Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Ask me no more: what answer should I give?

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

South North
North-South ♠ J 6 4 3
 A 10 8 7
 10 3
♣ 9 4 2
West East
♠ A Q 10 8
 K Q J 6 4 3
♣ K 7
♠ K 9 5 2
 9 2
 A J 6 5 2
♣ J 10
♠ 7
 K Q 9 8 4
♣ A Q 8 6 5 3
South West North East
1 Dbl. All pass  


One of my heroes, Edgar Kaplan, often remarked that takeout doubles were meant to be taken out. Today's deal demonstrates that his advice is still as true today as it was when he uttered it 40 years ago.

North-South here, Nick Nickell and Dick Freeman, were part of the most successful U.S. team ever in world championships. After a sequence in which almost every action except North’s pass might be questioned, Freeman played one diamond doubled. He won the top-heart lead in dummy, played a club to the ace, and led another club. West mistakenly shifted to a trump now, and East won his diamond ace to force declarer with a heart. South pitched his spade, ruffed the next top heart, and led a winning club. East ruffed to lead a spade, again trumped by declarer.

Freeman now led another winning club (pitching a spade from dummy) and East ruffed to lead a spade. When Freeman trumped and led yet another winning club to pitch the last spade from dummy, East had to ruff again. In the two-card ending, East was on lead with one trump and one spade left, dummy had a lower trump and a heart, and declarer held the master trump and a winning club. East could lead a trump and let declarer claim in hand, or he could lead a spade to let declarer crossruff. Making one diamond doubled in one room and four hearts in the other room represented a huge pick-up for the Nickell team.

Respond one spade rather than one heart, planning to compete to two hearts if the opponents bid again. You may not have much, but you do have enough to get both majors into play at the two-level, assuming you can trust your partner always to deliver a reasonably shape-suitable hand for his double.


♠ J 6 4 3
 A 10 8 7
 10 3
♣ 9 4 2
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. Pass

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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 15th, 2011 at 10:15 am

HBJ : Is double the right bid from West ? With a hand like that I’m after a game despite the adverse vulnerability. Surely a bid of 2D puts East in the mood to bid his spades and find the game in one of the majors.
As the card lie 4S can’t be touched, since South can only ruff hearts once.
So why did East stand the double with a 4 card spade suit and a top diamond ? With two doubletons his spades offer real potential for ruffing.
Moreover his diamonds ( no intermediates) are sitting under declarer’s which is always bad news.

Bobby WolffDecember 15th, 2011 at 4:14 pm


Whether it is the Count of Monte Christo or Count Dracula you would be right on both.

The only deficit a 2 diamond Michael’s Cue Bid has to offer is when partner is 3-2 in spades and hearts and, of course, opts for spades. Even then, West has a good enough hand, to offer 3 hearts as a forward going move, suggesting to partner that he has a good hand and a 2 card disparity in suit lengths, but at least a 4 card holding in his shorter one.

Also, of course, Edgar is correct with his old time adage and East should jump to 2 spades, showing a decent hand and, of course, at least a 4 card holding.

Thanks, as usual, for your significant intervention and right-on advice.

JaneDecember 15th, 2011 at 5:11 pm


Seems like to me that using Michaels in this situation requires a partnership understanding that the shape of the hand would not necessarily be the typical 5/5 or 5/4 holding. Would it be awful for west to over call one heart instead of doubling? If north can’t bid, then east can. If east can’t bid either, then one or two hearts might be high enough! West can bid two hearts at his next opportunity if necessary to show extra values, or double back in to see what partner has.

I think both “Counts” must have left the building when east failed to bid his spade suit.

Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2011 at 1:15 am

Hi Jane,

All three, 1 heart, 2 diamonds and double have their supporters and whichever one works will be my choice. We are a little heavy in playing strength for just a one heart overcall since it could go all pass with partner not being able to keep the auction moving, but having enough to make game when the Ace of clubs is where it should be, in the South hand.

However 1 heart does allow a more natural auction to occur which often will get the job done. In any event any of the three choices should get to the right contract.

You are almost correct when the two counts left the building when East passed his partner’s takeout double but once outside they decided to have a duel, but when the Count of Monte Christo pulled out his sword and ran it through Count Dracula, since it wasn’t silver it did no damage and the blood spilt only served to satisfy the other count’s thirst and they both went their own way back to Paris and to Transylvania.