Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 19th, 2014

Youth will be served, every dog has his day, and mine has been a fine one.

George Borrow

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


Today's deal comes from last year's world junior championships, featuring interesting problems in both rooms from the match between England and China. In the first room West opened one diamond and North made a light takeout double. East raised to two diamonds and South doubled for takeout. When North bid three clubs, South continued with three spades, and North raised to game. This was a poor contract, which duly went one down on a diamond lead.

In the other room, West also opened one diamond, but here the English pair handled the bidding better, and Tom Paske (South) became declarer in three no-trump on the auction shown.

On a diamond lead, declarer put up dummy’s jack and East covered with the queen. Declarer ducked the first diamond and won the next round, the opponents’ carding suggesting that diamonds were 4-4. Given East’s silence in the auction, declarer laid down the club ace, and when the jack dropped, he could drive out the king and later take the spade finesse. Three spades, three clubs, two hearts and one diamond added up to nine tricks and 12 IMPs to England.

In isolation, the right play in clubs for three tricks is to take two finesses, but in light of the bidding, South’s play was clearly right since West had opened the bidding and East had already shown up with the diamond queen. With only 15 points missing, it was almost certain that West had the club king.

Tempting as it is to lead the singleton in partner's suit, you have a natural trump trick and really do not need a ruff. If you have listened carefully to the auction, it is more likely that you have the heart ace and king to cash, to go with your near-certain spade trick. Even if partner has the heart queen, not the ace, a heart lead will surely be best.


♠ Q 10 2
 K J 6 4
♣ 8 7 6 5 3
South West North East
2 4♠
Pass 5♣ Pass 5
Pass 5♠ All 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 ClimieJune 2nd, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

This is the sort of hand where the 11-14 NT often woks well, although west’s hand is pretty scruffy. The opening bid can easily end the auction unless South plays doubles as 13 plus in 4th or treats his hand as a black 2 suiter. It does need strong nerves from east, but he can’t really run via stayman because of the spade holding

Out of interest, what do you recommend as a defence to a weak NT?



Iain ClimieJune 2nd, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Sorry, 12-14.

Bobby WolffJune 2nd, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, especially on this vulnerability which is nicknamed ‘favorable,’ and it is just that for EW, for stealing purposes (no police in sight).

A fairly common and reasonably effective defense is to double with the medium+ equivalent point count of the NTer. North should pass in tempo, but an aggressive South may come to the aid of the partnership by doubling back in. Of course, North would pass but if EW were adept enough to escape to their 8 card fit (diamonds) and even though they got doubled in 2 diamonds, a good guess in trumps (playing North for the knave) might hold the losses to 6 tricks (-100 EW) for a presumed large IMP pickup vs. 3NT bid and made +600 (11 IMPs).

However -100 is indeed a miracle result for EW and perhaps, after the run out, NS, with North taking the bit between his teeth and simply saddling his way to that lofty contract (with the excuse of it being easier to play than to defend). True EW were skillful, (some may call it lucky) but perhaps NS should have bid and played this hand to perfection in order to get a push rather than a significant loss.

angelo romanoJune 2nd, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Hi Bobby, isn’t the double awful? and at unfavorable then!

bobby wolffJune 2nd, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Hi Angelo,

Yes the double is a definite overbid and not my choice, but my experience, especially in the latest era of bridge (last 15+ years) tells me that to do so (with another queen or so) is more plus than minus. No doubt good distribution (support for all unbids and short in RHO’s suit) is a key for success, but even balanced hand doubles become necessary as the trend for opening the bidding gets lighter, passing immediately runs the risk of getting shut out of the bidding when the partner of the opening bidder can get the bidding higher right away.

Through the years, going back a long time, it has been necessary to adjust bidding trends to different approaches to opening bids, especially the distributional weaker hands which are being opened today at the 1 level, without regard to defense, but hoping to find an immediate fit and wreak havoc on the opponents.

The days of wait and see defensive hands to stay out early and come in later (Roth-Stone, being the most well known) have lost their effectiveness.

Thanks for asking and don’t necessarily take my word on this, but keep your eyes open and see for yourself. Perhaps in duplicate games with old style players things have not changed, but I am referring to average+ to very good partnerships.