Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dealer: East

Vul: N/S

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


South West North East
      1 NT
Dbl. Rdbl.* 3 Pass
4 All Pass    
*Two suiter with clubs and another suit

Opening Lead:J

“Beyond the obvious facts that you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an asthmatic, I know nothing whatever about you.”

— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Leading a singleton against a suit contract can work well, but sometimes it sets up a lot of tricks for declarer, and even though you get your ruff, it can let home the contract. It is important to think about all the defensive tricks that are needed, not just the ruff.


Cover up the West and South hands here and see if you can work out the best defense for East after West has led the diamond jack against four spades. The lead is obviously a singleton. Why? With North having shown a decent diamond suit in the bidding, West would surely have tried to establish tricks in hearts or clubs rather than lead top of a doubleton diamond.


The jack is covered by the king, ace and five. How do you defend as East?


In one room East cashed the diamond queen (South following) and continued with the eight. However, South ruffed high and soon claimed the remainder of the tricks.


In the other room East was not so optimistic about West being able to overruff. He returned the diamond six immediately, asking for a club. West ruffed and switched obediently to the four of clubs. Declarer won with the ace and played a heart to his king and a second heart. East took the trick and played a trump, and now declarer had to go one down, losing two hearts, the diamond ace and a diamond ruff.


It was important for the defenders to avoid setting up dummy’s diamond suit while there was still an entry to reach it.

ANSWER: Your action here should be dependent on the form of scoring and the vulnerability. Nonvulnerable, I’d be inclined to bid two diamonds, trying to make it hard for my opponents to judge their major-suit fits. If vulnerable, I might risk two diamonds at pairs, but at rubber or teams my partner would expect a better suit for that action. I’d settle for a simple overcall of one diamond.


South Holds:

7 4
K 9 7 4 3 2
A 9 7 2


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


Michael SteinJune 17th, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Dear Mr Wolff:

Say you open a 15-17 1NT and LHO makes a natural two-level overcall which gets passed around back to you.

Is there ever a situation where you would consider doubling at that point?


Bobby WolffJune 18th, 2009 at 9:07 am

Hi Michael,

The answer to your excellent question (in the sense that those type of questions are always pertinent) is SURE.

1. A double in your position at the table (in front of the bidder) is always takeout, wherein if the NT bidder had been behind the bidder e.g. 1NT P P 2H Dbl. it would have been for penalties.

2. Most of the time (perhaps 85%) the 1NT bidder would generally pass in either position, but in the remaining approximate 15% of the time he might double for TO (1NT 2H P P Dbl) with AQxx, xx, KJx, AKxx or with QJxx, Ax, Axxx, AJ10. Examples of penalty doubles would be Ax, KQ10x, KJx, Axxx or xx, AQ109, AKx, Kxxx

3. Holding either KJ10xx, Ax, QJx, AJx or AKQx, xxx, xx, AKxx a bid of 2 spades would be appropriate, while with Ax, xx, AKJxxx, Kxx, assuming the opening bid of 1NT is to your taste, I would now venture 3 diamonds

4. However in all of the above cases where we would have chosen to act (other than the expected pass) we MUST (according to me, but not all other supposed bridge authorities) decline to act and meekly pass if partner has studied before passing at his one or more previous turns. As I am directly saying, some well known bridge players would bid whether their partner had studied or not using the legal argument that since I was going to bid, I am not going to get the worst of it and force myself to pass after partner has studied before passing. Many TD’s and then committee’s will buy that argument and legitimize the positive actions. Instead, please be an actively ethical player and pass, then later and privately, tell partner to please DO NOT study and then pass, unless one is prepared to bar his partner.

Everyone, especially the game itself, comes out ahead with that being done since somehow it starts out being 3 other players to know about the Active Ethics shown, but later by word of mouth those 3 players, or at least the 2 opponents, will likely tell their friends about the glory of what they experienced and mutual respect for the game is then accelerated. To me, that fact alone, is worth more than the matchpoints or IMPs to be gained by bidding.