Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 11th, 2012

What I say is, patience, and shuffle the cards.

Miguel de Cervantes

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

*Hearts and a minor


On today's deal from the Cavendish pairs North-South bid aggressively to reach a game in the face of their opponent's strong no-trump. Personally, as North I'd feel I needed a little more to invite game with a singleton in partner's likely second suit and only three small trumps, but it is hard to argue with results!

As a result of Michel Bessis’ aggression, Thomas Bessis played in four hearts, and John Mohan led the spade king — as would we all. When he continued with a second spade, he had given declarer all the help he needed. (In the identical position Darren Wolpert shifted to a club to doom the contract.)

On the spade continuation Bessis ruffed and advanced the diamond king. East, Huub Bertens, won and shifted to a low trump. Bessis won and passed the diamond 10 successfully, then ruffed a diamond, ruffed a spade, and cashed his remaining top trump, leaving East with a master trump, a losing diamond, and his clubs.

When declarer ran diamonds, East could ruff the fifth and be endplayed to lead a club into dummy’s tenace, or discard and be endplayed a trick later with his trump for the same club endplay.

A few pairs were lucky enough to be playing transfers over their opponents’ weak no-trump. That let North declare four hearts, and on a club lead into the tenace, the deal was all over. Still, only four pairs bid and made game here of the 25 tables in play.

This may sound like sacrilege to my readers, who have been brought up to believe that takeout doubles must be short in the suit doubled, but I would recommend doubling on balanced decent openings even with three cards in the opponent's suit. It is simply too dangerous to pass. The best holdings in their suit are the ace or nothing at all. Soft defensive cards like the queen may mislead partner about your offense.


♠ A 8 6
 Q J 2
 A 5 4 3
♣ K 8 5
South West North East

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 WarheitMay 25th, 2012 at 9:20 am

A trump at trick 2 also defeats the contract.

bobbywolffMay 25th, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Hi David,

Right on, and John could have found that play, but sometimes both illusion and hope tend to convince, even among the best of us, that perhaps declarer had 2 losing spades (and only 1 club, then allowing the clubs to be backward finessed through the weak NT bidder to later dispose of his second spade).

Unfortunately in bridge and at all levels, there are guesses to make in defense as to the specific distribution (and possible declarer weaknesses) which, as likely in this example, render all very good players just another pawn in trying to do the right thing, but not being able to garner enough evidence to determine correctly exactly what to do.

When that happens and when playing against other great players, the poor defender often does not get a second chance to make up for an early miss guess.

There are then roles to play in trying to get the best out of one’s partnership and one of the more important is the ability to place yourself in partner’s shoes and, at the very least, try to understand his problem. This takes patience and above all, character, which sometimes is slow in developing among relatively young players, especially with great talent, who wrongly expect partners to never make a play which turns out poorly.

The above is all about the maturation of a would be player who is trying to become world class and is an integral part of the compassion needed to, at least, succeed at the very top.

Probably pity for you to only write one correct sentence and have to listen to all the above.

Jeff SMay 25th, 2012 at 8:37 pm

I like the bidding problem quite a bit today. I probably would have passed in exasperation, but I like the column advice. One question though: If my partner responds in a major (as seems likely), what is he promising and would I then bid 1NT?

As always, thank you for your wonderful column and your willingness to patiently answer our questions (even the beginner ones).

bobbywolffMay 26th, 2012 at 5:51 am

Hi Jeff S.

First, thanks for your kind words and do not ever think that it doesn’t feel good to me to have some sharp person like you, thinking that I am being constructive.

When and if partner responds to your double with only 1 of a major, it is your duty and should be your logical preference to pass and, after making a marginal takeout double, let partner then do the future bidding for the partnership.

Even if partner jumps the bidding to two of his best major suit, you, as the original takeout doubler should still pass since partner is only announcing about 10 points including distribution. Only if partner cue bids (bidding the opponents suit) should you respond since he is intending to at least now, invite game. Obviously once game is arrived at, the partnership is now committed to try and make it
as you and partner would be, even if some day after the opponents open the bidding your partnership contracts for a slam.

In summation, every hand dealt should only be bid in relation to one’s previous action so that if one passes with approximately the same hand probably minus a queen or so, then for the next round he has a very good hand relative to his original pass, but when he decides to bid (in this case double) he has told his story and will only continue to bid later if partner demands that he does.

The above are basic rules of bidding which apply on more than 50% of all hands dealt so it becomes necessary to not only learn what is being said, but also to understand the bridge logic involved.

Keep your questions coming, since the more you ask, the quicker you’ll achieve a higher status.