Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 10th, 2012

Time has no flight — 'tis we who speed along;
The days and nights are but the same as when
The earth awoke with the first rush of song….

Thomas Collier

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


In today's deal South played too fast and suffered the consequences. He didn't see the danger to his contract of four hearts when the defenders led and continued spades. He ruffed, and drew three rounds of trump, expecting them to break, or for East to have the long trump, in which case he would be in no danger.

When West turned up with four hearts, South could do nothing else but try to build the tricks he needed by knocking out the diamond ace. However, the damage had already been done. East won the diamond ace and returned a spade, leaving West with the 13th trump and two master spades ready to cash.

By contrast, compare the strategy of ducking the second trick, pitching a small club. You will then ruff the third spade, stripping East of that suit. Now you draw three rounds of trump to find the bad news, but can then simply draw the last trump and knock out the diamond ace.

The difference between this position and the former one is that East no longer has a spade to lead. So he must lead back a minor suit, and your hand is high.

While you would have gone down if West had five spades, the fourth trump and the diamond ace, there was nothing you could have done in that position. Accordingly, you might as well try to make your contract whenever it is possible.

Your partner has shown six or more clubs and four hearts, with the values to invite game. You have the ideal hand for him, so jump to five clubs, expecting it to be at worst on a spade finesse. Yes, you have a minimum hand, but your cards are in the perfect places for him.


♠ 9 8 4 2
 A 10
 9 7 5 3
♣ K 9 6
South West North East
1 2♣ 2
3♣ 3 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


Jane ANovember 24th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

Why did north double the west overcall of one spade? Seems if this was supposed to be a negative double, it certainly was quite “negative”. If he passes, east might raise to two spades, south can now double, and north can pass. With an inspired lead of a spade, looks like minus 500 to me with continued spade leads. If east uses better judgement and passes, south can always double back in at that point.

Granted, it would work well with these hands, but it seems like this could be a nice example of the discussion you held a few days ago in the BWTA hands about when to double and when to bid. With the vulnerability favorable to north/south on this hand, it would be fun to watch west squirm when the stars are aligned right.

Have a wonderful time in San Francisco.

David WarheitNovember 24th, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I have good news: there’s no way south can go down, if he plays the way you have outlined. Remember that west passed originally, so there’s no way he can have AKQxx of spades and the ace of diamonds, not even if he is the most fervent Roth-Stoner on the planet.

bobby wolffNovember 25th, 2012 at 5:39 am

Hi Jane,

Yes, some players take advantage of the negative double and thus tend to overuse it.

It would be a better hand for it, if North held 4 clubs instead of 4 spades, but with the values being an ace and a king I can tolerate such an action, even though it is certainly borderline. Actually, the way it turned out, with declaring 4 hearts the 4th spade in dummy helped since if East had 4 spades, down would go the declarer as long as the opening leader had 4 hearts.

bobby wolffNovember 25th, 2012 at 5:43 am

Hi David,

Yes, your eagle eye certainly clearly located the defender who had the ace of diamonds, after West had originally passed and had already showed up with the three top honors in spades.

Counting hcps and the distribution really helps all bridge players, whether they declare or defend. Do not leave home (especially on the way to the bridge club) without be able to do it on all hands.