Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 30th, 2012

By the work one knows the workman.

Jean de La Fontaine

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


At the 2011 Lederer, Artur Malinowski, declarer in today's deal, won the award for best-played hand. The play was simple, but his reasoning was excellent. After the normal start to the auction, Janet de Botton made a responsive double with the North hand, and East competed further to four hearts. When this came back to de Botton, she tried again with four no-trump. (In a similar position one North had tried an intellectual bid of four spades, but declarer was forced to go one off on the club lead, either sustaining a ruff or losing control.)

Against Malinowski’s contract of five clubs, Tony Priday led the heart king and switched to a spade, which cleared up any doubts in that suit. Declarer won East’s king with the ace, then played the club king and finessed the jack for plus 400. Why did he do this? There were two reasons: the first was that if East had been dealt a doubleton club, he would have been less inclined to go on to four hearts and, equally, West might have led or switched to a club with a doubleton rather than playing a dangerous spade. With queen-third of clubs he was never leading one.

The odds might favor playing the bidder for the missing high cards, but here the inferences pointed in the other direction: East appeared to have extra shape, and thus West was more likely to have long clubs.

Though partner has not acted here, there are reasons to assume that he has a few values (e.g., the opponents' attempts to stay low).. To involve him here, double three clubs for takeout. This suggests your precise hand pattern, though it may be a slight overbid. If you are worried that this sounds like penalty, remember the opponents have bid and raised the suit three times, so you can't hold a trump stack.


♠ K 7 2
 A Q J 8 6 5
 A 10 8
♣ 8
South West North East
1 2♣ Pass Pass
2 Pass Pass 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


Iain ClimieSeptember 13th, 2012 at 9:32 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I can understand West’s spade switch but would South have made the contract if a trump switch (C10) comes out at Trick 2? Despite the bidding it would be a brute for South to get right here.


Iain Climie

Shantanu RastogiSeptember 13th, 2012 at 10:57 am

Hi Mr Wolff

Is it possible for NS to double 4H which goes vul 2 down ?
This solves the problem of right inference while on card play in 5 clubs.

best regards


Shantanu RastogiSeptember 13th, 2012 at 11:14 am

Hi Mr Wolff

Just to add to my comment.

This deal if played in 4 Hearts doubled would be a lesson for Law of Total Tricks freaks which I must admit I’m one. West has no business to pre-empt to 3 level without any distributional shape. With 3523 shape a raise to 2 hearts is enough. East can also exercise caution if he knows his partner bids recklessly. EW have not only pushed NS to 5C as with combined 21 points they might have played in part score. Also without bidding inference South would have likely gone down in 5C had they reached there without push.

best regards


Iain ClimieSeptember 13th, 2012 at 11:45 am

Hi Shantanu,

West’s raise to 3H here just shows a hand which would have happily bid 2H without the double. I would suggest that East (if anyone) perhaps got a bit too excited but I suspect I’d have done the same although the SK could be waste paper as here. There does seem to be more of a tendency to “take the push” nowadays rather than doubling, or am I imagining that after my long break from the game?


Iain Climie

jim2September 13th, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Setting 4H two may not be easy.

First, South must avoid a spade lead.

Second, it would be easy for South to end up being endplayed with the third club. (East ducks first diamond, wins second, ruffs third, crosses with trump, then leads low club to 9 and knave. If North cashes AC and leads third club ….)

Say Declarer strips the hand (the Defense refuses to open the Spade suit), and eventually comes down to three spades and a couple trump in each hand with the lead in either hand. If the lead is low from the Board, will North find the 8S? If the lead is low from hand, will South duck the queen?

bobbywolffSeptember 13th, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Hi Iain,

Two advanced lessons to begin to understand about our grand game.

1. While the law of total tricks has much validity (20 total tricks supposedly here. 11 + 9) but in reality only 19, mainly because of the poor spade spots confronting EW, which will enable NS to take 3 spade tricks with relative ease on defense while also not losing a spade trick if playing as declarer (because of the diamonds looming for discards). Of course, your diabolical switch to the club ten (slightly exaggerated descripition) in reality forcing the NS declarer to rise to his best card guessing to score up his tenuous club game.

All in all an excellent test for high level play and execution, likely later if NS’ teammates were asked what they thought of their declarer at the other table who went down (instead of actually making) what they would have thought of his execution, they no doubt would answer, “we would be in favor of it”!

bobbywolffSeptember 13th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Hi Shantanu,

While I am “sort of” a fan of “the LAW” it, like most everything said about certainty in our favorite game, which in reality is closer to never than always.

My real opinion is that neither East nor West can be blamed for getting to 4 hearts (an 11 card trump fit is always a compelling force) and to try and get away from playing results, rather than thinking fairly, it did scare the bogey man away from making (what I consider) a very speculative penalty double with only scant evidence of a sure set. Instead since the spade suit was so eminently in favor of NS (both with declarer and also defensively) all the declarer need do is brilliantly deduce how to play clubs to reel in a touchy game.

Although, as always, let the discussion first begin and then continue, but both avoiding the 4 heart trap for EW, but still having to endure the 5 clubs bid and accurately guessed does not make for much comfort in return.

Such is often life in the fast lane, high-level game we all enjoy, both playing and rehashing.

bobbywolffSeptember 13th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Hi Jim 2,

While appreciating the defensive difficulty points made in your comment, in reality and playing against very good players, expect them to defend this hand to best advantage (rising with the spade 8 if challenged) since by the time that play is made by an EW declarer they WILL be ready to execute defensively. Of course, this is the area in which world class players (or almost) shine since both defenders would have the hand well counted and know that East is 3-3 in spades and very likely possessing only the king of that suit (note also that earlier the defense can even stand an earlier lead of that suit by North and then sit back and wait for declarer to be unable to find a way to take an eventual trick, to which he is not entitled).

Vast experience in playing the game for a long time enables one to differentiate between very difficult and relatively easy to accurately execute. This one belongs in the 2nd category.

Nothing above denies my appreciation for your bringing this intelligent discussion out into the open.

Shantanu RastogiSeptember 13th, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Hi Mr Wolff

I never question your wisdom as a world champion and vastly experienced player. What I’m writing is purely for discussion’s sake.

I feel that double of 4 Heart may not be so speculative as South could be 4144 for his take out double which would make 5 C or 5 D a non starter where as 4 heart would at least be one down (if dummy has singleton diamond). With 4 carder club with West he may double 5 C and take contract two down.

best regards


Ted BartunekSeptember 13th, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Hi Mr. Wolf,

Would the dbl of 4H by North clearly be for penalties, or would it just be promising additional values beyond the initial responsive dbl and asking partner to do something intelligent?

bobby wolffSeptember 14th, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Hi Ted,

The double of 4 hearts would not be just for penalties, but by so doing might suggest that 4 hearts doubled might well be a possible choice. Since I hold a singleton heart, rather than a doubeton I would not choose that option(and instead pass) since (although not true on this hand) I have a singleton, meaning more offense and less defense,