Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

More brain, O Lord, more brain!
Or we shall mar
Utterly this fine garden we might

George Meredith

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


At the U.S. National tournament in Philadelphia last March, Sunday’s A/X Swiss Teams saw a match between the Sonsini and van Overbeeke squads. This resulted in an all-Dutch cast at one of the two tables. East-West were Bauke Muller and Simon De Wijs, while North-South were Maarten Schollaardt and Tom van Overbeeke.

In today’s deal, no game looks very promising, but in four spades declarer was lucky to find clubs blocked. On opening lead, De Wijs cashed the club ace-king, then played a diamond. (A trump is no better.) Now declarer pitched his club on dummy’s top hearts, ruffed a heart low in hand, then ruffed a diamond in dummy and ruffed a club high in hand as West pitched a diamond.

Now came a second diamond ruff and a second club ruff high (West underruffing), to reduce to a three-card ending where declarer had the Q-10 of trumps and the diamond queen left. Van Overbeeke led the diamond queen, forcing West to ruff and lead a trump into his tenace to concede the contract.

Perhaps West should have underruffed twice and unblocked the diamond king (in the hope that his partner had the diamond queen), but as the cards lay, the defenders could not get out of their own way. Give East the diamond king, and the double underruff would set the game.

Since three no-trump went down three in the other room, that was a huge swing to the van Overbeeke team.

The simplest option is to raise diamonds via a cue-bid, but I think it is slightly superior to start with a double. Your plan is to raise diamonds to the appropriate level at your next turn, while letting your partner know you have four spades. You do not want to play in spades unless your partner can voluntarily introduce that suit, but if he has four, you want to let him know about the fit.


♠ J 9 7 2
 7 6 4
 K J 8 5
♣ A K
South West North East
  1 ♣ 1 1

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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitApril 6th, 2019 at 9:13 am

You say that “a trump is no better” for W to lead a trick 3. Well, it’s actually worse-S now makes 5.

A.V.Ramana RaoApril 6th, 2019 at 10:14 am

Hi Dear Mt. Wolff
Perhaps west missed a subtle defense to take the contract down . Suppose after cashing just one high club , he shifts to diamond knocking out a vital entry from table and at the same time not allowing declarer to shorten trumps. What can declarer do? If he discards one club on second heart , ruffs heart and ruffs diamond and leads heart, if he discards diamond, west will ruff, cash club and exit with trump and wait for diamond trick. And it does not help south to discard diamond on second heart and finally if south after winning diamond A , cashes A K of heart discarding club and plays a club , west will win and return seven of trumps ( sacrificing trump trick but ensuring two diamond tricks) south can win and ruff a diamond and lead heart but east ruffs and it is the end of the road for south

A.V.Ramana RaoApril 6th, 2019 at 10:35 am

It should read cashes A K of heart, discarding a club, ruffs a heart and plays club instead of cashes A K of heart discarding club and plays a club ( last sentence) and west can return any trump, need not be seven

David WarheitApril 6th, 2019 at 2:40 pm

AVRR: If W shifts to a D at trick 2, S cashes HAK, discarding a C. He then ruffs a H low and ruffs a D. He now ruffs a H high and ruffs another D. At this point S has won 7 tricks. He still has SKQ10. No matter how much the defense may go at this point, S will eventually throw W in, either with a D or a C or by him ruffing a D and thus forcing him to lead up to S’s spade tenace. Making 4.

A.V.Ramana RaoApril 6th, 2019 at 3:57 pm

Hi David
Yes . This line facilitates south to take a second diamond ruff and that ten of spades in south hand is a vital card. Looks like there is no defense as the cards lay . If only east held either diamond K or one of top club honors

bobbywolffApril 6th, 2019 at 4:45 pm

Hi David & AVRR,

While the business of making or breaking this hand (declarer’s and then David’s line winning in the event of a diamond shift by West at trick two, there are other crucial (and instructional discussion topics, even for experts, remaining).

What about the now expected 2 over 1 response being forcing to game? North felt fit to so make his 2 heart bid instead of an unusually awkward forcing 1NT response, downgrading his hand from being a GF.

While I, no doubt, would bid 2 hearts also, when, as did go the bidding (above) reach North’s 3 hearts, or instead South’s 3 spade continuation, both partner’s at that time might (should) feel the likely misfit, but because of the GF already established would not be able to justify then just passing, since, at least theoretically the GF is on with either N or S possibly having a much better high card hand, but relying on the GF to enable exchanging the information necessary to consider slams.

My reason for mentioning this bug in the mix is a “real” one, not just an occasional fluke, with no vaccine available, only worth at least a shrug of shoulders when beginning a game force (today’s North) with a misfit possible.

No real answer but nevertheless necessary for both mature partners to know that a partnership cannot have it both ways, the ability to make use of the 2 over 1 GF and also the advantage of being able to stop below game when a misfit appears to be developing.

Yes, the above is meant to soothe those ruffled feathers between partners when hands like today appear (and they most certainly do). In no way (IMO), should North consider only responding 1NT instead of 2 hearts since to do so, is to invite a destructive element once done, and almost impossible to reconcile, on a very large percentage of hands.

FWIW, as the values for opening the bidding go down (particularly among elite players), the above conundrum will undoubtedly appear more often and to not allow for that beforehand, is to deny “forewarned is to be forearmed”.

Thanks to both AVRR for commenting and then David to come to my and all others rescue, allowing me freedom to go off subject, but hopefully being instructive for newer, but talented players, who are, no doubt, becoming infatuated with our very challenging game.