Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 8th, 2014

One hope is too like despair
For prudence to smother.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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


At three of the four tables in a local league event, North became declarer in three no-trump. With a 3-3 club break and East holding a singleton heart honor, this contract is makeable, but no declarer succeeded. The unsuccessful declarers won the spade lead in dummy, crossed to the heart ace and played a diamond. Had South's diamonds been solid, this line would make sense because spades might have been blocked (with West holding jack-third of spades), but here there is no guarantee that playing a diamond would make the contract. Taking a second-round heart finesse and then playing on clubs was the indicated line, perhaps.

At the fourth table South became declarer in four hearts after the murky sequence set out here. West led a spade to East’s ace, and a spade was returned. Declarer now played two rounds of clubs ending in dummy and then a diamond. East made his side’s only defensive error when he rose with the ace and played the spade jack, ruffed by declarer. Declarer now took two top diamonds, the second of which was ruffed by West with the eight and overruffed with the king. A third round of clubs was cashed and a fourth played, which East ruffed with the heart queen. Remarkably, this was the defense’s only trump trick! All declarer had left was 10-9-7 of trumps while dummy had the A-6 of trumps and a diamond. Whichever black suit East played, declarer had to make the rest of the tricks.

Every partnership playing negative doubles should have a firm agreement that when relatively short in the opponents' suit, one is obligated to reopen with a double — unless the opponents' tempo has made it clear that it is their hand, not yours. On this auction, partner is surely a favorite to hold a penalty double of diamonds, isn't he? So double now.


♠ 10 9 5
 A K 6
 4 2
♣ A Q 9 5 2
South West North East
1♣ 1 Pass 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


ClarksburgMarch 22nd, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Question related the BWTA item:
If LHO opens a weak two, followed by passes by Partner and RHO, should an automatic Double apply there too? (for the same reason and given the same conditions).

bobby wolffMarch 22nd, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Double would be correct, assuming LHO’s WTB was in diamonds. However if it is in spades, perhaps the choice would be between passing or bidding 3 clubs and not gambling against partner’s response being in diamonds. 2NT is a possibility by the balancer, but having 3 spades to only the ten, lessens partners likelihood of having a spade stop. Over a heart WTB, I would probably pass since partner with possible short hearts did not act.

Always keep in mind that the more of the WTBidder’s suit the balancer has the greater possibility one’s RHO has of having a penalty double (short in his partner’s suit but nevertheless a full opening bid) and waiting to pounce on his opponents (in this case, you) if they arrive at the 3 level. Good (or I should say experienced players) will not give the show away with slow tempo, but rather pass quickly to create a tempting environment for their opponents to walk into the lion’s den.

Conclusion, the holding one has in his opponents suit, mainly length, should be the determining factor in deciding whether to bid or not.