Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

I boast myself the senior, th' others are
Youths, that attend in free and friendly care
Great-souled Telemachus, and are his peers….

George Chapman

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

*Spade support, 7-9 points


The advent of senior events at European and world championship levels brought many names from the past back into the playing arena. For instance, Joe MacHale first represented Ireland at the 1953 European Championships, held in Helsinki. Fifty years on, he was again in action under the Irish flag, in Salsamaggiore, Italy. His handling of today's contract showed that his skills remained intact.

As South, MacHale reached four spades after West had suggested he held most of the outstanding high cards. By chance he had managed to avoid playing four hearts, which would have been hopeless on a club lead. (Perhaps that is what is meant by the luck of the Irish.)

West led the club king against four spades, ducked by declarer. Next came ace and another diamond. On the established queen and jack, declarer did not discard his losing club, but two hearts from hand. He had appreciated that the way home lay in making two heart tricks, but without first losing two tricks in the suit. The bidding made West the likely candidate to hold the outstanding honors.

Joe now played ace and another heart, endplaying West. West’s best exit is a trump, but if he leads the nine, declarer covers, thus establishing two spade entries to dummy, one to ruff a heart, bringing down the king, and the second to cash the established jack for a club discard in hand. If instead West had played the spade five, it would have been covered by the eight to achieve a similar position.

One no-trump here should guarantee a club stopper while not necessarily guaranteeing heart length. It would be quixotic to introduce a three-card suit here, so what are you left with? The answer is to double one heart. This shows hearts and is for penalty. When the opponents run to two clubs, you may decide to balance with two hearts. Even if East has four hearts, that would not be the end of the world.


♠ A 10 8
 J 10 6 3
 Q J 9
♣ 9 6 2
South West North East
Pass 1♣ Dbl. 1

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 WarheitOctober 3rd, 2012 at 9:16 am

In the other room, after west won the first trick, he exited with a low diamond, forcing south to win his singleton king. South now had no choice but to lead a spade to dummy’s ace (well, ok, he could have tried to finesse the ten, but that would obviously have been disastrous) and led the queen of diamonds, discarding a heart. West won and returned the nine of spades and east refused to play the jack. South now played the ace and another heart which west won, but he now led the queen of hearts. This established dummy’s jack, but south had no entry to dummy. Down one.

David WarheitOctober 3rd, 2012 at 10:21 am

There is a fly in my ointment. When west leads a low diamond at trick 2, south must cash the king-queen of spades and then play ace and another heart. West wins, cashes his second heart…and is endplayed, forced to lead into south’s club tenace or establish a diamond in dummy for a club discard. Oh, well.

Iain ClimieOctober 3rd, 2012 at 11:42 am

Hi Gents,

Is a small trump at T2 any better? The S8 wins and a diamond to the K is followed by another trump, east covering the 10 this time. South can go back with the SA to cash diamonds but West will have a safe Dx exit with dummy’s trumps gone.

If the SA is played instead, the DQJ
follow but West is discarding after South. If S sheds 2 hearts and plays HAx west can exit with his high heart and South can’t get to the heart winner.



jim2October 3rd, 2012 at 12:41 pm

David –

If West leads xD at Trick #2, can’t declarer simply draw trump ending in hand and lead a small heart?

On your second line drawing just two trump, might an inspired East ruff West’s second heart winner and lead clubs through the closed hand?

jim2October 3rd, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Iain –

That’s quite a duck by East!

What if declarer does play AS at West’s second exit, cashes QD, but ruffs the JD to advance a small heart towards dummy?

Asuming West wins the QH, I think the six card ending, with declarer having lost two tricks and West on lead is:

—– North
—-S 10
—-H J106
—-D –
—-C 96

– West —- East
S – ——–S J
H K8 —–H 9
D xx ——D 10
C Q10 —C 754

—– South
—-S KQ
—-H A7
—-D –
—-C AJ

If West ducks the small heart, declarer draws trump. West much pitch both diamonds to avoid establishing declarer’s tenth trick in hearts or clubs. Declarer now goes AH, 7H, and West is endplayed at the end in clubs.

jim2October 3rd, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Iain –

Ack, I forgot the opening duck by Declarer! Thus, the defense has taken not two tricks but three.

“Never mind!”

jim2 channeling Emily Litella / Gilda Radner today

Iain ClimieOctober 3rd, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Hi Jim2,

Cheer up, I fell in the same hole when I looked at it I.e. Forgetting T1. Maybe West can make east’s life a bit easier by leading the S9 at T2
but playing the SJ can hardly be right – on paper, of course. At the table it is all too easy to play it first then kick self later!



bobby wolffOctober 3rd, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Hi David, Jim2 and Iain,

First reading and then trying to analyze all that is offered is what Jim2 constantly refers to, as his head hurting, David discussing ointment fly’s, and Iain kicking oneself, although we know not where and can only guess.

However, a romantic touch could be what Daisy said to West playing low on the diamond king, “That is quite a duck, I’ll call him Donald”, or what Micky might have surmised, that hand was quite well played, justifying his spade game jump, with a “Minnie”.

However Joe McHale had the last laugh, making the game, proving, even at his, to say the least, advanced age, he wasn’t Goofy.

“No doubt about it, bridge will keep all of us young, perhaps forever”, barked Pluto.

alan wertheimerOctober 3rd, 2012 at 7:05 pm


On the bidding question, what does one bid if one plays responsive doubles? I assume that one couldn’t double for penalty.

Jeff HOctober 3rd, 2012 at 8:32 pm

alan –

The way I learned responsive doubles is they only apply if responder raises partner’s suit after a takeout double. That being the case, the double in the bidding question would be for penalty even if playing responsive doubles.

You want to be able to double for penalty after responder bids a new suit (particularly if it is a major) because partner has implied a tolerance for that suit. Of course, if he had a hand too big for an overcall, that tolerance is not necessary.