Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 18th, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: Both


A Q 10 8 5

9 5

K 10 6

6 5 3


J 7 6 4 2

3 2

J 9 7

10 8 4


K 9 3

K 7

A Q 4 2

A J 7 2


A Q J 10 8 6 4

8 5 3

K Q 9


South West North East
1 NT
3 Pass 4 All Pass

Opening Lead: four

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

In this deal from the 2009 Lebhar IMP Pairs at the Reno spring nationals, Marty Hirschman’s partner, Frank Kasle, led a low spade against four hearts. Declarer put in dummy’s 10, forcing the king. Declarer ruffed and innocently put the heart queen on the table. If Hirschman had fallen for the bait and taken the trick, declarer could have made the contract. He’d win the trump return in dummy, pitch diamonds on dummy’s top spades, cross to a club, and run the trumps. In the three-card ending, dummy keeps the diamond K-10 and a club, declarer has the club Q-9 and the diamond eight, and East must come down to a singleton in one minor or the other, whereupon he will be endplayed in that suit.


Hirschman, however, ducked the heart queen! Declarer now had no trump losers, but the spades were dead and nine tricks were the limit.


At another table David Grainger declared four hearts from the North seat, and East elected to lead a low trump. Grainger won dummy’s heart nine at trick one, then went for his best legitimate choice of finding the doubleton heart king with East. He cashed the spade ace, pitching a diamond, led a club to the queen, ran the hearts, and squeezed East.


If East pitched from either minor, he would be endplayed with that ace and forced to concede a trick in the other minor. A spade discard would allow declarer to endplay him in either minor. Whatever East did, declarer had 10 tricks.


South Holds:

A Q 10 8 5
9 5
K 10 6
6 5 3


South West North East
1 Pass 1
1 1 NT Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: When your partner doubles one no-trump, it is for penalties, suggesting that your side has the balance of high cards and perhaps that he has a good holding in declarer’s first-bid suit. You may not be proud of your hand, but on a spade lead you have no reason to assume that declarer will make his contract, so pass as instructed.


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


jim2April 1st, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I found the bidding quiz most interesting.

The more clubs North has, the greater the chance that E-W have a 4-4 heart fit, but I am not sure how they could get to a heart contract now.

What would a redouble now by West mean?

bobbywolffApril 1st, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Hi Jim2,

The doubler’s hand should look something like:

s. xx

h. KQ10x

d. QJx

c. KQJ9

Obviously others may have less to double than I would demand. My thinking (from experience) is that I would not expect much from partner’s 1 spade interference and therefore my double needs to be beefed up since I do not desire partner to TO unless he had something like KQJxxx in spades and nothing else.

If West, the 1NT bidder, redoubles it should be primarily SOS (because it would be inconsistent for it to have any other meaning) perhaps: Ax, K10x, QJx, Axxxx, but if the 1 diamond bidder redoubles he should expect to make the doubled contract and alert partner that the opponents are making a mistake.

This type of end fighting is not my cup of tea which causes me to try and avoid these situations when I can, but sometimes there is no choice. Even on this hand I would probably have overcalled 1 heart with the North hand on the 1st round.

jim2April 1st, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I confess that I am still struggling with the quiz hands. With your postulated doubler’s hand, and West showing 13-14 with the 1NT rebid, that leaves just 3 or 4 points for East’s 1D response. With that weakness, I would have expected East to have long diamonds and have bid 2D instead of passing the double.

With your example redouble hand, I would expect West to bid 2D, instead, to escape into the only known fit.

My personal fear is that North is doubling on red queens and a semi-solid club suit and that West’s clubs are, say, Axx or Kxxx. In that case, I can see West scoring the KJ of spades, four hearts (N the danger hand), the diamond ace and a club for 8 tricks.

Part score battles can be excruciating.

bobbywolffApril 2nd, 2011 at 12:29 am

Hi Jim2,

Assuming EW are not vulnerable East can have almost anything, even a zero pointer: Sxxx, xxx, xxxxxx, x when he elects to respond 1 diamond. However, after a penalty dbl of his partner’s 1NT he obviously would rebid his 6 card suit to get out of NT so on the example hand he probably has a balanced or semi-balanced 4-6 HCPs. But that is only assuming that I am the doubler with my conservative tendencies. There are a number of very good partnerships who go out of their way to play ultra aggressively and to make close penalty doubles. It’s fine when the hand is well placed for the doubling side and not so, when it isn’t.

My advice is not to concern yourself with it now, but if you develop a partnership with someone, please make sure that you discuss it with them, since that kind of knowledge is more important than selecting the conventions that your pair plays.