Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 24, 2009

Dealer: East

Vul: N/S

K Q 4 2
A 9 8
10 9 6 2
West East
10 9 7 3 8
K 10 6 5 2 J 7
7 5 J 8 3
8 3 Q J 10 6 5 4 2
A J 6 5
Q 4 3
A K Q 4
9 7


South West North East
Dbl. Pass 4 Pass
4 Pass 5 Pass
5 Pass 5 Pass
6 Pass 6 All pass

Opening Lead: 8

“From each according to his faculties, to each according to his needs; that is what we wish sincerely and energetically.”

— Michael Bakunin

Consider today’s six-spade contract, where, curiously, it is far more important to find the diamonds behaving than to find the trumps splitting.

You win the opening club lead and draw trumps in four rounds, as East pitches three clubs. Next come the three top diamonds. All is well when the suit splits, and West lets go of a heart on both the third and fourth round of the suit. What now?

Consider that at this point in the deal, you have an inferential count of East’s hand: seven clubs, three diamonds and one spade; thus two hearts. On the auction either defender could have the heart king. In practice you should try to follow a line that will succeed against West if he has the heart king since he has five hearts compared to East’s two. Leading to the heart queen only succeeds against king-doubleton in East.

What you must do is to take your life in your hands, cashing your remaining club honor to set up a potential club winner for East, then lead the heart eight from the board, intending to run it to West. That player will win it cheaply and be endplayed, forced to lead away from the heart king at trick 12.

You might reasonably ask what you should do if East covers the heart eight with the jack, as he might do in the diagramed hand. The answer is that you should play West for the 10 by finessing on the way back.

ANSWER: Did you automatically reach for the three-no-trump bid? Consider that if partner has five hearts and four clubs, he will have no outside losers (your winners take care of that), but he may have losers on the third and fourth round of clubs. Your hearts will take care of them, but only if you play in hearts. Bid three hearts, and be prepared to cooperate in any slam venture.


South Holds:

A J 6 5
Q 4 3
A K Q 4
9 7


South West North East
1NT Pass 2 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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Michael BeyroutiMay 8th, 2009 at 10:41 am

Dear Mr Wolff,

can I ask a question not related to the article posted here?

South opened 1 Club (Better Minor, playing 15-17 NT) and North responded 1NT (natural, 6-10 HCP). East intervened 2 Spades. At this point, what would a Double mean

a. by opener

b. by responder after two passes.

Can opener pass with a balanced 14-count and wait (hope) for responder to double with 9-10 points? Shouldn’t responder double to rekindle the auction? Can opener pass, converting the takeout into a penalty double? Or am I all wrong in how to handle this situation? (Someone told me an immediate double by opener is for penalties.) I’d appreciate your opinon on this matter

Bobby WolffMay 8th, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Hi Michael,

Your questions are main stream, e.g. what high-level bridge is all about these days.

1. Partner’s immediate double, behind the 2 spade overcaller, is for penalties signifying a reasonable 4 card spade holding and, at least an intermediate strength holding (possibly 4-3-1-5 better than minimum hand or, 4-3(2)-2(3)-4 better than a strong NT opening) Also the weaker the hand the better the spade holding.

2. Opener should pass with almost any minimum hand (14+ or less, even with 4 spades) and let partner decide whether to act. The 1NT bidder’s 2d bid, if double, is for take out, showing a maximum type NT response, at least 8+ high card points, probably fewer than 4 clubs, hence at least 4 diamonds and likely 3 clubs. Classic would be, Ax, Qxx, Kxxxx, Jxx, or xxx, Axx, QJxx, Kxx. With KQ10, xxx, Jxx, KJxx I would bid 2NT, but with xxx, Ax, Jxxx, KJxx I would choose 3 clubs.

3. A general rule to follow is that reopening doubles by the player in front of an overcaller are almost always for take-out and asking partner to redefine his previous bidding in order for the partnership to seek the best strain at the lowest level.

4. While low level competitive partnership bidding is extremely important at match points, it also is very necessary at IMPs since the 3-6 IMPs swings add up quickly. Keep in mind that in the vast majority of hands it is difficult for the opponents to double you, so your partnership figures to score well being fierce low-level competitors. When you buy what turns out to be a making part score or push the opponents one level higher in order to outbid you, the battle (not necessarily the war) has been won, regardless whether the opponents make their contract or not.

Michael BeyroutiMay 8th, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Wow! Thank you Mr Wolff for the prompt, informative and quite detailed response.