Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 9th, 2013

The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum.

Havelock Ellis

South North
Neither ♠ K J 10 3
 8 3
 A Q 10 5
♣ 9 3 2
West East
♠ 9 8 5
 8 6 3 2
♣ A K Q J 10
♠ 7 6 4 2
 A Q 5 4
 9 7
♣ 8 6 5
♠ A Q
 K J 10 9 7 2
 K J 4
♣ 7 4
South West North East
1 2♣ Dbl. Pass
3 Pass 4 All pass


Against four hearts West began with three top clubs, South ruffing the third round. This hand boils down to playing the trumps for one loser, which is best done by assuming East has the heart queen.

West could have defeated four hearts after cashing the club ace and king by shifting to a diamond to dislodge an entry from dummy.

But West played the third club — as I suspect we all might do. With no particularly deep plan in mind, South ruffed and cashed the spade ace, overtook the spade queen with the king, and led the heart three to the 10. When it held, he crossed to dummy with the diamond 10 and ruffed a spade, then went back to dummy with a second diamond to the queen and led the heart eight. If East played low, declarer would let the heart eight hold, then lead out dummy’s top spade and remain in dummy for a trump coup. If East covered the eight with his ace, he would have to lead a diamond, and declarer could take dummy’s ace and be in dummy for the trump coup.

There is one trap in the deal (though I do not think many defenders would get this right for the right reasons). If declarer leads the heart eight from dummy at trick six, instead of the low trump, East can defeat the game by winning his ace and returning a diamond. Then declarer does not have enough entries to dummy for the trump coup.

Here a double by you is emphatically not penalties. Few low-level doubles are penalty-oriented, especially when the opponents have found a fit. This double suggests the unbid suits and values. You should be content to have a doubleton in partner's suit as a fallback for him if he does not have four cards in either black suit.


♠ K J 10 3
 8 3
 A Q 10 5
♣ 9 3 2
South West North East
1 1 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


Patrick CheuMarch 23rd, 2013 at 10:08 am

Hi Bobby, contract depends on navigating the 4-1 trump break in East hand, and a low heart from dummy on trick 6 instead of 8,so the 8 can act as a sort of positional hold in dummy if East does not cover,and the 4th spade to be played.The spades ruff enables declarer to come down to the same number of trumps as East,but still to play after East, provided Dummy has side suit winners, to allow declarer to discard on.If dummy has xx of hearts, and not the 8H we would need East to have 3433 to succeed.Alas this little gem will not be here.Best regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffMarch 23rd, 2013 at 10:38 am

Hi Patrick,

Oh yes! The editorial license all bridge authors utilize is to make sure the bridge point intended is present by way of proper spot cards, distribution and all things tempo, position, and entry efficient.

Good for presenting, learning and point producing, but sometimes (often) real hands can be disappointing with one (or more) necessary element for success just not in the room.

An enthusiastic bridge player should accept this sometimes seemingly unrealistic truth in order to, at the very least, improve his (or her) bridge game by experiencing the thrill of victory, even if it is only playing the local column’s bridge hand to best effect.

So says a highly optimistic writer.

Thanks for all your continuing efforts to try and make bridge more interesting to all readers.

jim2March 23rd, 2013 at 11:46 am

In BWTA, if North bids 3C, does South bid 3H?

Patrick CheuMarch 23rd, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Hi Bobby.In Bwta,does North bid 2S with a 3 carder?No doubt he will rebid a good 5carder in hearts, or 6 card in hearts.Methinks, I would pass 3C,right or wrong,as 5-2 in hearts may not be comfortable at the three level,if overcaller’s hearts are not wholly respectable,whereas Akxx in clubs or maybe overcaller has 5C(?!),may be ok pending on how clubs break.What are your thoughts?Best Regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffMarch 23rd, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Hi Jim2 & Patrick,

Agreed, that the BWTA answer is confusing as to what is suggested. In retrospect my choice would be between pass and 2 hearts, not a responsive double. When one chooses a responsive double, certainly 4+ of the other major is required with not having 4 of the other minor a relatively severe disadvantage.

The reason is that, if partner (as in this case) has overcalled in a major and then, in response to your double bids the other major I would guess him to have, at least 75% of the time, only 3 cards (usually a major honor, not Jxx or less) in that suit.

Remember, if the responsive doubler has: s. Jxxxx, h. xx, d. Ax, c. KJxx, his hand will definitely meet the requirements with no raise if partner bids 2 spades. If partner has s. Axxx, h. AKJxx, d. xx, c. xx his bid should be a NF 3 spades which I thiink should be raised, although chances for making 10 tricks in spades are probably sub-standard.

Finally if the overcaller decides to go up a level and bid an unbid minor he should always have at least 4.

bobbywolffMarch 23rd, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Hi again,

On a peripheral subject and possibly worth mentioning at this time, holding s. KQx, h. xx, d. Axxxx, c. Jxx and hearing the bidding go 1 club from partner, 1 heart by RHO I think a negative double is not only recommended, but more or less mandatory since passing runs much too high a risk of never getting into the bidding since I do not believe my partner should protect me if my LHO now passes. At least to me, 2 diamonds (or 2 clubs) is not in the ball park and the absence of a 4th spade is not enough to run the above risk.

Obviously many players (some of them good) will not agree with me, but I would then classify those not agreeing players as ones seeking (or better said, demanding) a comfort zone for them, where they will always find in dummy what they usually do and will not tolerate such disobedience.

Bridge is NOT a game which doesn’t include exceptions to the various rules, since, although some will not accept the following, often the lesser of evils choice gets the job done, but passing, when one should be bidding is so much more dangerous than most of us realize we should insure our partnership against that ever happening.

Patrick CheuMarch 23rd, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Hi Bobby, many thanks yet again for giving us the benefit of your experience in bidding and card play,very much appreciated, we can only improve in due course.Better late than never :-)Very best regards-Patrick.

Iain ClimieMarch 23rd, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Hi Folks,

A very good hand and subsequent discussions, but I love the quote. Can I add something bleaker, though? “Nevber trust optimists – they say ‘chin up’ so they can get the noose round.” Less flippantly, there is a role for both optimism and pessimsim in the game. When things appear doomed, what is the only chance to make a contract or to hold the damage to a minimum? When life seems easy, what can go wrong and how (if at all) can it be overcome?



bobbywolffMarch 24th, 2013 at 4:42 am

Hi Iain,

Believe it or not, a very well known American psychologist, Dr. Marty Seligman wrote a classic book on the present subject called, “Learned Optimism”. He also happens to be a very good bridge player from Philadelphia who in the late 1990’s tested many of the top bridge players for an exhausting study of how optimism affects bridge playing.

The only important thing I remember about the results was that he came to feel that being optimistic is very helpful to be a winning player and has a definite positive effect on one’s game.

So, chin up, but I promise not to hang you if you overbid while being my partner.