 4 but he is not the sort of player to pass when he can bid on the first round) and LHO bids 4C, what do you bid when it comes round to you?



Iain ClimieSeptember 27th, 2017 at 11:22 am

Sorry, add a small diamond to the 6S hand.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Hi Iain,

First, it seems clear to me that perhaps you, and you alone, may have (through the years), the facility to write about your real bridge adventures causing both massive positive, but sometimes sadly, gross negative results, but all nevertheless, worth reporting, if for no other reason, than to emphasize the varying and far reaching fun and downright excitement which characterizes your overall bridge experiences
and sets you apart from mere bridge mortals.

Next, on your first example hand I will assume that his 13th card (missing above) was another low spade (his sixth). If so, I can understand his dilemma and even his aggressive support, since his RHO seemed deadly serious when he
leaped to his heart slam, causing me to believe him and, no doubt, fully expecting his own 6 spade action to only go down a measly (one to three tricks), but likely well worth the sacrifice.

However, if that mysterious 13th card was located in another suit, and depending what denomination it was, I very well may think and then choose, differently.

Finally and now up to you after that rousing auction and partner’s unexpected balance of double (after his non-action over your LHO’s 1 club opening bid and RHO’s 3 club response, now, without a reasonable doubt by me, was preemptive and long in clubs as partner figured to then have, at the most, one). My guess s. KQxx, h. QJxx, d. xxxxx c. void or perhaps (at the least) the d. K9xx, c. x.

If so I would chirp 4 hearts in response, and expecting West (at this vulnerability) to then take the 5 club sacrifice against it, down a couple (between 1 and 3).

For what it is worth, I would not condemn an immediate TO double with your hand over that 3 club preempt, not anywhere near safe, but sometimes it becomes just too dangerous to not bid, especially when playing against “big bidders” out after the steal.

It also may warrant a “recorder slip” being filled out against the pair who conveniently forgot (at least one of them) they were playing inverted minors. A sometimes benign way of advantaging themselves but little doubt (at least on this hand) seeking robbery, but your LHO missing his chance to raise to 4 clubs immediately (after your initial pass), merely to greedily attempt to play only a 9 trick contract instead of 10.

A scored up vulnerable game by you (or -500 for them in 5 clubs doubled) should be a well earned result befitting their attempted petty larceny.

Finally, if you only bid 3 hearts at your second opportunity, it would be a technical partnership violation to now push on to 4 hearts, but not to double them (although, and from the above) I would bid 4 hearts after partner’s balance, making their then decision tougher to deal with,

In case you are wondering about this technical word, it is because your partner should not have to worry about you, otherwise he may be more reluctant in the future to balance for fear that his partner may then abuse his stricture to not become a one man decision making person who allows his worthy opponents to push your side around. The above helps explain why I would definitely jump to 4 hearts (on this hand) after partner has balanced.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Hi again Iain,

Crossed in the mail.

Having a 5th diamond, I, certainly see a likelihood of taking the 6 spade save, since RHO’s 6 heart bid seemed very serious and definitely to make, since he is likely to think that it is quite unusual for opponents to consider taking a 6 spade save, with the bidding up to then.

Only a feel, but nevertheless an important determinate in assessing what to do (while playing against very worthwhile opposition or, in this case, almost any pair).

Iain ClimieSeptember 27th, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

I assumed we had the balance of the points when partner re-opened and that he would have around 8-10 points with perhaps 4-4–3-2, 4-4-4-1 or 5-4-3-1 with no decent suit and obviously short clubs when I just bid 3H. If I’d realised 3C was inverted I would have doubled myself but I wasn’t going to upset the applecart at a friendly and not overly strong club where I only occasionally play as a guest and have just started going. As it was the last hand, I did point out that I would have doubled if I’d known 3C was inverted but wouldn’t want give partner a problem if I asked if it were inverted or sound, then passed in the latter case. Anyway, the result.

Partner had xxxx QJ9xx KQ9 x (not at all what I’d expected) and 4H goes one off (possibly undoubled) but dummy’s doubleton diamond and declarer’s singleton heart meant that I turned 40% FOR MINUS 130 into 0% for -510. Spades and clubs were 3-3 and 5-5 respectively. I felt that it was our hand in terms of high cards (true) and that I couldn’t afford not to double, trying for 300 and at least getting +100 in a worst case; +50 wouldn’t be much better than -510. One of those days judgement wise, especially given his willingness to bid the rest of the time.

C’est la vie, but I know what that pair play now. Inverted minor raises are not overly common in ordinary level UK club bridge. Next time look at the convention card (although plenty of pairs there don’t bother). CI take your point on the likelihood of bouncing them into 5C at the vulnerability, though, but thought with 3 likely tricks I only need the one form over there…



Iain ClimieSeptember 27th, 2017 at 5:11 pm

PS In a stronger field or a tournament I’d have the TD over, and arguably should have done here too. Instead I merely mentioned that things might have been different had I done so.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Hi Iain,

Your approach is similar to mine, wherein both of us back off calling the bridge police.

While, life’s logic tells me that neither one of us will change those habits, likely, because we don’t choose nor want the hassle, we both, at least for the next life, are not doing our beautiful game any good, by allowing those illegal antics by all types of players.

Chances are that wrongdoers (however unintentional nor minor the bridge crime appears to be), will not straighten up and fly right for an extended period.

Result, the game will continue to be negatively impacted with unfair tactics (not properly alerting), which will always continue to make it lesser, instead of creating a healthy fear for them to change.

Iain ClimieSeptember 27th, 2017 at 9:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

Point taken. Next time I’ll call the TD especially as it was one of the stonger pairs in the room. The guy didn’t mean to mislead, I’m sure, but then the acution would have gonee 1C P 3C X P 3H P P 4C end which would have been rational.