Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.

Elbert Hubbard

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


This column has often emphasized what a bad idea it is to double a contract when all you have is trump tricks. Sometimes the opponents run, sometimes they pick up the trumps because of your double, and sometimes they redouble. Today's deal provides an example.

In today’s deal East had made a trap pass over two no-trump, hoping North-South would arrive in three no-trump. When South emphasized his 6-4 pattern, North raised spades confidently, and West made a greedy double, without much justification, given his moderate trump spots.

Declarer ruffed the diamond lead and led a trump to the ace, getting the expected news of the 5-0 break. Now a club from dummy was taken by East with the ace, and he exited with the diamond king. Declarer ruffed and saw West’s echo in diamonds; he could now see a way home if West really did have a doubleton together with three cards each in hearts and clubs.

At trick five South cashed his club king, then took all of his heart winners, reducing everyone to five cards. If West had started with three diamonds, it might have been right to take another diamond ruff now, but South believed the opening lead, and so he exited with a club. West had to win the trick and play a trump, giving declarer an extra trick in that suit. Worse still, he then had to ruff the club continuation and lead into declarer’s remaining trump tenace to concede the contract.

A typical conundrum in standard bidding with a minimum hand and 6-4 pattern is whether you should repeat the long suit or introduce the second suit economically. Put me firmly in the camp of those who bid the second suit with anything but a dead minimum hand. While at pairs it may work to repeat the major, it is generally better to describe nine of your 13 cards than six of them.


♠ K J 9 6 4 2
 A Q 10
♣ K 9 8 7
South West North East
1♠ Pass 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 WarheitJuly 17th, 2013 at 9:52 am

I’m confused. You say west doubles 4S but the bidding sequence shows east doing so. I don’t believe the play would have gone any differently no matter who doubled or even if no one doubled, but I’d like to know who the guilty party was. Also, you cite 3 reasons not to double with only a trump stack, but this hand fits none of those reasons. The fourth reason, of which this hand is an excellent example, is that sometimes the contract is cold, assuming good play by declarer whether you double or not, as declarer forces you to choke on all those trumps.

Iain ClimieJuly 17th, 2013 at 11:16 am

Hi David, Bobby,

I blame West here. He/she should have realised it was “that sort of hand” (one which would wind up in a column) and led the D2 at T1 then echoed in clubs to try to fool declarer. Flippancy aside, I take the good point made in BWTA about showing 9 cards not 6, and also the pairs caveat.

Many thanks,


jim2July 17th, 2013 at 11:22 am

On BWTA, another very good reason to bid 2C is that partner may be able to introduce a 5 or 6 card heart suit with hands that would have to pass 2S. The North-South hands would play very well in hearts in such cases.

Question: if North bids 2D over 2C, presumably South bids 2S (implying 6). If one of South’s spade spots were a diamond, would you now bid 2N instead of 2S?

Bobby WolffJuly 17th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Hi David,

Yes, of course, according to the text, it was West not East who doubled, but sometimes gremlins, not humans somehow manage to change the bidding diagram after the hand leaves our aegis. It is though perhaps interesting, on this particular hand, for East to have actually doubled, because, on the NS bidding, East could be sure his partner had 5 of them, although the quality would be unknown except to know that South did not immediately jump in the suit after opening, inferentially denying a solid spade holding but, of course, suggesting 6 of them.

You are undeniably right in your assessment of how South should play the hand, regardless of who (if anyone) doubled and while this hand became a basic pianola for a high-level declarer once he or she read West for only holding 2 diamonds, it does educationally show what can happen to a defender who has to, by force, ruff in (when his outcards have been taken from him in the earlier play) and, in effect, commit bridge defensive suicide, by not being able to get out of his own way.

Thanks for writing, and we will try harder in the future to prevent the conflicting column rhetoric from muddying up, and therefore confusing you (and no doubt others), by our reporting.

Bobby WolffJuly 17th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for the excellent deceptive tactics, both in the choice of opening lead and the defensive signalling you suggest, which, no doubt would tend to lead even a top level declarer to mistime the play.

Bridge offers those types of tactics, while chess, being a totally open board game cannot, therefore creating still another interesting nuance, which only Sherlock Holmes superior type analysis might survive.

Regarding the BWTA, in the matter of 6-4 the expert bridge world is divided in which order to show those suits, with some preferring rebidding the major before then, if possible, showing the other. And, no doubt, while playing matchpoints with the extra trick score accruing to the major suit (3 of a major making +140 is a better score than even 4 of a minor +130).

I also should have said, “at least” 9 and perhaps 10 cards with the minor suit rebid (6-4 as here and even perhaps 5-5).

Much thanks for your always unconditional support.

Bobby WolffJuly 17th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your constructive reason for preferring 2 clubs because of the possible far superior heart fit being uncovered (if partner is 1-5-3-4, 1-5-4-3, or even 1-6-3-3 or 2-6-3-2) rings loud and clear).

If partner rebids 2 diamonds over my 2 club choice for a rebid I would then bid 2 spades with 6, but if I was 5-3-1-4 unless holding at least 15-17 HCP’s I would pass 2 diamonds wishing partner to have 6 of them and adhering to an underrated bridge caveat, “no double, no trouble”, meaning “ACHTUNG”: stop before the penalty doubles arrive!