Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 20th, 2017

Eschew the ordinary, disdain the commonplace. If you have a single-minded need for something, let it be the unusual, the esoteric, the bizarre, the unexpected.

Chuck Jones

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


Today’s deal came from last fall’s Nail Life Master Open Pairs. At many tables, West opened one diamond, and his side got to two spades. If North had passed on his second turn, he would have conceded minus 110 and scored very poorly. When, as here, he doubled, he got his partner into the picture. His side now had the chance to play three clubs or defend against three spades, perhaps doubled. Either way, he should score well, since a spade contract takes no more than eight tricks.

But let’s look at how the play in three clubs should go on the lead of the diamond king. If declarer wins dummy’s ace and plays the club king, followed by a second club, East splits his honors. Declarer must win (or the defense takes the diamond ruff) and cash three hearts ending in hand.

When North leads out the 13th heart, East discards a spade and declarer pitches a diamond. Now dummy must lead a diamond to the jack and king. The defense shifts to a low spade, letting East win his ace and cash the club queen, catching declarer in a very unusual bind. If declarer retains the club nine, then another trump locks him in hand. But if he unblocks the club nine, two more rounds of spades promotes the club six to the setting trick. Isn’t that pretty?

Declarer can avoid the whole nasty mess by ducking at trick one. Once diamonds are established, declarer cannot be kept from cashing dummy’s diamonds after he pitches his own third diamond on the 13th heart.

Auctions of this sort tend to produce tricks for declarer on a cross-ruff. So I would lead a trump, expecting one time in 20 that I would have needed to cash out to beat the game, but that the rest of the time leading a trump would increase the penalty we are likely to collect.


♠ J 8 3
 Q 9 2
 A Q 7 6
♣ 8 4 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 ♠ Dbl. 4 ♠ 5 ♣
Pass Pass Dbl. 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


Bruce karlsonDecember 4th, 2017 at 1:29 pm

As East, I think I would double 3S concerned with larceny. Not exactly on this hand but I think it cannot make on a Spade lead. (Does the double ask for a Spade lead?). The play would normally go Spade Ace, King, force a ruff; declarer leads a trump and we take 5 tricks (I think). I am beginning to practice the principle of doubling partials.. we set two or three and the ops make one. Demands better defense and a partner who buys into the idea. Both can be hard to find.. lol

Bobby WolffDecember 4th, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Hi Bruce,

Yes, when on defense and concerned about the opponents being too bold, or, as you phrase it “concerned about larceny”, in bridge, much more at matchpoints than IMPs (where frequency of gain rather than amount of gain governs) it becomes the percentage move to sometimes make close penalty doubles.

Here, however, after three rounds of spades (and in your comment you meant doubling 3 clubs not 3 spades) all declarer needs to do is ruff the 3rd spade in dummy and then play king and one in clubs, ducking the second club when East splits his Q10. Now he is in control, and when the hearts split he is home for nine tricks and a zero for your efforts.

This deosn’t mean that you, as East, are entirely wrong, since you were merely trying to protect your presumed +110 while playing 2 spades. However your double does give away the location of the clubs and makes life relatively easy for the declarer. Also since the opponents were not vulnerable, even down one is just +100 for your side, losing to +110 making in spades.

IOW the opponents did the right thing in the bidding, which is never a good thing for your side, and trying to protect yourself is often good bridge, but not on this hand, likely losing a couple of matchpoints by your double, but nothing catastrophic.

All you and your partner should do is bid and play as well as possible, improving with experience, and then not force issues, but let them just happen and, on this hand probably just pass three clubs and hope the declarer doesn’t guess the hand well, a choice made easier by your penalty double.

Don’t expect overnight miracles, since they will not happen, but rather make up your mind that you and your chosen partner will rise gradually, with better results, as you improve.

Good luck, and remember slow and sure. Also, FWIW, a penalty double, in no way demands leading the suit you have bid. It still remains a sophisticated choice, only with another caveat (your penalty double, usually tending to conservative) to consider.