Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Habit, noun: a shackle for the free.

Ambrose Bierce

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


North has an awkward bid after the one-spade overcall, but two diamonds seems as good a bid as any. When South raises to three diamonds (a splinter jump to three spades would also be a sensible option), North is still on the spot, with a constructive but not forcing call of three hearts looking like the least of evils. An alternative would be to probe with three spades, after which reaching four hearts with confidence might be harder.

At pairs four hearts looks the best spot, while at teams five diamonds might have extra chances. But after two rounds of spades South has to tread very carefully, since the risk of getting forced is a real one.

With five heart and three club tricks, South needs only two diamond tricks to make his game. To guard against a 4-2 trump break with the diamond king offside, declarer should discard a diamond (or a club) on the second spade lead. When West leads a third round of spades, South trumps, draws four rounds of hearts (using a club as a re-entry to hand), then finesses the diamond into East. Since that player has no more spades, he must lead back a club or a diamond. If East began with the diamond king and four spades, the contract could never be made against a 4-2 trump split. But as the cards lie, discarding on the second spade is critical to retaining control of the hand.

With a complex hand (one where spades, diamonds or no-trump could be right), start by doubling. This is a responsive double, responding to a takeout double from your partner. Your plan is to convert a heart advance to spades, suggesting a better hand than if you had simply bid spades directly.


♠ 10 9 6 4
 K 7
 A 8 3 2
♣ K 5 4
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 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 RastogiMay 25th, 2013 at 10:29 am

Hello Mr Wolff

In BWTA – shouldnt a direct Spade bid is more apt as Club King looks to be wasted. 3 NT looks to be an unlikely contract though cant be ruled out.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Bobby WolffMay 25th, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Concerning the BWTA, the South hand is a bit too strong for only a competitive 2 spade bid over East’s raise to 2 clubs. Two spades would (should) be bid without one of the 3 major high cards, enabling a double first and then 2 spades over partner’s expected 2 hearts to show that extra card.

If East would have passed first, then a jump to 2 spades would be correct from South. Also I do not think that 3NT is as unlikely a final resting spot as you do. Assuming a club lead (after East’s raise) we could easily have nine tricks at the ready (probably from hearts and diamonds) with the king of clubs being the ninth and fulfilling trick.

For that to happen, partner needs slightly more than his TO double promised, but, IMO, is not an unlikely scenario.

As a final aside, it (in some partnerships) would be correct to venture 2NT, instead of 2 spades, over partner’s assumed bid of 2 hearts, to offer NT, relying on partner, if also holding 4 spades to now bid 3 spades. However that choice might wind up playing the contract from the wrong side with spades as trump, now allowing a lead through the king of clubs.

All of the above factors may have an effect on the final result, certainly making your question quite relevant.

John StoreyMay 25th, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Dear Bobby

After RHO deals and opens 1 Club (standard bidding, they are vulnerable and we are not) I doubled with this hand in a local pairs game:


Partner indicated that if I must bid then he would rather I overcall 1NT (which should show 15-18 for us) than double. I prefer not to psyche but said nothing. This was at the local game with “optional pool” that attracts some of the best players in our large city.

What do you think?


RHO then made rather a loose jump to 3 clubs after my double which was described as a limit raise (it was made on 4 HCP, with K 10 xx of clubs and was intended to be pre-emptive)

Partner bid 3 Spades with this:

Q 10 9 x

Partner then told me why he did not bid 3 Hearts but I can’t remember what that was all about.

Please let me know what you think of this as well. Hoping that this comment finds you in excellent health.

By the way, 3 clubs can go down 2 according to the hand record.

Thanks, John

Bobby WolffMay 25th, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Hi John.

First, thanks for the kind words, and yes I am feeling good.

After RHO opens 1 club I totally approve of your choice of doubling. Before I would bid 1NT with your very balanced hand and weak spot cards I would require another king, so without, it should not be even a consideration.

After your LHO preempts to 3 clubs your partner, holding both 4 card majors, should make what is called a “responsive double”, which is for takeout and allows you to bid your best suit which is hearts. Then it should be followed by probably 3 passes, opponents willing. You figure to make exactly nine tricks with the king of spades obviously off side and the ace of diamonds onside.

I suspect you can see the logic of partner’s double being responsive instead of penalty, if for no other reason than the frequency of normal hands which are dealt. Responsive doubles are made when, after partner has either doubled or overcalled and the opening bidder’s partner has raised the opener’s suit through the 4 level. Presto, chango, everything works and you achieve a maximum result.

Good luck!

Patrick CheuMay 26th, 2013 at 9:05 am

Hi Bobby, re the Sabine Auken’s hand on Friday,if East ducks the first spade(Iain’s trap),could declarer now play on hearts by finishing 9H or JH later(double finesse) for 9trks(2S 4H 2D 1C),only losing if West has Q10 of hearts,possible but West was relatively quiet over one club based on the spade play if he has good spades and diamond honour on lead(possibly)and the QH?Regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffMay 26th, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes indeed, she could have, if the first spade was ducked by East. Of course, if both the KQ of spades was onside and the Q10 of hearts were both offside, that would be a losing play.

These are the kinds of decision not totally influenced by percentages, but rather by knowing one’s opponents and their tendencies. It is highly unusual for a defender to duck queen and another especially when that person has a constructive play next, but the crux of the matter is guessing what to do, according to who your opponents happen to be.