Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 27th, 2014

A throw of the dice will never abolish chance.

Stephane Mallarme

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


This deal was played in the Pairs Championships at Ostend last summer. The deal does not exemplify any great technical theme, but it was so much fun for the defenders that I thought it worthwhile to show my readers.

If you focus solely on the North and South cards, you would expect North to open a strong no-trump and be transferred into two spades. You’d expect declarer to bring home his contract unless trumps were hostile. In fact, the spades are quite friendly, but things did not work out as expected.

Where Waseem Naqvi and Lee Rosenthal were defending, they pushed their opponents to the three-level, then showed how to maximize their trump holdings.

Rosenthal, West, started with the diamond ace, continuing with a diamond to Naqvi’s jack. Naqvi switched to his singleton club, then took a club ruff to play back a diamond. Declarer ruffed optimistically with the spade eight, overruffed by Rosenthal with the nine. A third round of clubs was ruffed with the spade king and overruffed by East with the ace.

Now Naqvi played another diamond, and declarer had to decide if the remaining spades were as in the diagram or the other way around. When he guessed wrong by ruffing with the spade 10, it was overruffed by the jack. Now a fourth round of clubs promoted Naqvi’s spade seven. The defense was finally out of ammunition, but they had made all five of their trumps for four down, and virtually all the matchpoints.

If you trust your partner to deliver the right shape for his takeout double, you should compete to two spades now. Yes, partner does not rate to have four spades unless he is very minimum, but he could easily be suitable for spades, while holding only three trumps. More to the point, when each side has at least an eight-card fit, don't give up too early.


♠ 10 8 6 5 4
 K Q
 5 2
♣ J 10 3 2
South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass
1♠ 2 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


Iain ClimieJuly 11th, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the lie of the cards, south can get a fair plus score from passing 3C X but his spade holding makes this unattractive. I wonder how many potential penalties escape the net given the increasing tendency for non-penalty double in many situations. Have you any guidelines for turning small to medium penalties (or bidding on) into worthwhile ones?



Bobby WolffJuly 12th, 2014 at 1:45 am

Hi Iain,

What you are asking for is asking how to become a magic man. No, I do not have any advice about how to guess what to do with everyday situations (taking out or leaving in TO doubles for penalty).

All we can be certain of is that bridge itself is the master and we are only pawns on the run or I should say walk.

Playing to maximum advantage will always be, at least the way I see it, to accept worthwhile percentage choices by following what one’s hand dictates and only hope for the right result. Don’t try to be brilliant and also when on the other side, try and make worthy opponents guess what to do without yourself being stereotyped.

Rest assured that the law of averages is everywhere and will oversee that, in the very long run, that justice will be done. Winners will win and losers will lose, but do not try and understand why. Whatever and however we try and influence it, we will only go as far as lady luck wants to take us, but again we will all get a fair shake, if we just keep trying.