Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: North


J 8 2

Q 6 3

K J 7 6

9 5 3


A K 7 5 4

J 7 2


J 7 4 2


Q 10 9 6

A 9 5 4

10 4

A 10 8



K 10 8

A Q 9 8 5 3

K Q 6


South West North East
Pass Pass
1 1 2 3
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Spade king

“The most decisive actions of our life … are most often unconsidered actions.”

— Andre Gide

A partnership I’ve always had a lot of affection for is Bart Bramley and Sidney Lazard. Sidney has cut back on his bridge these days, but I believe he is presently one of the longest-lived U.S. Bridge Internationals, having played for USA in the 1959 Bermuda Bowl. Only Bill Rosen from the 1954 team can beat that record. (Incidentally, Pietro Forquet, from the 1951 Italian team, represented Italy in the Seniors a couple of years ago.)

When Bramley and Lazard played together in a recent Cavendish Pairs, Bart drew an interesting inference to bring home today’s delicate four-diamond contract.

On the spade-king lead and continuation, Bramley put up the jack to force the queen and to confirm the location of the spade honors. He ruffed this trick, then drew two rounds of trump and led a club to his king. Now came a third diamond to dummy and a second club.

East took the ace and played a third club. Bramley won and paused to count up the hand. Since East clearly had both rounded aces to justify his cue-bid and had also shown up with the spade queen, he was less likely to have the heart jack than his partner. Had he held that card, he might have opened the bidding since East-West were playing weak no-trumps. Backing his judgment, Bramley advanced the heart 10, and whether West covered or not, Bramley had his 10th trick.


South holds:

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


South West North East
2 Pass Pass Dbl.
Pass Pass Rdbl. Pass
ANSWER: Your partner’s redouble is for rescue, and your diamond spots are not good enough to override him. Your choice is to run to two hearts or to three clubs. Since your partner won’t expect you to hold real length in hearts, you can bid two hearts — for the time being. After all, a 4-3 heart fit might be your cheapest escape.


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


jim2September 7th, 2011 at 1:36 pm

The bidding problem is a true horror!

Partner is surely void in diamonds and, even if holds four hearts, then that suit is split either 1 – 5 or 0 – 6. Even if partner has five hearts (happy day!), then they are split 0 – 5.

Where are the spades? If East has five hearts, then can hold no more than four spades. If E-W are playing Flannery, then East can hold no more than three spades.

The North hand that seems to make the most sense to me is something like:

J10xxx xxx – J10xxx

Thus, the bidding could end eventually in 3C doubled. That could still be a disaster, if either (1) West started with a singleton heart and they opponents start off with a heart to the ace and a ruffing finesse through declarer, or (2) the defense starts off with trump, getting in three rounds before South can ruff spades.

Of course, if North holds the above and the East – West hands are something like:

Kxx —— AQxx

x ——— AQJxxx

KJ10xx — xx

Axxx —– x

Then South’s best hope is if they are playing for low stakes.

JaneSeptember 7th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Hi Bobby,

Sometimes bad things happen to good people and we go down. Maybe the opps can make three NT and you only go down one or two. I do not play the redouble/escape system. For those of us who do not play this, should north should bid his best suit, assuming he is void in diamonds, and hope it is better than two diamonds doubled? Probably won’t be in this case, especially if north’s best suit is hearts. As Jim 2 states, the hand is a horror, no doubt.

Bobby WolffSeptember 7th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, the auction above is just about as ominous as you make it sound.

However, if bridge is like all other numerical endeavors, concerned with the law of averages, all one can do is take every hand as it develops and do the very best one can with it. On this one, possibly a final contract of 2 heats or eventually 3 clubs might be the one which offers the lesser minus which then wound become a worthwhile goal.

Remember the law of averages is always there, thick or thin (meaning sometimes our side will be on the fortunate end and perhaps our opponents will not search out their due diligence of lessening their misfortune as well as we will).

Thanks for your always appreciated comment, whether it is about upside or its ugly twin notso. Both are equally important to deal with on our yellow brick bridge road to improvement.

Bobby WolffSeptember 7th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Hi Jane,

Yes, in bridge sometimes unlucky things happen to both good and alas, not so good people, as well. Fate seems to trump good intentions and we, as bridge players, need to learn, from the famous inscription on the locker room walls of Wimbledon which state, (with victory and defeat and….”treat those two imposters just the same”.

Your worthwhile task then should delve with discussing with your partners the advisability of treating an out of the blue redouble (especially as the last to speak), as a vehicle of searching out a better, less disastrous contract, since redouble would almost never be needed to be used as an aggressive positive action, but has much more utility as a warning to try and look for greener bridge pastures in the form of a more desirable contract.

All the above is offered only as a learning experience and not meant to even imply that such new agreements are vitally necessary to be incorporated.

Good luck, especially to not have to deal with pangs and arrows of such outrageous fortune.