Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 19th, 2013

We will now discuss in a little more detail the struggle for existence.

Charles Darwin

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


In the following deal, while South's breaking the transfer with the leap to four spades may have been a marginal action, the final slam contract is superb. How would you play it when West leads the club jack?

The best plan is to win the club ace and draw trump in three rounds. After crossing to the club king, eliminating that suit, try a heart to East’s six and your queen. The only dangerous situation is when the full deal is as shown today.

If West trusts his partner’s echo to be based on a doubleton heart (and since he knows his partner has a Yarborough, he ought to get this right) he may well be able to work out that if he wins his heart king, he will be endplayed. A red-suit return would concede an extra trick, either to the heart nine or to South’s diamond jack. A club return would give declarer a ruff-and-discard for the losing diamond.

Suppose therefore West smoothly plays low, allowing South’s heart queen to win. If you have not considered this situation, pause to think how you would continue from this point. It is no good crossing to the diamond king and playing a heart to the jack. West will win and exit safely with the heart 10, killing the heart discard.

Remarkably, the winning continuation is to cross to the diamond king and run the heart nine when East follows low! Here, West can win with the 10 but now he is truly endplayed.

This feels like a hand where your best result will surely come from penalizing the opponents (or at least defending two diamonds undoubled if your partner has a balanced hand). By passing now, you let your partner reopen with shortage in diamonds. If he doubles for takeout, you will bid two hearts to suggest a minimum hand with hearts.


♠ 4
 K 10 7 4
 Q 10 8 6
♣ J 10 8 6
South West North East
Pass 1♠ 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


bruce karlsonAugust 2nd, 2013 at 11:26 am

BWTA: Happily I would have followed the bidding sequence described until it came back to me after partner’s expected redouble.

At favorable vulnerability, or V vs. V playing MPs, what level of sin would it be to consider converting? Think I am looking at 3 or very likely 4 tricks in my hand, and my partners are not prone to opening rags in first or second seat.

It certainly carries some risk but imagine it will be a “top” substantially more often than a “bottom”.


bruce karlsonAugust 2nd, 2013 at 11:34 am

Sorry, meant re-entry double, not “redouble”.

Bobby WolffAugust 2nd, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Hi Bruce,

You not only ask an intelligent question, the way you phrase it, is conducive for a complete description, wherein, especially as observant as you are, the very most learning is likely to occur.

While what you say about passing your partner’s likely reopening double, is relatively on target and not subject to criticism, it would not be my choice, choosing instead a simple 2 heart bid.

The reason for that choice is that while you and many others, optimistically would expect the high cards and distribution to be where you hope (and have reason to suspect) where you want them to be.

But what if the key jack of diamonds is in dummy, and your other honors, plus your singleton spade do not serve you as well as you hope? Remember Dame Fortune is not beholden to anyone, and like other beautiful women, has a mind of her own.

However, in spite of the unlucky (for you, but not for your opponents) lay of the cards, your trick taking goes down in number. The key fact to always remember is that the bidding is not yet over and perhaps your partner might hold: s. KQJ10x, QJxx, void, AQxx, whereupon he likely will raise to 3 hearts and you should then accept the invitation.

With the BWTA, we seldom (if ever) mention the vulnerability, because we cater (as do most bridge columnists) to a less than very sophisticated high level group, so that there will not be as many moving parts in our adventures. Obviously with this hand the vulnerability because of both the opponent’s jeopardy (if vulnerable) and our gain (if vulnerable) must be taken into consideration before our choice.

Finally, passing the double might be right, especially with the frequency of gain so it becomes very important in matchpoints, while in rubber bridge (played at about a 60 to 1 ratio in America) the amount of gain is the important factor and scoring up +620 in either IMPs or rubber bridge while vulnerable as against +100 or +300 is quite a difference and even once in a while a good declarer, being alerted to the bad trump distribution he is going to receive, may even make 8 tricks with diamonds as trump.

If you are looking for other reasons, the most cogent one is that passing partner’s reopening double is very final, no more bids being made and it is now time to find a lead. When faced with a choice, usually try to find a way to keep the bidding going, since more talk (even thought loose) does not sink contracts, but allows more information which in turn, among good players, allows better decisions to place final contracts.

Thanks for your question and please keep in mind that almost every hand played in bridge has different aspects to it and while I am not at all against passing 2 diamonds doubled the above reasons might talk both you and me out of it. And also remember by bidding 2 hearts now it is not at all that unlikely that one or the other opponent will aggressively compete to 3 diamonds which, especially in matchpoints will be certainly worth doubling, although defeating it is not 100% certain.