Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: South



K 8 3

A J 10 6 4 3

Q 6 3


K Q 10 8 3

6 4

Q 8 7

A J 5


J 9 6 4 2


K 9 5 2

8 7 2


A 5

A Q J 10 9 5 2

K 10 9 4


South West North East
2 Pass 3 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
6 All pass

Opening Lead: Spade king

“It is a maxim that man and wife should never have it in their power to hang one another.”

— George Farquhar

The late Boris Schapiro was one of the dominant players of the postwar game. Helen Schapiro, his widow, is no mean player either. Here she is, in partnership with Evan Harris, a liberal democrat MP.

Strong Acol two-openings have gone out of fashion of late, but it made reaching slam easy here. But how would you play six hearts on a spade lead?

The best line is to win the spade ace, play the heart queen to dummy’s king, and ruff a diamond high. Then play the heart five to dummy’s eight, cash the diamond ace (pitching a club), and ruff another diamond. Now, assuming both red suits have broken, play a club to dummy’s queen.

If this holds, you can ruff another diamond, then cross back to dummy with a spade ruff to reach the established diamonds. However, if East has the club ace, you can cross to dummy with a spade ruff to finesse the club jack.

The trap is to ruff a spade in dummy too early. You would still be able to set up the diamonds, but would not know if you could reach them. If you played a club to the queen and East had the ace, he would play back a spade, and you would go down unless the club jack were to fall. Alternatively, you could run the club 10 from hand, but then you have put all your eggs in one basket — namely, that the club jack is with West.


South holds:

J 9 6 4 2
K 9 5 2
8 7 2


South West North East
1 Dbl.
Pass 1 Dbl. 2
ANSWER: Your partner’s double is for takeout, suggesting a good hand and short hearts. Having passed to start with, you are full value for a jump to three spades now, suggesting these values and five spades. Indeed, bidding game in spades would not be absurd, though it seems reasonable to give partner the chance to make the final decision.


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


jim2June 1st, 2011 at 1:39 pm

In the bidding quiz, what would be the smallest change in the South hand (but preserving it as a 5-1-4-3) that would call for a one spade bid over the takeout double?

I ask because some partnerships seem to play this sequence as weak with a 5-card suit and, with a longer suit, play weak jump shifts. They tend to use redouble and notrump bids to show various stronger holdings.

JaneJune 1st, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

Since I love to bid (ask any of my partners!), I would have bid one spade right away. Is this awful? Seems like the single heart and fifth spade make a call worthwhile. I usually play a redouble as showing nine good, or ten plus points, so my partners know that I don’t have very many points when I bid something other than a redouble. I know some players don’t like to use a redouble at all, so it depends on style. My mentor from last year said it is OK to “throw a rock and run”, if the hand has enough value to do it. Does this one qualify in your opinion?

bobbywolffJune 1st, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since your question enters a bridge world of different opinions, I’ll volunteer mine, keeping in mind that even as we talk (or whatever we are doing) some keen bridge minds are at work trying to update a satisfactory answer.

1. With poor hands, depending on how the auction is likely to develop, sidebars, such as lead direction, take on greater significance. On the subject BWTA since we are very weak (4 HCP’s, but an important singleton) the lead direction of a 1 spade response should dissuade you from doing anything but pass.

2. The preemption of a 1 spade bid is not near enough to cause major communication problems for the opponents.

3. If I had a 5th diamond (and therefore only 4 spades) I would venture 1 diamond, if only to suggest a lead to partner. I have no illusions over eventually buying the final contract, but offering anything in the way of constructiveness wins the day for me.

4. If dealt something like QJ109xx in spades and nothing else I would be delighted to venture 2 spades for the heretofore mentioned preemptive purposes. In the case of the actual BWTA, it is almost certain the opponents have at least 8 hearts and likely more, so that real and not imagined fears are definitely in the house.

5. At least and at this moment, redouble is always the bid of choice to tell all the other players it is our side which probably should buy the eventual contract and at the same time to begin setting up the captaincy options for our side.

6. To instead, respond 1NT is, at least not to me artificial, nor a declination of holding a 4 card major, but rather an announcement to the table that I have a balanced hand and about a good 7 to 9 HCP’s and with only 7, good texture with my spot cards. Of course, there is nothing wrong, (actually very right) with having a good fit in partner’s minor which will add to our trick taking potential and possibly (especially against inexperienced opponents) intimidate them into not joining the auction, which to me, is always a decided advantage. Sure, my suggestion may cause our partnership to miss a 4-4 fit in a major, but so what? It likely will not matter and even if it does, winning the contract may offset any loss we may experience in not finding a fit. Besides the auction is not over and sometimes, even at the 11th hour, the 4-4 fit may come into being.

7. To emphasize to what I so often refer to, bridge is NOT an exact science but rather a battle of wills using bridge bidding as a common denominator to settle the score.

Summing up, rather than specific rules to be religiously followed, bridge common sense is to be applied, which together with much experience (and, at least some talent) will more often than not, beard the lion.

bobbywolffJune 1st, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Hi Jane,

I will first suggest that you read Jim2’s query and my answer immediately above, and will answer you and your mentor with my opinion.

Yes, I agree with you having enough to make an initial response, however, because of the lead direction (and in this case your side is not the favorite to be the eventual declarer, with perhaps West the most likely candidate), to encourage partner to lead either the Ace or worse, an unsupported King of spades, is not a circumstance I want to encourage.

While I agree, it is not wrong to throw a rock and run, however you should try and avoid the rock hitting your partner instead of the opponents.

jim2June 1st, 2011 at 10:04 pm

In my comment, I was referring more to 2N than 1N, but no matter.

Could you give a couple smallest change examples of a one spade bid?

For example:





Or would you require, say:





bobbywolffJune 2nd, 2011 at 6:17 am

Hi Jim2,

As Henry Higgins sang to Liza Doolittle when they teamed together for their rendition of “Rain in Spain” from My Fair Lady, “By George she’s got it”

You’ve got what I am trying to say. Yes your last example of the KJ9xx in spades together with a minor suit fit as opposed to if partner would have opened 1 heart, catching you with only a singleton and therefore making bidding anything, dangerous since escape routes (in the event of a penalty double) may be sealed off. The other hand, where the spades contained the King but then tailed off may or may not be worth a 1 spade bid depending on the aggression of the opponents and, of course, how good they are.

All of the above cannot be proven, at least not by me, but comes with many years of experience and would be listed under “feel for the game”.

What I do not believe in is to normally bid weak 4 card suits, as if there was no take out double on one’s right. With any balanced hand I would either redouble (9+ hcp), bid 1NT (7-9+), certainly try and raise partner’s suit with 3 trumps for a major with various gradations such as 1S Dbl, 2H or 1H dbl, 2D being artificial and a stronger hand than merely raising to 2S or 2H, and as few as 4 trumps in a minor (prefer 5, but I would do it with 4 rather than pass) and sometimes with 5-7 pass and then expect to compete later depending on the exact bidding.

Playing some or all of the above is OK, but so are many other methods with very little difference expected with results.

A good summation is bid as often as you can, with as few gadgets as necessary and with choices, tend to bid where you live, but above all, respect your opponents, and keep your antenna working by noticing their body actions and intensity.

That’s all for now.