Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Down Time's quaint stream
Without an oar,
We are enforced to sail,
Our Port — a secret —
Our Perchance — a gale.

Emily Dickinson

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


West leads the spade queen against six hearts. After winning the spade ace, you cash the ace and king of trumps. If both defenders follow, cash the club ace and continue with the club queen. If clubs are 3-2, life is easy; if they are not, you may have to cross to dummy with the trump 10 and take the diamond finesse.

When one defender discards on the second round of trumps, what should you do next? Obviously, you could cross to dummy with the trump 10 and take the diamond finesse. However, it is far better to develop dummy’s club suit.

One way is to draw the last trump and continue with the ace and queen of clubs. But East will hold up the king until the third round. You do no better by playing the club ace and queen while you still have the trump 10 as an entry to dummy. On this layout, East will win the second round of clubs and give his partner a club ruff.

Far better is to lead the club queen from hand first! If East takes the king, you will win his return, draw the last trump, and enjoy the club suit. If instead East ducks, you will continue with ace and another club. Then, after winning East’s return, you will cross to the dummy with the trump 10 and run the clubs.

This plan will succeed around two-thirds of the time, making it far more attractive than the diamond finesse.

Your partner's decision to reopen with a call of two clubs and not a takeout double suggests extra shape and perhaps unsuitability for defending (since he wasn't prepared to give you the option to defend). If that is so, you certainly don't want to double now — that would show much better trumps. The choice is to raise to three clubs or pass, and with the singleton in partner's long suit, I'd opt for defense.


♠ K 7 4 3
 9 8 7 6 3
♣ K 10 7
South West North East
1 1♠
Pass Pass 2♣ 2♠

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


JaneAugust 28th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the BWTA hand, if north doubles after east bids two spades, assuming south has passed the two spade call, can south sit for the double? I would think yes, because it look like defense is going to be more fun on this hand. But would a double by north in this sequence ask partner to pick a suit because north wants to play this hand? I know, you don’t always get what you want!

Thanks, as always.

Iain ClimieAugust 28th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Hi Jane, Mr. Wolff,

Is there another possible reason For the 2C bid on BWTA I.e. North has few diamonds e.g. 3514, 2515. If so, defensive prospects may be further improved.



jim2August 28th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

On the BWTA, I think the most likely North pattern is 1-5-2-5.

Also, I think East has seven spades, or at least six very good ones. East has also heard West and South pass and may have upgraded his diamond tenace with something like:

S AQJ1085
H 73
D AQ10
C 54

If I defended 2S, West would then show up with:

S 92
H Q9852
D J42
C Q98

With the 9S the necessary diamond entry for 8 tricks, and N-S cold for 4C.

bobby wolffAugust 28th, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Hi Jane, Iain and Jim2,

My guess on Jane’s question, as to North’s most likely distribution would be either: 1. 0-5-3-5, or 2. 1-5-3-4 with strong clubs and 3 mediocre to weak diamonds.

Either distribution would induce me to bid 3 diamonds since defeating 2 spades, and not because of Jim2’s theory of card migration, but rather because of my poor spade spots and not to be taken lightly, the disadvantage of defending rather than declaring (not seeing all 26 of the partnership assets rather than just 13 and add to that, the disadvantage of trying to guess the most effective opening lead, although on this hand the singleton heart would be probably a justifiably 90+% choice).

With any hand without at least 3 diamonds it would not be my choice to double since a double is supposed to, at the very least, enter diamonds into thought. Another serious constant consideration while exchanging the language of bidding with partner is not to place him (or her) in an awkward position, because when one does, he needs to share in the responsibility of a horrible result.

Jane, if the game is matchpoints (frequency of gain rather than amount of gain), the opponents are vulnerable and my RHO has a reputation for overbidding, might dissuade me into converting my partner’s 2nd TO double to penalties, but only if all three of the above conditions are present.

See Jim2, there are precautions, or call it safety plays (bids), one can take in order to deal with that curse which continues to bedevil you.

Iain, I still think, in spite of your loving wife’s admonition, think you are a great communicator, but now, by your distributional assessment of what your partner’s hand might look like, now rate you as a supreme optimist, if you expect partner to have anything more than a singleton spade and perhaps fewer.

jim2August 28th, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Given the BWTA bidding, does 1-5-3-4 really qualify as “extra shape”?

bobby wolffAugust 28th, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Hi Jim2

No, certainly 1-5-3-4 does not qualify as “extra shape”, but I do think it should, allow diamonds to be considered, if partner so chooses, therefore the so-called competitive double with both the first mentioned distribution and also 0-5-3-5 which in either case should keep EW from wandering away from a necessary 8 card fit.