Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

In baiting a mousetrap with cheese, always leave room for the mouse.

Saki (H.H. Munro)

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


Not all balanced hands in the 15-17 range need to be opened one no-trump. In today's deal, North, playing with an expert partner, elected to upgrade his hand because of his major-suit lengths and the fact that he had a pure jack-less 17-count. He also realized that it would do no harm to make his partner declarer in any major-suit contract.

Things worked out exactly as he had hoped for. South drove to slam, first asking for keycards, then for the trump queen, and North’s response showed it, together with the diamond king.

South received a top-club lead against his six-heart slam, which he won in dummy. When trumps broke 3-2, South drew them all, cashed off four rounds of spades, and exited with the losing club to compel the defenders to shift to diamonds.

Had West won the second club trick, the hand would have been over; but it was East who took the trick. That player did the best he could when he shifted to a low diamond. South appreciated that he could delay the finesse against the diamond queen for one round. He carefully inserted the eight, and when that forced the queen, declarer could claim the balance of the tricks. Had West been able to follow with the nine or 10, declarer would have won the trick in dummy and taken the diamond finesse on the next round of the suit.

Opinions are sharply divided on whether it works out best in the long run to escape from one no-trump doubled or to sit it out and hope partner can defeat it. My view is that if vulnerable, I sit for it; and if nonvulnerable, I run. A separate issue is whether to play that one should bid naturally here or use Stayman and transfers. Both approaches are reasonable.


♠ 6 5 3
 10 8 4
 10 9 3
♣ 10 9 8 5
South West North East
1 NT Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieMarch 25th, 2014 at 9:27 am

Hi Bobby,

I must admit that with balanced rubbish I tend to pass a double of 1NT as partner can often beat it with his own hand e.g. holding Ax KQJ10x Axx KJx, 1N may go off anyway. Your idea of running NV is new to me but may make sense. One point is the NT strength, though.

In the UK 12-14 is very popular so doubles of 1N are common. Penalty doubles of a wrong NT are much rarer so do they make sense or are alternatives better e.g. a dbl could show a major or minor two suiter?



Iain ClimieMarch 25th, 2014 at 9:28 am

Sorry, typo – wrong should be strong!

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2014 at 10:26 am

Hi Iain,

No doubt, the consideration of a run-out when the partnership has been penalty doubled in 1NT needs to be carefully planned.

There are different ways to handle it, none of which always works, but, just like (people tell me) there are many different ways to skin cats, and it carries over in trying to elude disaster when the penalty doubling starts against our partnership while being (or at least passing through) 1NT.

1. If the opponents are playing that a double is not necessarily for penalties, but shows 2 or more suits instead, just pass with a terrible responder’s hand and the opponents will often seek out what their best suit may be, forgetting to take a considerable number from you by converting the double to penalties.

2. If a double of 1NT occurs against me (I now play WNT 12-14 NV, but 15-17 V) I will pass with a completely balanced hand and regardless of how weak my hand is, there is a good chance that the opponents will not pass it out.

3. If I have a 5 card suit I will immediately escape to that suit, but if I have 2 4 card consecutive suits, say 2-4-4-3 (often occurs) I will first bid 2 clubs hoping to get it past the opponents, but if I get doubled I will redouble which tells partner that I have two consecutive suits immediately above clubs (D+H in this case) and ask him to choose his longest one, of course, hoping he also has a 4 card red suit along with me. If holding 2-3-4-4 or 3-2-4-4 I will originally TO to 2 clubs and then when doubled run to 2 diamonds and again when doubled I will redouble showing 2 four card majors and asking partner to choose.

Will it work?, not necessarily, but more often than not and while the opponents sometimes appear to be salivating in anticipation of a significant number, unusual things happen on the way to the guillotine and for whatever reason, my partnership emerges with both our heads in tact (reminds me of the old love song, “Losing my head over you.”).

Probably the best psychological attitude is apparent self-confidence in our partnership behavior (whistling while strolling past the cemetery), which sometimes works wonders in warding off the bogey man. In any event, since asking for a re deal is usually denied, I cannot offer any better way to escape, except pleading guilty and taking the lowest fine.

Good luck, but always remain confident, which I have a good feeling that attitude will always be your method of handling adversity.

Iain ClimieMarch 25th, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this. With some partners I play redbl after 1N X is a single suited hand and asks partner to bid 2C, a suit bid shows that suit and the touching suit above (at least 4-4) and pass compels XX either for real or with non-touching suits. Pairs only, mind you, as teammates rarely see the funny side of 1N XX off 3!


bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Hi Iain,

Good, since your partnership has definitely addressed the problem of what could be called scrambling after one’s 1NT opening has been doubled for penalty.

Which method is best is not nearly as important, since the key is to have some way to seek port in a tsunami in order to avoid being drowned without a matchpoint to show for it.

My earlier explained way would play redouble by the NT’ers partner to mean a possible mistake made by the doubler to enter the bidding, but to make it an artificial bid to save the ship also makes good sense.

Steve RoundsMarch 26th, 2014 at 12:05 am

You should also credit West with the good play of holding on to a small club so that we can’t be endplayed to lead diamonds.

Bobby WolffMarch 27th, 2014 at 4:35 am

Hi Steve,

Yes, I should, but the patient died anyway since his partner didn’t have the decency to hold the 8 of diamonds with his 10 and 9.

Oh well, we cannot always help our fortune, but rather play the cards we are dealt to their best advantage.