Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

But if you try sometimes
You just might find
You get what you need.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

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


A standard Roman Key Card Blackwood auction sees you land in what turns out to be a rather poor small slam in spades. How do you plan to make 12 tricks after West leads the heart queen?

A simple line would be to win the heart ace, play three rounds of trump ending in dummy, and take the club finesse. If that succeeds, then all you would need for a 12th trick would be for diamonds to be 3-2. However, there is an extra chance you should try to exploit when trumps are 2-2.

After winning the first trick with the heart ace, you first ruff a heart. After drawing two rounds of trump with the ace and jack, you find that trumps do break 2-2, so you ruff dummy’s last heart. Once the heart suit is eliminated, you play ace, king and another diamond. When West holds three diamonds, he has to win the trick, then must either lead a club into your ace-queen tenace or play a heart. The latter allows you to ruff in dummy while discarding the club queen from hand. Either way, you have 12 tricks.

If East had won the third round of diamonds, he would have to play a club, and the fate of the contract would hinge on which defender began with the club king.

If trumps were not 2-2, you would take the club finesse after drawing the second round of trumps with dummy’s jack.

A partnership needs to agree if pass here would be to play, or is the Pontius Pilate pass. (You got me into this; you get me out of it!) I prefer the simple agreement that all passes of redoubles after a pre-empt has been doubled are to play, so I have to bid here. I'd start by bidding two spades, perhaps planning to redouble if doubled.


♠ J 7 3
 A 4 2
 7 5 3 2
♣ 5 4 3
South West North East
2 Dbl. Rdbl.

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


angelo romanoOctober 9th, 2012 at 10:46 am

Dear Mr. Wolff,
even if East has three spades you could try the same play: not everybody ruffs partner’s winner (in our bridge world; in your I suppose it is obvious).
As for the bidding quiz, if I don’t bid 2S nor run to minors, shouldn’t mean I ‘ve got exactly three spades, and probably no 5 minor, so the partner can decide ?

bobby wolffOctober 9th, 2012 at 11:59 am

Hi Angelo,

You are 100% right in both of your opinions, however, there are other considerations.

In the first subject you discussed, you said everything necessary to be mentioned. Unfortunately in my world and also in many different stratums concerning above average bridge, it should be duck soup for East to ruff the 3rd diamond and lead a club. However, yes it is worth a try and to not do so (in the case of East having a 3rd spade) is a huge error not to attempt it, although in the event of East having only one diamond, instead of two, the declarer will go down an extra trick by so doing and maybe two extra tricks if the king of clubs is offside and East then does not ruff the 4th good diamond when his partner leads it.

As for the bidding quiz, it has to do with a partnership discussing a conventional treatment of deciding whether or not to play penalty passes after the opponents redouble your partner’s take out double. Many good players play that in order for their opponents not to be able to effectively get out of a penalty on the way to happen, a psychic redouble can be made when the partner of a weak two bidder is very short (perhaps even void) of his partner’s suit and fears it to be left in by his LHO.

In order to prevent that gambit from happening, it is necessary to then play penalty passes after a redouble instead of what you are suggesting of letting partner take it out according to what he holds. Yes, in most cases it might be more useful to play pass is not to play, but rather to leave it up to the TO doubler to run to his best suit or whatever else might be used to not play 2 hearts redoubled.

An infrequent happening, but one which should be discussed beforehand by a partnership.

Ted BartunekOctober 9th, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

In BWTA would 2NT still be Lebensohl or, since it can be assumed you are weak, would it ask partner to choose a minor?

bobby wolffOctober 10th, 2012 at 12:28 am

Hi Ted,

Good question and I’ll attempt a more or less high-level answer.

Since the redouble was made and I assume it shows cards rather than being strictly conventional, any suit bid by the partner of the doubler, would just be weak (0-6, but with at least, some length in the suit bid). That leaves 2NT to be for the minors, perhaps only 4-4 but not interested in the other major and scrambling to get out as low as possible. If for some unusual reason (psyching by the redoubler comes to mind) the partner of the doubler has a good hand merely pass and wait developments, assuming your pass is not for penalties and partner bids something, after the weak two bidder has passed.

For relatively new players, you should immediately realize that if this makes sense to play it that way and for approximately the same reasons given, without any discussion with a random peer as a partner, you are on your way to improving at least fairly rapidly.

Learning the basic logic of the game is a necessity for anyone interested in a steady rise in ability and then in results.
Even with a great deal of discussion with a new or current partner, there are some bids and plays (defense) which are of themselves concerned with the logic of the game, and your question hits that chord.

Good luck!