Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

A book that is shut is but a block.

Thomas Fuller

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


In this deal from the Lille 2012 world championships, six diamonds generally came home when it was attempted, but one variation produced a particularly interesting problem for declarer.

Since the play is easy on any other lead (you are forced to run the heart lead to your queen), let’s say West leads a low club. What’s next?

It looks natural to go after trumps, and to protect against a 4-0 trump break, you need to lead toward the diamond king-queen rather than starting with the diamond jack. When East wins and shifts to a heart, you suddenly have a problem. Did you notice that a heart shift was going to jeopardize your entries? You might as well put up the heart queen now — more in hope than expectation. You won’t get any value out of your queen if you don’t.

When West covers, you take your heart ace and play a trump to the queen. Had trumps split 2-2, you would have been home free, but as it is, you need to unblock spades (don’t you?) before drawing the last trump. By cashing only two spades, all you can afford to take before drawing trumps, you will leave the suit temporarily blocked. But you do have a resource.

After drawing the last trump, you pitch your spade queen on the club king and have unscrambled the blockage. You now have two homes for your heart losers on the spade jack and spade 10.

I threw this problem in as a trap, to see if I could tempt anyone to make a takeout double or an overcall with totally unsuitable shape. Just because you have a minimum opening bid does not mean you have to bid when the opponents open. If the opponents bid and raise hearts, you may come to life with a double, but not until then.


♠ J 10 7 3
 A 7
 J 8 5
♣ A K 8 6
South West North East

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 RastogiAugust 27th, 2013 at 10:10 am

Hello Mr Wolff

BWTA reminds me of bidding problem that I encountered in the recent Indian National Inter State Bridge Championship in IMP pairs event. I was North Vul aginst non vul with following cards:

N S Q x H A x x D 10 x x C K Q 9 x x
E S K J x x x x H x x D x x C x x x
S S x x H K x x x D K Q J x C A x x
W S A x x H Q J x x D A x x x C J x

Bidding went:
1 D P 1 S P
1 NT P 2 S P

EW were playing standard. I couldnt bid 2 C with my 3 low diamonds and my partner was a club short for take out double. We could have made upto 4 clubs but allowed EW 2 Spades which got made. Should I balance with 3 C or bid 2 C (both of which are very risky) or should my partner make a take out double second time instead of passing ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

jim2August 27th, 2013 at 11:59 am

On the 2012 Lille hand, how should declarer proceed if the first round of trump gathers only small trump spots?

(I started to consider how to play a 4 – 0 trump break, but it made my head hurt!)

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Years ago I made an impression (possibly negative) by claiming (on a well read bidding discussion panel) that not bidding is often every bit as dangerous as bidding in many cases. The risk is still there, but a different kind of risk.

To quiet fears, or at the least, to lessen them,
please remember that for coming in the bidding early (with hands, such as the ones today, not usually bid with) the following elements need to be present for those “pesky” bidders to be ravaged:

A. Someone usually has to make an aggressive decision to decide to defend.

B. Offensive bidding, with the now meaning of most doubles (being for TO) is not geared, as it once was in bygone days, to punishing the interlopers.

C. Even if the overcalled suit is well held behind the overcaller sometimes partner is in a good position to rescue you.

D. Defense is more difficult than declarer’s play and often, since the opening lead is blind, and the defense never sees all 26 of his side’s assets but only 13, more errors are made.

E. The advantages of getting in the bidding early are not as well known as is the beauty of a scientifically well bid, but not contested hand.

F. The scoring system in contract bridge slightly favors the side which is going set rather than the bonuses offered the ones who bid and make games and slams (especially vulnerable ones).


A. Usually gets partner off to the right lead when defending.

B. Sometimes drives the opponents to one trick past their safety level.

C. With a lucky fit more tricks are taken than expected, especially considering the preference of being declarer as opposed to defense.

D. Makes the game more exciting and certainly contributes to becoming a tougher partnership to play against than meekly passing.


A. Awful sets which lead to some partnerships breaking up or possibly the lesser crime of only murder.

B. Opponents gloating which also contributes to or, at least considers, the same crime as listed above.

Seriously, in practice I overcall, preempt, or make TO doubles with hands others do not consider doing with, but my guess is that the overall plus is much higher than the minus, but I have always been an optimist.

No guarantees and no insurance offered or sold in order to prevent bad results, but try it and you may like it, but one thing is for sure, your skin and mindset will get toughened up, but it is all worth it in order to improve overall results.

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

Leave it to you, to bring a very difficult problem, and thus decision, to the declarer on this hand.

One thing is sure, and that is when a diamond is led to the king and both duck, it will almost never be that, in this case, West will hold Ace and one and decide to duck. Therefore, for practical purposes we can rule out 2-2 with West having the ace. Therefore I would then cash the ace, king of spades and then lead the queen of diamonds. It seems to me that this play should do the job by maintaining the jack of diamonds as an entry to the dummy when the diamond ace is then won and the ace of hearts is then knocked out.

Am I missing something and I, like you, would have my head hurt to try and allow for the 4-0 trump possibility?

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2013 at 5:19 pm

To all my readers,

Please excuse the opening lead box showing the queen of clubs lead when West, not East is on lead. Again Gremlins are at work, or perhaps it is I who is at fault, for very poor proofreading.

jim2August 27th, 2013 at 8:09 pm

That’s what I thought the best line was, also. If the AD does not appear on the second round, then one should lead a third round of Diamonds. Now when the AD wins, the spades are already unblocked and trumps drawn so a heart shift does not cause a problem.

In some hands, it is best/okay to leave the last trump out when it is the master. Here, however, that line can be a trap. If the AD is held up a second round and declarer plays a heart to the ace, pitches QS on KC, and plays a third spade, the defender with the AD might trump in while declarer still has a losing heart.

Bill CubleyAugust 27th, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I liked the BWTA hand. TO doubles require you promise a fit when partner bids a suit. I ask partners never to make a TO double when holding 3+ cards in the opponent’s bid suit UNLESS having a rebid in NT showing 19+ hcp.

I had a published hand [really] on an auction of
1C p 1S p
2S X p 4H holding 6432 of hearts.

Partner’s double showed a good hand which could not make a TO double because of a flaw. The flaw was a spade singleton.

The opponents could not judge whether a club void helped or not by responder. Turned out opener had 3 low clubs and they should have competed.

Making a TO double with the wrong shape could lead, as you wrote, to partnership breakout or the lesser crime of murder. As I was born in Detroit, the lesser crime is very probable. 😉

Shantanu RastogiAugust 28th, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Hello Mr Wolff

Thanks for your excellent overview. I guess what you mean is that you cant win every deal and its more a question of partnership style to determine what the right action is. In this deal if one North makes an overcall the partnership should avoid 3NT. If overcall is not made then South must double at some stage.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi