Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 29, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: None

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


South West North East
Pass 1 NT Dbl. 2
2 Pass 4 All Pass

Opening Lead:5

“Those that merely talk and never think.”

— Ben Jonson

In this deal from the 2005 Central American Championships, the opponents’ bidding gave one declarer the clue he needed to bring home his game.


At the unsuccessful declarer’s table, West passed his partner’s opening bid. North doubled, and South stretched to bid two spades, raised to four. West led the heart five to the seven, 10 and king. South drew trumps and exited with a diamond. East played three rounds of the suit, so South ruffed, then cashed the ace and king of clubs. When the queen failed to fall, he got off play with a low club. All would have been well if East had won the trick or if East had started with a six-card heart suit, but West was able to win his club queen and play his second heart through dummy’s ace-jack. South ended up a trick light.


At our featured table the auction was far more revealing. Declarer won the heart lead in hand, drew trumps, and played on diamonds. Again East sensibly gave nothing away by plugging away with diamonds. With East now marked with a minimum of five hearts and four diamonds and having shown up with two spades, he had room for two clubs at most. Since the diamonds had been eliminated, declarer could cash his remaining heart and club winners, then could choose which opponent to endplay. Whether he played a club or a heart, whoever won the next trick would have to offer a ruff and discard, eliminating the fourth loser.

ANSWER: It certainly feels right to lead a club rather than broaching the diamond sequence. I would guess to lead the club nine rather than a small club, just in case partner takes a finesse against me at the first trick, believing I have an honor, thus letting declarer score a singleton queen or king.


South Holds:

Q 6 4
A J 6
Q J 9 4
9 6 3


South West North East
    3 Dbl.
4 Dbl. Pass 4
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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Michael BeyroutiApril 12th, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,

in reference to the BWTA of March 26 which appeared here on April 9th, would South’s Double still be for takeout had East raised to 3H?

Bobby WolffApril 12th, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Hi Michael,

Definitely! In the old days, 20+ years ago, the standard definition of dbls like the BWTA of March 26th, shown on April 9th, were defined as penalties, but even in those years and in the high-level game, there were changes in the air. Based on frequency it was decided by leading theorists of the day that once the opponent’s overcalled and partner raised it would be more likely that the next seat player would want to solicit partner’s opinion on what to do next and so the named double became takeout. I suppose I would submit the following distribution as the so-called perfect hand for that bid: 5 cards in the original bid suit, a singleton in the opponent’s suit, 4 cards in the heretofore unbid suit leaving 3 cards in partner’s original suit. As one can see, it leaves all three of the other suits open for partner to choose. Of course, the doubler should have at least 10+ high card points, but the maximum is not necessarily determined.

Obviously the opening bidder can convert partner’s double to penalties by passing, but that would only be done if he holds good trumps such as KJ10x or better. The only stronger takeout by the responder would then be a cue bid in the opponent’s suit, which would show a possible slam range hand with extreme shortness in the opponent’s suit (singleton or void).