Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 25th, 2013

If a man could bite the giant hand
That catches and destroys him,
As I was bitten by a rat
While demonstrating my patent trap….

Robert Fulton Tanner

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


Having a nasty surprise for the declarer in the trump suit may be sufficient grounds for doubling the final contract, but by alerting declarer to the bad break, you may provide a blueprint on how the hand should be played.

In today’s deal, having given a restrained preference to two spades, North could hardly be faulted for going on to game when South issued a somewhat dubious invitation. West doubled and led the diamond three; declarer took East’s king with the ace. Alerted by the double, declarer left trump well alone, and prepared for a diamond ruff by returning the diamond jack at trick two, making sure that East could not gain the lead and switch to a trump.

West won and tried the effect of switching to a cunning club six. Declarer put up dummy’s ace and played the heart queen, covered by the king and ace. He ruffed his last diamond, returned to hand with the heart jack, and ruffed a heart. Then he trumped a club, revealing West’s deception, and ruffed his last heart with dummy’s remaining trump.

Declarer was now down to the spade K-Q-9-6 while West had his four trumps left, and dummy was reduced to just clubs. With eight tricks in the bag, declarer played a club and ruffed it with his spade queen. West overruffed with the spade ace and returned the jack, but declarer ducked and left West on play to lead into declarer’s spade tenace. Contract made!

This is a blind guess. You could sell me on a passive diamond lead (the five) or an aggressive heart lead. I would surely not lead a spade, and a club looks just too likely to cost a trick. In an auction where the opponents appear to have no values to spare, there is much to be said for going passive.


♠ Q 10 5 4
 Q 9 4
 5 3 2
♣ K 10 8
South West North East
1♠ Pass 1 NT
Pass 2♠ Pass 2 NT
All 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieApril 8th, 2013 at 10:24 am

Hi Bobby,

Another salutary case of that Reese dictum on careless talk, although I would have been tempted to double as well. Wouldn’t an initial 2S bid by North have been better though?

On BWTA, I’m a little confused. East clearly doesn’t have 2 or more spades or he’d pass but what does the bid show? With a 6+ cd suit and a misfit, east would be bidding it (or passing 2S and hoping for the best) while (say) a 1444 9 count should also pass and hope. Does the 2N bid show something like 1255 or even 1345 shape, therefore? Could you give some example hands which you think would justify the bid?



bobbywolffApril 8th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Hi Iain,

While still smarting from the last Senior trials where I defended a hand carelessly (euphemism for stupid), holding the almost identical trump holding AJ107, and although not doubling, still defended in a certain way which turned out to be dead wrong and tipped a great declarer off, John Schermer , to which he did to me what this declarer did to his West. I was trying to beat the hand 2 tricks by looking for an uppercut from partner, but all I did was give away how the hand sat and allowed John to score up an impossible game. Once bitten, forever remembered, but at my tender age, looking for redemption is just too hollow to contemplate.

Yes loose lips (double) does sink ships, but also allows contracts to be played well, too many resulting in scoring it up, exactly what happened to me except mine wasn’t loose lips, it was abominal defense.

Yes, I would prefer bidding two spades rather than 1NT originally with North’s hand, but other players have their own style and perhaps North thought his bidding management was more on point. We, thus our readership, are definitely not privy to how many times his style does not work, so the many readers of this column should be aware that you and I do not like his methods, but for one brief moment in Camelot he found what Sir Lancelot found, the equivalent to his lady love, even if it was King Arthur’s wife.

On the BWTA, East was merely showing a 10+-12 HCP hand with probably 1 or 2 spades, (example being either, s. x, h. K109x, d. AJxx, c. K10xx or s. xx, h. AQx, d. Q10xxx, c. K10x, all suits stopped and inviting game. West obviously had a rank minimum of 6 spades and about 12 HCP’s and declined the invitation, but do not read any more into that than this description. Remember this partnership was probably playing 2 over 1 with a forcing 1NT response, the most often played system across ACBL land which has about 160,000 members, compared with the old fashioned mostly retired bridge players group of around 8,000,000 who do not especially cotton to duplicate bridge, forcing 1NT responses to a major, but rather strict Goren as it was originally written, and usually play rubber bridge daily in their retirement communities and at their public places.

“I wonder what the King is doing tonight?”

jim2April 8th, 2013 at 1:00 pm

This was the third hand I played while in Lower Slobbovia. I had almost made it out the door after the last hand when the director collared me and semi-coerced me into playing a late play. The North in this hand was unable to remain. I was not told why, but I surmised he had to catch a sled or something.

Anyway, the bidding began the same way as in the column, but diverged when West doubled South’s 3S. I passed, East passed, and South – paler than any sheet ever gets in Slobbovia – panicked and bid 3N. Presumably, he’d seen himself play doubled contracts before.

West doubled, snarled, led the 2H, partner shouted for the director, and all mud broke loose.

Eventually, 3N doubled was declared the contract. There was no point in my bidding 4S, because partner could always outbid me in NT! Could I escape via a different door? I looked around; there weren’t any others!

I decided to require East to lead a heart. After all, that was the only suit in which I had an honor outside my anemic clubs.

West covered the Board’s (South) 8-spot and I won the QH. Now what? Well, if the 2H was to be believed, I reasoned that East might have three hearts to the king, so I brought in the heart suit, led the JC-covered-won, and cashed the QC.

I had six tricks in and the AD still on the board, but where was I ever going to get two more tricks? I led to the KS to ensure an 8th trick, West won and looked distinctly uncomfortable. Eventually he produced a small diamond that went to East’s king and the Board’s ace.

I now had my choice of spade endplays for nine tricks.

This time, I went for a window.

Iain ClimieApril 8th, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this – my brain was wedged in acol mode where 1N is just 6-9 and non forcing. Years ago I played precision where the forcing 1N applies but the brain blanked today!


Bruce KarlsonApril 8th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

From the cheap seats: Giving W a trump stack and playing to keep E off lead I, along with many of the great unwashed, would win the D, lead to the C ace, finesse the H king with the Q repeat and pitch a D on the H ace. Then ruff a D, ruff a C, ruff another D, and lead a trump to the K. If W refuses the trick, lead the Q and watch him look for the “undouble” card as he squirms. Hope ths does not look like double dummy as it is the way I would play it. Think the odds of success are decent but unsure. Thoughts??


Iain ClimieApril 8th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Hi Bruce,

Does east cover the HQ? If not, then you are very well-placed. If yes, there is no D discard from dummy and it is back to the column line.

Back to your line, though, can’t West take the 2nd spade honour, draw trumps with the J10 and cash the H10 as the cards lie? If the first spade honour isn’t taken you have to exit with the S9 to make it work.


Bruce KarlsonApril 8th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Lain- Thnx. There are usually holes in my approach and this is no exception. I would hopefully realize at the table that the S 9 rather than the Q would be correct. Would an expert cover the HQ automatically considering S heart bid?? God knows what I would do but the knee jerk (and correct) cover would likely prevail. I was too quick in my approcach and failed to note that it requires an error by E. It is beyond my capability but could an expert declarer play it that way to see if he can get a mistake and then fall back if not… What a game!!!

Iain ClimieApril 8th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Hi Bruce, your line still has extra chances even if east covers – you cash the HJ then try the H8 and shed a diamond if west doesn’t cover. If west started with H10xx he is also in trouble – you ruff a club back and the H9 now shed dummy’s diamond unless West ruffs low. You overruff and feed West the CQ if the king has fallen. Definitely worth a shot.

Bruce KarlsonApril 8th, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Thanks- The heart play you describe would be my play also I am sure, but not because I anticipated it. Like my occasional squeezes and slightly more frequent end plays, I often stumble on them. In this one I can see the end play at trick one generally (double) and would simply labor to keep W off lead and take tricks until I put W in. The point is I would probably not have a very accurate count on his hand…kind of poke and hope. But it still feels good when it works!

bobbywolffApril 8th, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Hi Jim2,

In literature it was Shangrala which was thought of as heaven on earth. To you it is undoubtedly lower Slobbovia, where whatever happens turns out with you being a shining star.

Never ever let it go, but beware of Lena who might give you a run for her affection.

bobbywolffApril 8th, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Hi Bruce,

You have selected an excellent plan of attack, but what happens if East covers the queen of hearts, not that you cannot make the hand, but would you?

bobbywolffApril 8th, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Hi again Bruce,

I didn’t see Iain’s mention of the same thing so please forgive my intrusion.

Iain ClimieApril 8th, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Sorry, I text too much, but I thought of another case where Bruce’s line could work well. Imagine East held (say) Sx HKxxxx DK109x C10xx or similar. Declarer leads the HQ from dummy and east places him with something like SAKxxx HJ109xx DAQ CJ when covering would be a disaster, West has his dbl and South is worth his game try, but the extra length and small spot cards argue against the cover and, as east surely has short spades, he is ever more likely to have long hearts. As the cards lie, east will cover, but that HQ play really could yield huge dividends even if not as the cards lie. Rgds, Iain (possibly awake now)

bobbywolffApril 8th, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Hi Iain,

As an amateur psychiatrist (believe me an overstatement as to my ability) I would label you as a bleeding heart, a friend of the underdog and straining to make all people feel good.

All the above is meant to be very complimentary simply because I think the label I gave you is worth more than just being a very good bridge player.

Thanks for what you always add to our bridge column discussions and how careful you are to not hurt people’s feelings

David WarheitApril 9th, 2013 at 7:03 am

Jim2: after requiring east to lead a heart, you say that west played the ten. This is the only way south can make 4 heart tricks and is a very bad play, even forgetting that east was forced to lead a heart, but doubly so because of the penalty.

Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2013 at 8:04 am

Thanks for the compliments, although I’m not sure they are deserved. My previous post was from the pub, so any suggestion that I’m nice has to consider the effects of beer, good or bad! Iain

jim2April 9th, 2013 at 12:08 pm

David –

Yep. I think he was still smarting from the director’s chiding.


bobbywolffApril 9th, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

Yes, well picked up, first by David and then why by our LSS (lower Slobbovian star).