Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Rarely, rarely, comest thou, Spirit of Delight!

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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

*Both minors, 11-15


At the world championships held in Rhodes in 1996, this deal came up in the qualifying match between Iceland and Yugoslavia. Matthias Thorvaldsson had a road map printed for him by the defense, warning him of the bad breaks — and the safe route home.

When West opened an artificial two spades to show both minors and 11-15 points, Adelstein Jorgensen could overcall three diamonds. That specifically showed both majors with better spades (a call of three clubs would have shown both majors and better hearts). Thorvaldsson guessed to bid three hearts, and East — knowing his partner had opening values — quite reasonably doubled for penalties. He was a little unlucky to find his partner with a minimum and both opponents with something to spare for their bidding.

After the defense of two top clubs and the diamond ace, West had to decide what to do next. A club, ruffed with the seven and over-ruffed might look best, but declarer’s trump spots are good enough for a cross-ruff now. If East wins and plays a trump back, he allows declarer to ruff out the spades and draw trump.

So at trick four West played a second diamond, and Thorvaldsson ruffed, took the top spades, then cross-ruffed two more spades in hand and two diamonds in dummy. Finally he cashed the heart ace and in the three-card ending he exited with the club jack, throwing dummy’s last spade. East had to ruff his partner’s winner and lead away from his trump tenace at trick twelve, into dummy’s king-jack.

I would once said have bidding two clubs was obvious. I’m not so sure, any more, given how often players double on offshape hands with both majors and short clubs. Since pass here is neutral, not an attempt to play, I will pass and let partner pick a suit. If he selects hearts that is fine by me, if spades I can remove to two clubs, implying no great confidence that this is our best spot.


♠ 9 8
 A 9 8
 7 5 4
♣ J 8 7 5 4
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Rdbl.

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieOctober 5th, 2017 at 11:25 am

Hi Bobby,

A little unlucky or East but 4D is only one of and couldn’t he have doubled 3D on the first round showing a willingness to compete? West, even with a minimum (but good cards) might then have pushed on, although obviously the exact meaning of the 3D double might have ben different – possibly penalty oriented?

If West does play a 3rd club at T4, ruffed and over-ruffed, and east returns a diamond, does declarer cross-ruff or just pick up trumps and cash the now established club suit? In the latter case, isn’t he a trick short, s only two of dummy’s spades get thrown and 3 rounds of trump are needed to deal with West’s holding? Playin a diamond back at T5 also removes the diamond ruff as a later re-entry. I could be missing something, but I think declarer may still have problems here, although a heart to the 9 at T6, SAK and ruff a spade, HA is a try but East still gets a trump promotion.



Bobby WolffOctober 5th, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Hi Iain,

Methinks that in effect to what happens is that after the first four tricks, all won by the defense while defending 3 hearts doubled, is that the hand becomes a dummy reversal, with South the then master trump hand after North ruffs the third club at trick three with the seven, but overruffed with the 10, but the two losing diamonds are then ruffed in dummy with the king and the Jack allowing declarer to finesse East out of his remaining Qxx, in hearts and allowing declarer to discard his three losing spades in dummy on the now extra heart in declarer’s hand and, of course, the two good club tricks remaining with declarer.

Of course, when first I saw this real hand, played in the 1996 WCs in Rhodes, Greece Islands, I wondered how East could double 3 hearts when holding KQJx in a suit partner is known to be long in. It turned out to be a back and forth very close hand, in spite of West having 3 vital defensive tricks for his partner who had doubled.

Of course, in the heat of battle, all players from great down to not there yet, do sometimes get carried away and wind up with too many careless (not to mention, too optimistic) actions, which more often than not result poorly, especially against a competent declarer.

Thanks for making us all think about the play, which, in turn, will tend to help all aspiring excellent players, to get greater grasps on various card combinations, which need to be played carefully.

Iain ClimieOctober 5th, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that and my usual diamond blindness in an odd way. I went through a phase of regularly counting 14 diamonds in the pack, but today switched to 12!



Bobby WolffOctober 5th, 2017 at 2:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Don’t despair! Since on average you are correct, all you need is to make a very slight adjustment.

Also, since you chose Carol Channing’s favorite suit (and best friend), your adjustment might even include romance, but need not tell your beautiful, loving and no doubt, forgiving wife, since it is only a fantasy.

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