Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

One hope is too like despair
For prudence to smother,
And pity from thee more dear
Than that from another.

Percy Shelley

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


On today's deal from the European Open Series, played in Dublin last year, England's David Bakhshi opened one no-trump and played in two hearts after a transfer response from his partner, Tom Townsend.

Austria’s Gunther Purkarthofer led the spade eight,, and Bakhshi won dummy’s ace, then led to the king, and continued with the queen, ruffed and overruffed. Bakhshi exited dummy with a diamond, winning the ace when Jan Fucik put in the king. A fourth spade was ruffed, West pitching a diamond, and declarer continued with a second diamond. West overtook his partner’s jack to play another diamond, ruffed by declarer’s eight. Now Bakhshi played the heart king to West’s ace, and Purkarthofer switched to the club three. The winning play is to duck, but quite reasonably Bakhshi went up with dummy’s king, losing to the ace, and East, Jan Fucik, returned the jack.

At this point, to defeat the contract, West had to overtake and allow East to win the third club, then lead his low heart to South’s bare queen. When West failed to do so, he had to win the third club himself — and now he had no choice but to lead a diamond at trick 12. When dummy ruffed with the nine, East had lost his trump trick whether he overruffed or not. Granted, the defense could have done better, but Bakhshi had pulled off that rarity, a smother play, to make his contract.

What is this double? It may be a matter for each individual partnership, but I believe after the response of one no-trump to a major, opener's double of intervention should be takeout, responder's double should be cards. If you agree, then you should jump to four hearts, even if the double does not promise extras. Even a 12-count with a singleton diamond may leave your side with good play for game.


♠ A 5
 10 9 7 6 2
 5 4 3
♣ K 8 5
South West North East
1♠ Pass
1 NT 2 Dbl. 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 WarheitJuly 8th, 2013 at 9:17 am

Par on this hand is for EW to bid and make 3D, yet a) if the club king is misplaced, they go down one. If doubled this is close to a zero. And b) is there any way to get there, or should they go quietly, as they did?

jim2July 8th, 2013 at 11:02 am

I might have decided that West’s failure to ruff the QS with the JH meant that East held it. Thus, I would have led a small heart from Board at Trick 4 and finessed the 8H.

My intent would have been to win four trump, two high spades, the AD, and the fifth spade for eight tricks.

That is, assume the worst case. West wins the AH and the AC is offside and the defense takes three clubs and knocks out the AD. I would play one high heart, ruff a spade, return to the third heart honor, and still have the master spade to cash.

Iain ClimieJuly 8th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, I can see the point of dbl being take out but is opener likely to have 4H here, unless 5413 (5404 seems odds against with no diamond raise)? If partner doesn’t bid 2H, he/she may have only 3 and 2 or 3 rounds of diamonds could put a trump holding like AQx or AJx under rapid pressure assuming dummy has 1 or 2 diamonds. Any thoughts here?

I fear Jim2 could run into opponent migration, though. It would be just his luck to be up against a player who ruffed the 3rd spadeow from AJx or even (less plausibly) Jx.



Iain ClimieJuly 8th, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Typo – spadeow should be spade low. Sorry.

jim2July 8th, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Iain –

Note that in both those cases West was apparently forfeiting a trump trick to ruff low. If that opponent pulls that sort of read-my-mind brilliancy against me, then s/he deserves it and I will go back to only reading columns.

Still, I am gratified that you are learning to understand how the universe tries so hard and consistently to operate against me.

Bobby WolffJuly 8th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Hi David,

This hand is a clear case, at least to me, of the specific bidding (this time by NS with the opening NT, possibly 15-17) making it difficult to improbable for EW to balance their way into the making 3 diamonds, only making because of the key king of clubs being in the weak hand instead of the strong one.

East may have balanced when 2 hearts was passed around to him and probably didn’t because he didn’t have a 3rd diamond in case partner bid the wrong suit. However with bridge being as unpredictable as it is, even without the 3rd diamond for partner, that suit, as you have deftly pointed out, is the best trump suit for EW and will score up +110.

A probable aggessive NT opening (although
I do not know their range) plus a well-reasoned, but losing, final pass has only proved again that bridge is more a bidder’s game than it isn’t, but if NS take the push to 3 hearts they will also go minus.

In the very long ago days of the Aces, when this hand was reviewed it would no doubt have been thrown into the file of balancing (and also card play and defense) and a white charged entered which meant, wrong, but no specific solution recommended.

Bobby WolffJuly 8th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Hi Jim 2,

And in conclusion, you would have won this part score battle, and by merely taking advantage of the playing inference of having located the jack of hearts. Kudos to you for pointing out the correct declarer’s play.

Bobby WolffJuly 8th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Hi Iain,

In spite of it being Monday morning when many of us become grumpy as the new week is beginning, I tend to agree with you in your usual right-on analysis.

Four hearts, now in retrospect, appears to be leaning into it a bit too much, even if partner’s double is played for TO, since with 5-4-1-3 instead of 5-3-1-4 the opener should tend to bid hearts instead of putting pressure on his partner to infer possibly 4 by doubling.

“Little by little we can do great things”.

Thanks for your comment and Jim2 by living with his card migration, has created a thinking bridge caveat, which although having to assume the worst sometimes, will often result in a safeguard against overbidding.

The off the charts defensive play you refer to needs to be allowed to succeed, otherwise declarer play logic, will have to be unduly revised.

Thanks for making us all think!

Bobby WolffJuly 8th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Last in, last out, but I have already referred to your card migration. Perhaps July 8th of every year should be card migration day when all of us who suffer from that malady can recall hands which caused us to do so.

In any event much sympathy to you who invented the name for that dreaded bridge disease.

Michael BeyroutiJuly 8th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,
in BWTA i find your jump to four hearts a bit too agressive. It wouldn’t have occurred to me, looking at 7 HCP. I would have bid only two hearts. Could you please explain further. Thanks.

bruce karlsonJuly 8th, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Michael- I see your point about jumping to game with that hand. However, I began using the BW aggressive approach using “Bergen Count” and the results have been rewarding. After partner calms down upon first seeing my hand, these contracts frequently make for top boards in club and sectional games.

It requires a leap of faith and an understanding partner, but if it is good enough for BW and MB, who am I to question it??

Our host will put this to bed but thought it worthwhile to post.

TedJuly 8th, 2013 at 5:17 pm

I also would have taken the same inference Jim2 did — West doesn’t have the HJ and played as he suggested, but ruffing small I think is correct, and not that brilliant, from virtually any heart holding.

If you ruff with the Jack, declarer simply discards a minor suit loser, so you really gained nothing. Playing small may give up a trump trick, but maintains any minor winners the defense has.

Bobby WolffJuly 8th, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Hi Michael,

I do agree that jumping to 4 hearts is aggressive, possibly very aggressive, and I have already agreed (see above letter to Iain).

However, to play the devil’s advocate (with me perhaps the devil) while Mr Bridge (Charles Goren) proclaimed 26 points to be the average combined partnership holding to produce 10 tricks, the reality of such is that it will usually take 20-22 working points to achieve that goal and consider the remaining points as the average amount which is wasted e.g. (useless).

In the example the Ace of spades will be worth more than the given number of 4, the 5th heart (a suit, considering the bidding, partner is usually encouraging us to bid) is as necessary and thus ultra valuable as an extra trump can be, and, of course, the king is also usually a valuable card especially so when it is not opposite shortness (which on this bidding would be reserved for diamonds).

In spite of my bias above, I think 3 hearts is plenty, but do not be surprised if and when your partner passes, holding only 13 HCP’s but with 5-3-1-4, that 10 tricks will be the result, especially with excellent declarer judgment and play.

Another important caveat, although not mentioned in the BWTA, is whether the bidding side is vulnerable or not. If NV it is suggested that it should be about 50-50 before a game is attempted, but being V would require only about a 40% chance of making to make it a worthwhile risk, due to the extra bonus involved.

Thanks for writing, your opinion, and good reasons for it.

Bobby WolffJuly 8th, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Hi Bruce,

As for putting this subject to bed, I refer you to my letter to Michael, and since my opinion is only subjective, keep your eyes and ears open, so that your own opinion soon rises in stature, as you progress down the Yellow Brick Road to the bridge elite.

Does BW stand for bridge world or my name
and does MB for Michael Beyrouti or Marty Bergen? Coincidences are out in force today.

Bobby WolffJuly 8th, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Hi Ted,

You are discussing and for my money, have high-level knowledge plus an excellent feel, for what constitutes a gift trick, (receiving something for nothing) e.g. trumping with the singleton trump deuce and even that can sometimes, but not often, cost you later and what is only an illusory free trick (will give it back later, by losing its value, heart jack, at the wrong time).

“Methinks there is much wisdom in what he says”, William Shakespeare, 2nd Citizen after Mark Antony’s stirring eulogy of Julius Caesar, beginning with “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears”.

Bobby WolffJuly 8th, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Hi Ted,

Sorry, “wisdom” should be “reason”.

Bill CubleyJuly 9th, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I played once with David and he plays very well. It is nice to see him in a column. I also enjoy when you have hands with other, less famous than the usual subjects, but truly expert players.

Bobby WolffJuly 9th, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your comments and for your kind endorsement.

Yes, we try and reward high-level players with some kind of positive recognition to make up for the absence of performance money available in our game.

Perhaps, but perhaps not, bridge, although a very tough game to play well, and IMO impossible to master, is the best mind game ever invented, it, despite some effort, has not yet become a spectator sport thought to be worthy of sponsor’s money.

Let’s hope that will change, but until a determined and qualified task force is chosen to make it happen, we will continue to wander in the desert.