Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 1st, 2012

One man who has a mind and knows it can always beat 10 men who haven't and don't.

G.B. Shaw

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

*Second negative


Bridge is a strange game. Why on earth would it be easier to make four hearts in today's deal than four spades? If you do fall by accident into four hearts, you would ruff the club lead, cash the heart ace, then run the spades. That way you simply give up the three trump tricks to West. But in the real world, you will play four spades.

You ruff the top club lead, then take the spade ace and king. If trumps split, you will find it easy to make 11 tricks, but when trumps divide 3-1, it would be very easy, but fatal, to draw a third round of trumps.

If you do that, then play ace and another heart, West will win and tap you for a second time with another club, and again when he gets in with the third heart. You are now out of trumps and can never score your fifth heart.

Instead, you must play ace and another heart before playing a third trump. If hearts break, you can ruff the next club and draw the last trump before playing a third heart. But if hearts also break badly, you can ruff the second club, give up a heart, ruff a third club, and ruff the fourth heart in dummy.

East can overruff for the defenders’ third trick, but the contract still succeeds — since you have only winners left, together with one trump.

There is some temptation to jump to four no-trump as a way to show the minors, but maybe a simple call of four diamonds is enough. And certainly if North has a very strong heart one-suiter, he would prefer to buy the hand at the four-level, rather than go higher unnecessarily.


♠ 8 5 4
 Q J 8 3 2
♣ A 10 8 4
South West North East
2♠ Dbl. 3♠

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


RogerMJune 15th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

On the BWTA hand, would double by South be responsive here? And if so, would that call be worth considering, as 4-4 clubs might play better than 5-3 diamonds?

As always, thanks for your thoughts.

bobby wolffJune 15th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Hi RogerM,

Yes, a double by South would definitely be responsive, but perhaps too far from classic.

Classic would be 2-3-4-4 distribution, accenting the minors but not ignoring the other major.

Certainly some flexibility needs to be present, such as a 1-3-5-4 or 1-3-4-5 or even a doubleton heart but a strong doubleton such as AQ or AJ. However, any way we can practically look at it, a singleton in the unbid major probably would nix a responsive double.

If, as in an unusual NT, where 1S double 2, 3 or 4 spades by the opener’s partner than 4NT could easily contain a singleton heart, but not a responsive double (invented by Dr. Fielding Reid of Iowa around the middle 1950’s with a kickoff article in the Bridge World magazine).

RogerMJune 15th, 2012 at 6:07 pm

I haven’t been playing nearly that long 🙂

My understanding of the responsive double comes from reading Mike Lawrence. And I believe he defines it as showing the minors when the opponents have bid and raised a major, and showing the majors when the opponents have bid and raised a minor.

bobby wolffJune 16th, 2012 at 12:25 am

Hi RogerM,

Both the definitions you have now heard, one from Mike and the other from me, are close in description. When a responsive double is used after a major suit opening, a TO double and a raise of the opener’s major the responsive double does accent the minors, since the responder will try and bid the other major straight out instead of resorting to a responsive double, However a responsive double should still show some support for the other major, (certainly not a singleton).

Please check the encyclopedia of bridge, although I have not in years, and unless Dr. Reid’s creativity has been changed, I suggest my definition is what is commonly expected.

Good luck!