Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: All


J 8 7

A K J 4

A Q 10 9

A 4


A K 10 5 4 2

7 3

6 4

9 8 2


Q 9 6 3


K J 8 3

J 7 5 3


Q 10 9 8 6 2

7 5 2

K Q 10 6


South West North East
Pass 2 Dbl. 4
5 Pass 6 All Pass

Opening Lead: K

“Great is the hand that holds dominion over

Man by a scribbled name.”

— Dylan Thomas

Those who reached the small slam in hearts, then tried two diamond finesses, were destined to enter a minus score on the travelling score sheet in this deal from a pairs duplicate at the Marbella Internacional Bridge Club.

At the featured table North inferred his partner had very short spades and bid the slam, and it was up to former Irish international Des Deery to make his contract. On a top-spade lead, Deery crossed to dummy twice in hearts for two more spade ruffs, eliminating that suit and drawing trumps in the process. Declarer then played ace, king and queen of clubs, hoping the jack would drop. Had it done so, not just one but two of dummy’s diamonds would have departed, leaving declarer with the luxury of the diamond finesse for the overtrick.

When the club jack did not appear, Deery now played his last club and was relieved to see West discard. He pitched a second diamond from dummy, and on winning with the club jack, East was endplayed into either leading a diamond around to dummy’s A-Q, or giving a ruff and discard by returning a spade.

You might care to consider how declarer would have played if West had produced the fourth club. He would have ruffed the club, then gotten off play with the diamond queen. If West held the king, it would surely be singleton, forcing him to concede a ruff and discard. And if East had it, he would be endplayed, as before.


South Holds:

Q 9 6 3
K J 8 3
J 7 5 3


South West North East
  1 NT Pass 2
Pass 2 Pass Pass
ANSWER: Partner is marked with decent values or the opponents would have tried for game. Double for takeout, and do not worry about your relative lack of high cards. Bid first, and worry about the consequences later. As a general rule, you do not want the opponents to play a contract at a low level once they find a fit, since you probably have a fit too.


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


David WarheitAugust 31st, 2010 at 9:56 am

How about: ruff the opening lead, cross to a heart, ruff a second spade, cross in hearts again, drawing trump. Then run 3 clubs, discarding a diamond, ruff the 4th club & then ruff the 3d spade. Now take a diamond finesse (either one). It loses but east is endplayed, forced either to lead a diamond to dummy’s tenace or concede a ruff-sluff. Once both defenders follow to the first round of trumps, this line is 100%.

Bobby WolffAugust 31st, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Hi David,

Yes, after both defenders follow suit on the first heart, your line is 100%, while Desmond Deery’s line could fail if spades were 5-5 and West was dealt Kx in diamonds. At least, the caption on this hand (if there was one), instead of “The good and the very good” could be “The good and the perfect, courtesy of David”. In any event the D’s have it.

Thanks for again plying your trade.

Jerrold MillerAugust 31st, 2010 at 10:24 pm

With respect to your bidding question, you do not know that the opponents have a hear fit. They may only have a 7-card fit and are getting a bad break in the suit. Your high cards, for what htey are worth are in front of the strong hand. If vulnerability is adverse, you could be looking at minus 200 by jumping in.

Just my thoughts.

Bobby WolffSeptember 1st, 2010 at 12:13 am

Hi Jerrold,

Everything you say is true, BUT, distribution, not high cards, should determine whether one balances in this and other similar situations.

First we need to know what the NS defenses to a 1NT opening are. If double shows a random good hand, rather than a specific distributional one, the NS pair will eliminate the possibility of North having 16+ HCP’s. However many pairs, even established partnerships, do not chirp immediately when double might mean something conventional. If so, then it would almost be mandatory for South to muster up a reopening double with his exact distribution.

The possibilities are endless, but like a number of bridge caveats it would probably be percentage for South, with this distribution, to compete with the idea of making a contract, or, at the very least forcing EW to at least the three level.

Much of bridge consists of bidding well, playing well and defending well, but probably, at least IMO, the best players who all excell in the above, will eventually be judged on their competitive judgment and I will go on to say, subject to scrutiny, that 90+% of all winning partnership would not pass 2 hearts and let them play it there, without first a competitive struggle. If I am correct then it is clear that experience, not arithmetical talent or sheer intelligence is the final coat of paint that makes a great player shine.

Ask around and get views so that you can help form the judgment that you need. Your question is definitely on the right track, and you would be wise to be open minded and before you become convinced, see it from both sides.

Thanks for writing.

Denis KristandaSeptember 1st, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Additionally, if indeed declarer got bad break (Heart is 5-5-2-1) then partner would be super happy with the takeout double and would convert it to penalty double…

Bobby WolffSeptember 2nd, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Hi Denis,

Yes Denis, the probable initial feeling by partner is a feeling of “Thank you partner for coming to the party and reopening with a take out double enabling me to convert it into penalties”.

However, since the 5 card heart holding by the declarer’s side will be held over (rather than under) the defensive 5 card holding, do not count your hatches before they are chickened. Especially so if declarer is a very adept one, making use of great skills in dummy play. Minus 470 or 670 anyone?

If partner has not taken the aforementioned disadvantage into consideration before making his penalty pass, Jerrold’s bidding admonition may be coming home to roost (forgive me).

Is bridge a great game, or what?