Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: E-W

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


South West North East
Pass Pass 1 Pass
1 NT Pass Pass Dbl.
Rdbl. All Pass    

Opening Lead: 9

“Riches are for spending, and spending for honor and good actions. Therefore extraordinary expense must be limited by the worth of the occasion.”

— Francis Bacon

The negative inferences from partner’s silence in the auction are often just as available — if a little more subtle — than his actual bids. Consider this deal from the 1994 World Championships at Albuquerque.


West had been given a good idea of what to lead, but the stakes had been considerably raised. Jimmy Cayne (South) had his work cut out when Lars Blakset obediently led the heart nine against one no-trump , doubled and redoubled. Here the top heart is better than a small-heart lead. As the cards lay, declarer could have ducked the heart four and gained a tempo in some variations.


As it was, Cayne took the heart ace, played the diamond nine, which held the trick, then led another diamond, won by Jens Auken (East), who tried a low spade. To make the hand, Cayne had to produce the nice play of the spade queen, which he did. This would gain if both spade honors were right (almost impossible or East would probably have overcalled one no-trump), but would also gain where, as here, the play of the spade queen blocked the spades, preventing West from getting in a second time in spades. West played a second heart, and Cayne won the heart king and cleared the diamonds. The defense could cash out six tricks, but no more.


By the way, the 2010 World Championships will return to the United States (in Philadelphia) this October. More details are at

ANSWER: Your hand seems too good to pass, so you should reopen. However, while a double is takeout, it is far from clear that you want your partner to bid spades. I would bid three clubs, knowing that my partner will correct clubs to diamonds if he has only three cards in each minor.


South Holds:

Q 8 5
6 2
Q J 8 7 4


South West North East
    1 1
2 2 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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


bruce karlsonMay 12th, 2010 at 11:20 am

I am surprised that East would make a penalty double absent condidence that North had opened on 4, rather than 5 hearts. Was that known?? Further, insofar as N/S are white, the possiblity that E/W have something sufficent to out score down 1 doubled, seems another hurdle. For instance, given the auction, it is easy (too easy?) to put 4 or even 5 spades with West, obviously not the case here.

I am happy to report that I have started doubling “push partials” with good effect (mostly). All success requires is observant defense and a non “results” partner.

Bobby WolffMay 12th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Hi Bruce,

While East probably knew that NS opened 4 card majors (although I certainly could not be sure) all he was doing was competing trying to win that hand. East did get lucky that the opening bidder had only 4 hearts and a minimum hand, but he was more than equally unlucky that South turned up with a blockbuster 1NT response(11 hcps and a 5 card suit to boot). Remember this was 1994 and the forcing NT response to a major was not as popular as it is today. Having said that but knowing Jimmy Cayne (I played on many of his teams in the past) his partnership was probably playing a forcing 1NT response with 5 card majors, but since Jimmy had passed originally and his partner was in 3d seat, everything done (4 card major opening and a 1NT response) was normal.

Believe me or not, I would make an original take out double over the 3d seat 1 heart opening with the East hand. It would not work well on this layout, but to pass instead, runs the risk of being shut out of the bidding, which is not what the partnership wants, if West had a reasonably long suit and a few hcp’s.

I appreciate your good news of making close doubles or as you call it “push partials”, particularly so since you have had mostly positive effect. This strategy should only be done at match points, but not at IMPs or rubber bridge where the penalty for being wrong is exaggerated. Your caveat about observant defense is hopefully habit forming whether or not your partnership doubles the final contract or not.

Also, as you stated, we all will consider ourselves blessed if our respective partners do not result us. A bridge partnership sometimes resembles a marriage, only moreso, since while playing bridge we are always under pressure to make decisions and the law of averages demands us to be wrong at times, preferring TLC, not results, from partner.