Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 8th, 2012

Lift up a people from the dust,
Trump of their rescue, sound!

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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


The U.S. Senior Trials were held last summer to select the two American teams to go to Veldhoven in October. Today we shall see Peter Weichsel at the helm, rescuing his team. This deal occurred in the last set of a match that went to overtime and that Peter's team dragged out of the fire. So this board was critical. In the other room Peter's teammates had defended against four spades. Hemant Lall had balanced with a three-spade bid over a three-heart pre-empt and had been raised to game. There was nothing to the play; declarer lost just two trump tricks and collected 650.

The auction from our featured room was as shown. When Weichsel bid three no-trump over three spades, his partner, Mark Lair, quite reasonably passed, and Bob Hamman on lead selected a low club, an incisive shot. Weichsel won in dummy, led a spade to the nine and queen, won the club return, then tested spades and found the bad news.

Declarer now cashed off four rounds of diamonds ending in dummy and was up to seven tricks. Since West had a fistful of black-suit winners and was known to have begun with a singleton heart, what distribution should declarer play for? A singleton heart honor would have been useless to him, so declarer played a low heart from dummy, and when Bart Bramley correctly played low, Weichsel put in the 10! That was his ninth trick, and it kept his side in the hunt.

The cue-bid of three diamonds is looking for a stopper for no-trump, so you have the choice of bidding three no-trump or bidding hearts at the three- or four-level. Even though a three no-trump bid might indirectly guarantee that your raise was based on four trumps, it looks simpler just to bid four hearts. But a call of three no-trump might work, I suppose.


♠ A 9
 A 10 8 3
 A 9 2
♣ 9 8 7 2
South West North East
1♣ 1 1 Pass
2 Pass 3 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


Iain ClimieJune 22nd, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Fine play by Peter but the hand almost makes me pine for penalty doubles of 3 of a major. Double dummy, try a club to the Ace, a trump back and, even if declarer runs it to the 9, south wins and the defence cash their winners ending in the North hand. The 13th diamond then looks horribly like 1100 with a trump promotion – ouch!


Iain Climie

Bruce KarlsonJune 22nd, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Hi all, the cheap seats speak!! As South, I would take a long look at converting the double: I do not like any bid and am confident that we can take 6 tricks minimum and not confident that we have a game. My Ax in spades makes me nervous as partner may have only 5, they will not split favorably, and NT seems equally fraught with peril. Does this make any bridge sense??

Iain ClimieJune 22nd, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Hi Bruce,

Sorry, I was going back to the caveman approach I played 30 yrs ago where dbl of an opening 3H or 3S by the next hand was penalties although doubiing a minor suit pre-empt was take out. After 3 of a suit – Pass – Pass – Dbl, of course, this was still takeout and I’d convert to pens as South if I’d passed initially although here North bid 3S.

I agree with your general thoughts but was suggesting I might have hit the opening bid with a penalty double (if available) as South immediately; I always was trigger happy. Maybe it as well that I have to play takeout doubles, although the odd -730 at pairs is just too bad.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffJune 23rd, 2012 at 1:49 am

Hi all,

Reporting real life hands, especially focusing on the high-level game, tends to show wide ranges of judgment. Penalty doubles of 3 level preempts (usually called Fishbein, named after a great bridge player and personality, Harry Fishbein from NY became unpopular about 70 years ago (1950), but sometimes we have all wished we were still playing it. In those long bygone years, preempts had become very weak, but when Fishbein was invented, preempts became at least slightly beefed up to combat that convention.

To each his own probably applies to bridge more than most competitions, but in any event it is fun to talk about.