Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

And with you memories come, sharp pain, and dole.
Now there’s a choice — heartache or tortured liver!
A sea-sick body, or a you-sick soul!

Rupert Brooke

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


Today's deal sees two different defenders at work. Both succeeded in defeating their opponents' game, but in very different ways.

At each table South was declarer in four spades when North treated his hand as worth a jump raise facing his partner’s free bid of one spade. Of course in this auction South had promised five spades since he would have doubled one heart with only four spades.

The defense started with West leading the heart jack, and East overtaking to play clubs. At one table East found the best technical defense when he shifted to the club jack. South covered with the queen, and West won and returned the club nine. Now, whatever declarer did, he had to lose two more club tricks.

In the other room East shifted to the club king at trick two, and when it held the trick, he continued with a low club. South looked at him suspiciously. Was East trying to pull a fast one, with an original club holding of ace-king-third, or did he have his actual holding and had given up on the legitimate way to defeat the contract?

In the end, South guessed wrong and went up with the queen, letting West take his ace and cash third club trick for the defense.

So which defender followed the better line? It is hard to say. Had East held the club nine or eight in addition to the king-jack, the technical play of shifting to the club jack would surely have been right.

This hand is just below the minimum required for a negative double followed by a correction of two of a red suit to two spades. And since you certainly need more to make a forcing call of two spades here, you should probably pass and hope partner can reopen the bidding when he is short in clubs.


♠ K J 10 3 2
 8 7 3
 Q 8
♣ Q 5 3
South West North East
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


Michael BeyroutiMarch 27th, 2013 at 11:36 am

Dear Mr Wolff,
there are people who play the opposite of what you suggest in the answer of BWTA. With this South hand, they would immediately bid two spades to show a weak hand. I think they call it “negative free bids”. With a better hand they start with a double first. Can you tell us your preference and why. Thanks.

Shantanu RastogiMarch 27th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Hello Mr Wolff

If East has A K of Clubs along with known A K Q of hearts he has 16 HCPs and with such a good suit 1H overcall may be a gross underbid. East is likely to double first with 16 HCP and then bid his Heart suit hence when he bids only 1 Heart he doesnt have A K of clubs. So second declarer should have played low Club not Club Q.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobbywolffMarch 27th, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Hi Michael,

Yes and no. Yes, some players negative free bids and do exactly as you say. No, it is not good bridge since with s. x, hearts Jxx, d. AKJxx, c. KJxx it would (and should) be the opening bidders choice to pass, playing partner for better (certainly longer) spades and wanting to check out as low as possible in case partner had s. KJ10xxxx, h. Jx. d. xx, c. Kx.

A similar situation arises for all players, when passed hand bidding occurs. With the example hand in the column, it is also not good enough for a passed hand bid of 2 spades, nor, of course, a negative double.

The more bridge is attempted to be modernized, sometimes the more it should attempt to stay the same.

bobbywolffMarch 27th, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Yes, you are correct in what South should no doubt play East for when he first leads the king then a low club. However East, seeing a singleton heart in dummy may rise with the ace of hearts, theoretically denying the king before the underleads his club honors.

With AKx in clubs East should start by leading a small one, throwing possible overtricks under the bus, in order to try and defeat the hand. However the surrounding play of the jack is probably the right way to go, if not for strict percentage, but certainly right for sheer grace and beauty.