Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Vulnerable: Neither

Dealer: East


8 6 5

10 6

10 8 3

Q J 10 5 4



K 9 8 7 3 2

9 5 2

K 7


Q J 9 2

Q 4

J 7 6 4

9 8 3


10 7 4 3

A J 5


A 6 2


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

Opening Lead: Heart seven

“A gaudy dress and gentle air

May slightly touch the heart,

But it’s innocence and modesty

That polishes the dart.”

— Robert Burns

Here is a deal that does not show me in the best possible light. It comes from a Cavendish teams tournament about a decade ago and is something of a rarity since one seldom comes across a hand where game in no-trump is cold and two no-trump is a favorite to go down. However, this was just such a deal.

When our teammates played the deal, their opponents (North-South) overreached to play the no-trump game. On a heart lead there was little choice but to win, lead ace and another club, and cross one’s fingers. With the club king doubleton and the spade suit blocked for the defenders, East-West could not take more than four tricks.

A little lucky maybe, but in the other room, where two no-trump was the contract, I was declarer. I won the heart lead to try a low club from hand, needing only three club tricks, not four. Willie Whittaker of Scotland ducked smoothly, and when dummy’s club queen held the trick, I had to try to work out which defender had made a very nice play. Since I could not survive if West had king-third of clubs, whatever I did, I played East to have ducked the king from an original three-card suit. Accordingly, I decided to finesse in clubs on the second round. Whittaker won and cleared hearts, and now I had only seven tricks.


South holds:

Q J 9 2
Q 4
J 7 6 4
9 8 3


South West North East
1 1 NT 2
ANSWER: In sequences where the opponents intervene over our no-trump, I advocate playing takeout doubles. And since we play “system on” when we overcall one no-trump, meaning that we play the same methods as we would over an opening no-trump, double here retains its meaning of takeout and is thus the best way to get into the auction.


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


jim2July 20th, 2011 at 2:47 am

An amazing defense!

You said that you “played East to have ducked the king from an original three-card suit.”

What were you going to do if he ducked again?

(After all, if he was playing for West to have Ax and you to have AS, he would have to duck a second time.)

jim2July 20th, 2011 at 3:06 am

AH! My mistake! I keep forgetting that you were in an 8-trick contract. Neeeeverrrr Mind! 🙂

Bobby WolffJuly 20th, 2011 at 8:04 am

Hi Jim2,

Your neeeeverrrr mind only emphasizes what a visionary play

Willie Whittaker of Scotland really made and without a flicker. Is bridge a great game or what?

jim2July 20th, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Whittaker’s play reminds me of the NBA term, “posterized.” It means another player executed a great or showy play at another’s expense, such that a photo captures it in an image that makes one a foil for the other.

The classic example is the 1993 dunk by John Starks over both Michael Jordan and Horace Grant.

I have read bridge accounts of players rejecting lines of play for fear of being “posterized” by a defender. In others, I have seen the phrase “paying off” to a player if a great play had actually been made.

You paid off to Whittaker’s play.

Dr. DaveJuly 23rd, 2011 at 11:04 pm

I’m trying to figure out what went on the first round of hearts such that Whittaker could run them when he got the lead back. In the scenarios I can think of, South can win the third round of the suit.

Bobby WolffJuly 25th, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Hi Dr. Dave,

You are right on, when you appear bewildered that West could not run the hearts when he won his tedious king of clubs.

He could not, however I am stuck in my hand and could only take 7 tricks in my 8 trick contract since I ran out of good cards in my hand.