Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

I notice that most of the men who tease me about my hair, don't have any.

Holland Taylor

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


When England play the Netherlands it is always an enjoyable encounter for both teams. The Dutch speak English as well as we do, and their exciting bidding makes for interesting auctions.

In Beijing the English Under-21 team faced the Netherlands in the round robin towards the end when England were securing their place in the top two and the Dutch were struggling to make it into the top eight.

On the deal below it was the English pair who created the swing, with a calculated risk in the bidding.

Ed Jones, sitting East for England, opened one diamond after two passes and the Dutch South, perhaps surprisingly, overcalled one no-trump. Tom Paske, West, made a disciplined pass, and North transferred to spades by bidding two hearts. When South completed the transfer by bidding two spades Tom sprang to life and doubled for take-out. East now had a tricky bid to make but he reasoned that his partner would not have four diamonds since he had not supported the suit, and that consequently his A-K-Q would pull their weight in defense. So he decided to pass the double, converting it into penalties.

Tom kicked off with a diamond, and after cashing three rounds Ed switched to the club jack, to the queen and king, and Tom returned a club. South could now draw trump (losing two tricks to Ed’s ace and 10 in the process) but he had nowhere to put his fourth club and ended up losing three diamonds, two clubs and two trumps for two down and 500 points to England. Since the other table had played peacefully in three diamonds and gone two down that was a good swing of 12 IMPs to England.

This is a forcing auction, and you can bid two spades over two hearts without showing any values, as opposed to spade length. Your partner may hope for more but he has no reason to expect it (though if you had bid three clubs here it would be a second negative, and you might take that call with five small spades).


♠ Q 8 6 3 2
 J 9 2
♣ 7 6 5 3
South West North East
2♣ Pass
2 Pass 2 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 WarheitOctober 30th, 2013 at 9:34 am

As E, after cashing 3 D tricks, I would have led the D8, figuring that although this will give declarer a ruff-sluff, it will do him no good and may well do damage to his trump holding. Partner’s S9 would be a welcome sight. I’m having trouble figuring out what the final result would be, but I’m sure it would be at least down 2. What do you think?

Bobby WolffOctober 30th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Hi David,

I think if declarer throws a club on the 4th diamond and overruffs West’s 9 with his queen then leads a heart to hand, ruffs a heart, leads a club to the ace and ruffs another heart then leads toward the queen of clubs to West who then leads the king of hearts, declarer ruffing in dummy with the 8, allowing declarer to only lose one more spade (holding KJ5 over East’s A74), in all losing 3 diamonds, 2 spades and 1 club, down 1 in 2 spades doubled, -200NS.

While the 4th diamond should be a considered play by East after the first three cashed, he was somewhat lucky to find partner with a semi-high spot card, but since the club holding (as well as the spades, is a blind mystery) it is indeed difficult to guess at what is the best defense. Whether declarer would have played the hand the way I suggest is obviously a question, with the answer, of course, never to be known.

However, the overall bidding, by South (ovecalling 1NT with 3 small diamonds over a 1 diamond opening, instead of a simple TO double), and East’s penalty pass over his partner’s TO double is typically junior bridge the world over where caution (and I believe common sense) plays a secondary role to the down the middle approach of avoiding big swings and, instead, trying to remain solid.

Obviously aggression works often, but, at least to me, when the object is to win a huge percentage of matches (95% seems to be a good representative figure) and while playing with a good partner and teammates, wild decisions, particularly in converting TO doubles to penalty (2NT by East instead, could have led to partner converting to 3 hearts which would make easily (maybe even 10 tricks), should be left to others because of dame fortune’s fickle nature of dealing.

David, you are a truly excellent bridge analyst, and are right a huge majority of the time, which, of course, has a significant upside in being able to compete at very high levels.

If you add that natural ability to a large amount of experience in the poker type reasoning of guessing where the cards are when playing and defending to complete partnership understandings, fitting the system chosen, and meshing winning overall bridge philosophy such as legal bridge signalling with one’s partner as well as playing thousands of hands together as partners you have the ingredients for a top-level partnership.

Sometimes all the above is very hard to achieve for a myriad of reasons, but if the opportunity ever presents itself, it is worth attempting since the mental results can be very uplifting.