Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 14th, 2013

Thou wast the inspirer of a nobler life,
When I with error waged unequal strife,
And from its coils thy teaching set me free.

Amos Alcott

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

*Four-level pre-empt in a broken minor


South did two bad things on this deal. The first need not have been too expensive; the second proved very costly.

When East opened three no-trump, conventionally showing a four level pre-empt in a minor with a broken suit, South doubled and West retreated to four clubs. North doubled — right he was, since the contract can be set four tricks — but South was concerned that the double was cards not for blood, and that any penalty might not compensate for a vulnerable game.

Accordingly he bid four spades, and West led the heart jack against this contract. East won the ace and returned the club three for his partner to ruff. Now West switched to the diamond seven, and South won in hand and drew trump, throwing two diamonds and a heart from dummy.

South now knew that East had started with eight clubs, two spades, and had shown up with one card in each red suit. If his missing card was a diamond, an extra trick could be established there. However, when declarer tried the suit, East showed out, and the contract failed.

South should have known that had East begun with a singleton heart, he would surely have returned the club 10, suit preference at trick two. So instead of testing diamonds, South could have played a heart to dummy and ruffed a heart. That would have left East with only clubs. Now comes a losing finesse of the club queen; on the forced club return, West is squeezed in hearts and diamonds.

I'm sure there is an argument for passing one no-trump, rather than introducing a suit as weak as your diamonds, but with a singleton spade I don't think it is right to pass. You should bid two diamonds and apologize if your seven- or eight-card fit plays worse than no-trump for you.


♠ 2
 K Q 7 4 3
 6 4 3 2
♣ A Q J
South West North East
1 1♠ 1 NT 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


David WarheitJune 27th, 2013 at 9:59 am

You say that south made 2 mistakes. Actually, there is a third mistake, although I find it hard to blame anyone: 4NT is cold.

Iain ClimieJune 27th, 2013 at 10:34 am

Hi Bobby, David,

One point from the bidding on today’s play hand – south has doubled, west has run from 3N so surely pass by North is forcing. If so, then double really should be a warning not to bid on. South’s 2 small clubs are also a danger – it is all too easy to imagine a club from West at T1 through North’s CKJx, CAQ or similar – east may have 7 fair clubs and some extra shape or high cards.



Bobby WolffJune 27th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Hi David & Iain,

Yes, David, 4NT is cold and North might very well have bid it, but would it’s meaning be clear and not asking for aces, once North took out 4 spades to 4NT.

Likely it is not a sequence NS had discussed and, at the table, either meaning could be possible, if North started with: s. xxx, AKxx, QJx, AJx, although perhaps 5 clubs would be a better choice.

One reason wannabe high-level up and coming partnerships succeed is by putting undue pressure on their opponents by presenting them with unusual bidding situations to which they have had little or no experience defending.

Iain, I am not as sure as you appear to be, that pass by North over West’s 4 club bid, is forcing, just another uncertainty which EW’s sequence has enabled. Obviously there are reasons both ways to play it either forcing or not and with so much strength in clubs it is very tempting for North to act immediately.

In any case, bidding, especially in the early stages of the hand becomes only iffy, although often an educated iffy, but when the play lends itself to a certainty, there then becomes no excuse for its lack of execution, especially when the winning play is so melodic, not to mention poetic.

Iain ClimieJune 27th, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks and I takje your point here, especially as West could “sandbag” with a fair hand and bid 4C. Ultimately though, as you often say, It is a bidders’ (not a passers’) game.


Bobby WolffJune 28th, 2013 at 1:15 am

Hi Iain,

‘Tis a bidders game and my hindsight is almost flawless, much better than my percentage actions during real time.

David desJardinsJuly 2nd, 2013 at 11:59 pm

If declarer threw two hearts and a diamond while drawing trump, rather than two diamonds and a heart, he could then just lead a small diamond from hand to correct the count for the squeeze. On a diamond return, club ace and a club ruff. On a heart return, heart ruff then the club ace.

David desJardinsJuly 3rd, 2013 at 12:01 am

Oops, I guess that doesn’t make sense, if you throw two hearts then you can’t ruff a heart also.