Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

In theory it is easy to convince an ignorant person: in actual life, men not only object to offer themselves to be convinced, but hate the man who has convinced them.


West North
Neither ♠ A J 7
 K 9 7 3
 Q 10
♣ J 5 3 2
West East
♠ 8 2
 J 10 6 4
 9 7 4
♣ A K 9 8
♠ 10 5 3
 A Q 5
 A J 6 5 3
♣ 10 7
♠ K Q 9 6 4
 8 2
 K 8 2
♣ Q 6 4
South West North East
Pass Pass 1
1♠ Dbl. 2 Pass
2♠ All pass    


Today's deal, from the teams qualifier at the Gold Coast in Australia last year, was provided by Michael Courtney. He thought that the right play, while obvious, might easily be missed at the table. Let's see whether you agree. To make matters a little harder for you, I won't tell you who has the tough play.

As West you decide not to lead a top club against two spades. Partner can hardly be ruffing, and even if he were, the trick may come back. Instead you lead a trump. This goes to the 10 and king, and declarer leads a diamond to the queen and ace. Back comes the club 10. You win, and …

At this moment you should pause to count. Your only practical chance to set the hand is to take three club tricks and one diamond, thus two tricks in the majors. Declarer cannot have six trumps or he would not risk the club ruff, so the full deal is surely very like the actual hand. You must shift to a heart to let partner win and go back to clubs so you can give him the ruff. If you take the ruff at once you never score the second heart trick.

Well done, Alex Czapnik for making the play. Was the play found often? Apparently not. The contract of two spades was declared about 100 times in all.

It was defeated 36 times and made eight or more tricks on 64 occasions.

Despite your good support for the minors, it is more practical to rebid two no-trump and limit your hand while getting across your good spade stop. You have not ruled out playing in either minor, but have let your partner know the basic nature of your hand. A raise to three clubs may stymie your partner if he has modest extras but no spade stop.


♠ A J 7
 K 9 7 3
 Q 10
♣ J 5 3 2
South West North East
1 Pass
1 1♠ 2♣ 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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 7th, 2012 at 8:39 pm

The hand actually belongs to east-west who can easily make 3 diamonds no matter what the defense. How did so many pairs sell out to 2 spades? For starters, I don’t understand west’s 2 diamond bid. Presumably they are playing 5-card majors, so this could fairly easily be a 3-3 fit. Shouldn’t he make a negative double? He holds both unbid suits and decent support for diamonds, and how often does a passed hand turn up with 2 quick tricks?

jim2February 7th, 2012 at 11:19 pm

David –

I could not follow your comment. West made a negative double, and did not bid 2D.

North did bid 2D, but it was presumably a spade raise with values as any direct raise in this sort of sequence is pre-emptive only. It North had been an unpassed hand, it would presumably have been a limit raise or better. As a passed hand, it would be shaded down some, but still show solid constructive values.

David WarheitFebruary 8th, 2012 at 2:32 am

I’m pretty sure that I got it right, but the bidding has been changed since. However, the fundamental question still remains: why didn’t east-west, apparently at the great majority of tables, not bid to 3 diamonds?

jim2February 8th, 2012 at 3:31 am

Ah, if it got changed, then that explains a lot.

On the E-W sell-out to 2S, I’m not the expert, but East may have reasoned that West had not shown diamond support while West may have been cautious because East did not need to have a 5-card suit on the auction.

Bobby WolffFebruary 8th, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

Please excuse my lateness to coming to the bridge discussion.

Since this happens to be my first glance (since many months ago) of this particular hand, my guess is that the bidding, as now announced, is the correct bidding, since West’s hand certainly fits an initial (after passing originally) proper action of a negative double of a 1 spade overcall.

The learning experience of this hand, at least to me, is that the initial aggressive bidding of both North and South won the day, when West, the round after his classic negative double, did not venture a shaded (considering the meagre trump support) 3 diamond continuation.

Also, sure, East could have either overbid his mangy diamond suit to the 3 level), or even make one of those in turn TO doubles which suggests to partner to do something intelligent, which if done, would probably be 3 diamonds since his other two suits have theoretically already been shown. The result was a victory (though minor one) for the NS aggression, but at least some sympathy should be felt for EW’s conservatism, since in a bidding panel, both E and W may have been vindicated.

Another point possibly worth making is that these are the kinds of bidding decisions which tend to separate and distinguish very good players from just good players, but needing more experience with playing against other competent players.

Exchange East’s 5th diamond for a 3rd low club and it then should be a slam dunk pass. With his actual hand and if he does choose a competitive action double then he should convert partner’s possible 3 club bid to 3 diamonds, but be prepared for partner to have 2-4-2-5 which may certainly require deft dummy play to get out for only 1 or 2 down tricks.

As a final aside, sometimes 4 card major overcalls produce good competitive results for the user by, after being raised with only 3 trumps, but becoming lucky to have the opponents outbid you, will probably reap a part score swing for your side.