Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 25th, 2013

Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

William Shakespeare

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


Today's deal from last year's NEC trophy in Yokohama features the use (and abuse) of doubles. Let's look at the unsuccessful story first, where West opened one diamond and North doubled for takeout. East bid one heart, South joined in with two clubs, and West now doubled to show a three-card heart raise — the so-called support double.

Even if playing mandatory support doubles, this West hand surely fails to qualify since arguably it is neither an opening bid, nor does it have three-card support — but maybe I’m old-fashioned. Two hearts went down on repeated spade leads, when the fourth spade promoted a trump for South.

By contrast when Tony Nunn and Sartaj Hans were East-West, they constructed an auction, as shown here, to defend two clubs doubled. Put yourself in West’s shoes and pick a lead. Too easy, especially facing diamond shortage, right? No. Nunn led a small club, not his diamond sequence. Declarer won in hand and led a heart to the king, ducked by East, then played a diamond to West, who returned his second trump. A heart run around to the jack saw East play a third trump, won in dummy, and the ruffing finesse in hearts now set up the heart eight, but simultaneously ran declarer out of trump.

At this point declarer naturally misguessed spades by leading to the spade king, Hans could win his ace, unblock the diamond jack, then cross to his partner’s spade queen. Three more diamond winners meant a penalty of 800 out of nothing.

Forcing to game with a call of three diamonds or a jump to four clubs seems an overbid, while raising to three clubs is a clear underbid — though not absurd, given your lack of aces. All that is left is a double, which is card-showing, not penalties, in the hope that the next round of the auction will clarify for you what to do next.


♠ K J 8 5
 K Q 8 7
 10 8
♣ K 5 3
South West North East
1♣ 1
Dbl. 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Shantanu RastogiFebruary 8th, 2013 at 10:05 am

Hello Mr Wolff

In the unsuccessful story that you’ve mentioned I think the problem was with East. First he buts in with a 4 card suit Major knowing fully well that North may hold majors and then he doesnt pass partner’s support double converting into penalty with 4 cards of club. I think this shows the problem with modern bidding where one plays a lot of conventions without ever knowing their correct application. I agree with you that with 3 small support double should be avoided.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffFebruary 8th, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Right you are and, if you will excuse the expression in “No Trump”.

I have often described the ideal situation, when desiring to create a new partnership with the idea of slowing growing into something formidable, of figuratively retiring to a desert island with your partner, where distractions are rare, and devote brain time to not only choose system and conventions wisely, languages which fit the personality of both of the partners, and most importantly learn when to strictly follow convention (here the support double, which BTW I never liked since IMO the disadvantages outweigh the advantages) and above all, the reasoning involved where both partners come to an agreement as to what degree and when to follow through.

The above is a beginning and after time, during which some compromises and negotiations are sure to occur, the partnership will then begin to achieve a necessary consistency which becomes critical to be able to move on to a winning style and, more importantly a worthwhile liaison which usually establishes the confidence needed to score well consistently, with the goal of both partners continuing to improve, both generally and, of course, developing a competitive winning approach together to the game itself.

Again, thanks for your voiced pragmatic opinions.