Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: E-W


J 3

J 8 6 5

K J 9 3

K 7 5


9 7 4

K 9 7

8 5 2

J 8 6 3


A Q 10 8 6


10 7 6

A Q 10 2


K 5 2

A Q 10 4 3

A Q 4

9 4


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

Opening Lead: four

“We that are true lovers run into strange capers.”

— William Shakespeare

A deceptive declarer tries not only to persuade a defender to take a trick when he shouldn’t, but also to duck at the wrong moment.


Sometimes the target is not specifically to gain a trick by this maneuver, but to gain a tempo or to keep an opponent off play. An example is today’s deal, where against four hearts the defense starts with a spade to the ace, followed by the spade queen.


You should take the spade king and decide on a plan. You may think everyone knows how to take a trump finesse — but the right play is actually to lead a low heart from hand at trick three! Why? Well, if the heart finesse is onside, you are only looking at an overtrick. The key distribution is when West has the heart king, in which case the club ace is clearly wrong. You want to sneak a heart trick through, after which you will cash the heart ace and run diamonds. When West has 3-3-3-4 shape, he will only be able to ruff the fourth diamond, by which time one of your club losers will have vanished.


Is it easy for West to rise with the heart king on the first trump? I do not think so, and I have seen all 52 cards. And note that if East has the heart king, you may surrender an unnecessary heart trick but the contract is now safe. The defense can get only one club trick for sure.


South Holds:

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


South West North East
1 Pass
1 H 1 Pass 2
3 Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: Your partner has found an aggressive move toward game, perhaps with three hearts and five or six diamonds, presumably because finding diamond support has improved his hand. Since you barely had your raise to three diamonds and have only four hearts, retreat to four diamonds as quickly as decorum will permit.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2February 17th, 2011 at 1:19 pm

On the “Bid with the Aces” quiz, with what sorts of hands would North double West’s one spade bid?

bobbywolffFebruary 17th, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Hi Jim2,

You ask, at least what I think a provocative question, so here comes my answer.

My first choice (to be discussed with partner) is to play a double as penalties holding 4 good spades and a good hand. True, not often held, but necessary to penalize (or, at least suggest it) when it is possible. My 2d choice would be, if partner insists, to play the double to show a very good hand, but one which offers many different trump suits: s. Ax, h. Ax d, AQxxx, c. Axxx, All likely strains are possible, but in reality without the all encompassing double available, the hand is not strong enough to force to game with a bid of 3 clubs, and NT would likely play better from partner’s side, but we do wish to enlist partner’s cooperation in deciding. If partner held the hand he holds in the BWTA he should probably try 3 diamonds (over my double), whereupon I would suggest 3 spades from the opener which is the all encompassing ask, “I still need more information about your distribution to decide between 5 diamonds and 3NT”. This, in turn should get 3NT from the responder since he should realize that, since he did not rebid either 1NT or 2NT last time, that his hand is unlikely to have even Qx in spades (but might). Both partners need to know of each other than both will try to “Run to daylight” if possible and 3NT is always thought of by me (and many others) as what daylight should be defined.

My 3rd choice is NOT Support doubles (showing specifically 3 hearts) since I think that Support doubles, unless the overall system strongly suggests it such as a strong club with promising 4 trumps to raise, are a minus when they are played ethically, defined by me, as alerting the negative inference of passing. When that nuance of the convention is alerted the opponents are now lionized so when the major suit bidder goes back to another suit or NT he the defender immediately knows that distribution enabling his judgment to improve by bounds and leaps (not to mention his opening lead or later defense) in what usually turns out to be a competitive auction. I suspect a support double advocate is on the ACBL committee which determines what bids to alert and that fox has suggested what he knows to be a very strong advantage for the convention he plays. Needless to say what I think of his behavior. Better left unsaid!!!!

Thanks for listening.

jim2February 17th, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Maybe not “provocative,” but certainly South must consider North’s earlier pass when deciding what to do.

I don’t know what “Standard American” is for a double there, or even if SA still exists! However, I think I see the Support Double on convention cards for that sequence more often than anything else. Thus, I ruled out North having three card support and forward-going values, making the three heart call almost a nonsuch.

bobbywolffFebruary 18th, 2011 at 12:42 am

Hi Jim2,

Assuming Standard American (I agree with you in whatever that means) and not support doubles because that convention was not mentioned, the 3 heart bid is probably an attempt to show 3 card support and a tolerable hand (slightly more than a minimum) which I would have shown by bidding 2 hearts the first time. The likelihood is now that we will be playing 4 diamonds rather than 3 because of unwarranted exuberance. Would you agree with me that this hand somehow feels like one which will take about 9 1/4 tricks? However diamonds are almost surely to be the better trump suit and with that suit as trump probably take about 1 and 1/2 more tricks than a heart contract.

Please excuse the over analysis!

jim2February 18th, 2011 at 2:35 am

I do not disagree at all, given that North could not make a support double on the previous round.

One thing possibly worth noting, though, is that East did not double three hearts, but that both opponents would get a chance at four diamonds. Should East double three hearts, South would still have an opportunity to correct to four diamonds.

bobbywolffFebruary 18th, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Hi again Jim2,

Since my guess (on an earlier comment) is that I think, before seeing partner’s hand, that we figure to make about 9 1/4 tricks which doesn’t mean in actual practice that we cannot round it up to making 10 on this hand. Also, since at least I am guessing that diamonds will play much better (with a nine or ten card diamond fit) than would hearts (with only seven), I would rather run the risk of getting doubled at 4 diamonds than playing a contract of 3 hearts undoubled.

Perhaps we are doomed whatever on this hand, but if we are, partner can thank his unwarranted poor judgment for not raising to two hearts immediately (with only three), instead of, at least what I think, is an ill advised belated raise later.