Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: All

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


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 4 All Pass

Opening Lead:5

“Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.”

— Max Ehrmann

Today’s deal from last year’s Mind Sports Games was flat at seven of the eight tables in play in the quarterfinals.


Every contract was four hearts by South, and every West selected the friendly spade lead. That allowed declarer to win the club shift and pitch dummy’s losing club on the spade king. How would you advance? Each declarer now took the losing diamond finesse, which saw dummy’s trumps shortened by a second club. However, declarer could simply run the heart 10, and whether West won this trick or ducked it, declarer could give up one heart trick and retain control.


The play started in identical fashion when the Romanian declarer was taking on the English. However, when declarer took the diamond finesse at trick four, Tom Townsend (East) tried the effect of ducking this smoothly. Declarer continued with his plan of running the heart 10, whereupon David Gold, West, took his heart queen and tapped dummy in clubs.


Declarer now logically enough crossed to hand by drawing a second round of trumps and repeated the diamond finesse. At this point Townsend won his king and played a third club. Declarer could ruff in dummy and cash one diamond to pitch a loser. However, when East ruffed the fourth diamond, declarer could overruff but was left with an unavoidable black-suit loser. Nicely defended, and it is far from clear that declarer did anything wrong.

ANSWER: You were right to pass initially. (You could not double without more cards in the unbid suits, and one no-trump would show more than you have.) But now one no-trump will show your values accurately, suggesting 12-14 points and a desire to compete, with no long suit, and unsuitable for a takeout double of spades.


South Holds:

K J 3
A J 9 6
8 6
A 9 8 5


South West North East
  Pass Pass 1
Pass 1 Pass 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 BeyroutiSeptember 30th, 2009 at 10:04 am

Dear Mr Wolff,

East opened 1 club and South doubled. West responded 1 NT and after two passes South doubled again. He had 14 HCP and meant his second double for take-out. North argued that the second double shows 18+ HCP, which explains why he let the double stand. Who is right? If North is right what action can South take to compete over 1 NT? Thank you for your answers, but here is a related question.

South opened 1 club and after two passes East bid 1 diamond. With 19 HCP and a 4=4=2=3 distribution, South doubled for take-out. North (the same one as before) argued that South cannot/should not double for take-out in such circumstances. If so, what can South do to compete over 1 diamond?

Bobby WolffSeptember 30th, 2009 at 11:14 am

Hi Michael,

Taking your pertinent questions in order, when South doubles again after hearing partner pass West’s 1NT response to his partner’s 1 club opening, South’s second double, although more for takeout than for penalties, should show at least 17+ HCP’s (more than a 1NT opening) plus support for the unbid suits, particularly both majors. If instead, South held a 5-4-4-0 in any combination of suits, he should cue bid 2 clubs, not double again in order to show the distributional qualities of his hand.

It is doubtful that bridge books (at least any that I have read) discuss these types of auctions, since some subjectivity has to enter the picture, sometimes causing strict rules to be violated, but therein lies the beauty and majesty of our game, rather than the inconsistency. Simply put, when partner hears a 2d double over the 1NT response, he should consider converting it to penalties with a poor, but not bereft, balanced hand, but if he hears partner bid opener’s suit it should shreik out to him that partner wants to compete in one of the other suits and is manufacturing a cue bid knowing that from your hand and the bidding you will know what is happening.

In your second example, it is clear that with 19 HCP or even with a point or two less and a reasonable distribution (4-4-2-3 qualifies on your bidding description) he definitely should compete with a double, which, of course, is still for takeout. Other than double, there is no other descriptive action for that hand to take. Pass is too wimpy, 1NT is misdirected, and bidding a major suit on his own, risks missing the partnership’s best strain.

Although fairly basic, your questions are wonderful, and should provide important discussions between would be partners. THANKS FOR WRITING!

PS. Sometimes, for all levels of partnerships to develop successfully, it would be positive to pretend both partners are alone on an island with nothing else to do but improve their bridge partnership. That type of forced concentration benefits both, and good results usually follow.