Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Dealer: West

Vul: E-W


J 4

10 8 3

A J 10 9 8

J 6 5


K 9 5

A 9 7 6 5 4 2

K Q 7


10 8 7 3


K 7 6 5 4 3

10 2


A Q 6 2


Q 2

A 9 8 4 3


South West North East
1 Pass Pass
Dbl 2 3 Pass
3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: six

“Books will speak plain when counselors blanch.”

— Francis Bacon

Every so often a play comes up that you see only in books. Cover up the East-West hands and we’ll find out what you’ve been reading these days.


In three no-trump on a heart lead, you play low from dummy and capture East’s jack. At trick two you run the diamond queen, West discarding a low spade and East ducking. How do you continue?


With no dummy entry to the diamonds and all the missing black-suit honors marked with West, it looks bad. But there is a way out: Play a second diamond to the ace, then a third diamond, discarding your last heart! What you have done is created a heart stopper in dummy. If the opponents want to play hearts, dummy is going to take a trick in the suit.


In practice East won the diamond king and shifted to a club ducked to West’s queen. West didn’t have much choice, so he did his best by playing the ace and a heart, putting dummy on play. Dummy’s two remaining diamonds were cashed, and now everyone was down to four cards. Dummy had the jack-doubleton of both black suits; West, the guarded king of both black suits; and South, the ace-doubleton in clubs and the A-Q of spades. South now played the ace and a second club, giving up a trick to West’s king, but took his eighth and ninth tricks with the A-Q of spades.


So, did you prove yourself to be a bookworm?


South Holds:

10 8 7 3
K 7 6 5 4 3
10 2


South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: The most likely game for your side is four spades, but you have no reason to assume this is not a partscore deal. To maximize your chances of getting to the best contract and bid your suits in the right order, respond two diamonds and plan to bid spades at your next turn. Bear in mind that with your singleton heart, someone is pretty sure to reintroduce hearts.


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


jim2March 23rd, 2011 at 5:29 pm

If you held the following in second seat:

S – KQxx H – Kxxx D – J C – AQxx

Would you double a 1H opening by the dealer?

bobbywolffMarch 23rd, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Hi Jim2,

No, I would classify a TO dbl on a par with a pass, tied for 2d place with choices to act over a 1H opening. The dealing with a specific 2D response by partner (I would estimate his choice of such an action as about 25%) is just too grizzly to contemplate. Also a bid of a free 3 diamonds over a LHO opponent’s raise to 2H is almost as troublesome, but at least for him to make such a bid in that scenario would probably on average have about 5 1/2 diamonds, still not enough to justify taking the chance.

My clear 1st choice is a simple 1 spade overcall, of which I have absolutely no fear of doing such a thing. No doubt true that bad things could happen such as a raise by partner (in a competitive auction) with only a doubeton, but everything considered, at least my gut feeling over a lot of years, is that on average many more good things can happen than bad such as:

1. Being in the right strain and thus also enabling to compete to the right level because of the playing strength my heart holding affords (usually heart ruff(s) in partner’s hand plus, of course a full trick in the suit itself).

2. The wonderful preemptive effect realized immediately by a high level jump by partner.

3. Lead directing which most times is the suit I want led,

4. Follow-up bidding such as if it goes 1NT on my left passed around I would now chance 2 clubs, except probably vs. matchpoints while vulnerable.

Also if it would go instead 2H on my left passed around I would normally now bid 3 clubs causing others sometimes to call me a unilateral fit finder.

5. All in all I think the bridge philosophy of such handling could be labeled as “too dangerous not to bid that way” and safer than trying other less transparent ways to find ways back into the bidding. Even, after passing the 1st round and hearing the bidding then go 2D by LHO P, 3D by RHO, I think the level is now too high too enter.

6. Nothing works all the time, but any advice I could give you is that this type of handling at least, seems to work for me, and I am sure it would work for everyone as long as partner supports when he can and remains quiet when he lacks support.

7. As long ago as 40+ years ago when computer simulation was just getting started, Bobby Goldman led the Aces into generating thousands of hands with particular suit bias figured in and HCP range being determined depending on the opponent’s bidding and the conclusions were OVERWHELMING in favor of getting into the bidding as soon as possible. We then realized before most others what some of us had suspected for some time, that the Roth-Stone philosophy (popular back then) of initial very sound actions were exactly opposite from what works best. The reasons for it were twofold:

A. When an immediate fit was established the preemptive effect by us disenabled the opponents judgment by the bidding room lost by them. (not unlike the significant advantages of 4 card major systems which, although gone the way of the dinosaur, also had the ability to preempt the opponents).

B. When no fit was established, the risk was minimal because on most occasions the opponent’s systems did not lend themselves to being able to make penalty doubles.

Finally, since the above is what I believe in with all I can muster, certainly including my heart, I would be happy to field specific questions about what happens, but only from people who do not start such discussions without an open mind. Is my suggested way completely comfortable? No, but everything considered it is, at least in my opinion a significant advantage, and without trying to use up some of the opponent’s bidding room is the first step in making sure your peer opponents are lionized into making you become who will always be referred to as an unlucky player, but in fact luck has nothing to do with it.

Aren’t you glad you asked?