Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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


It is often hard to know when to make a penalty double. When East decided to pounce in today's deal, he found that the opponents' contract was cold, but he got lucky when declarer missed the point.

Perhaps you would like to cover up the East and West cards and plan the play in four hearts doubled before reading on.

Declarer took the lead of the club king and at trick two played a heart to his ace. He then played the spade queen and a spade to his king before leading a diamond to the 10 and jack. East cashed his two trump winners before getting off play with a club, and declarer had to give the defenders another trick at the end.

Declarer had missed the underlying theme, since he should have tried to set up the dummy by ruffing two diamonds in hand (one could be discarded on a spade). It didn’t matter if he lost two trump tricks, so long as he lost only one diamond trick.

At trick, two declarer should have played a diamond. Suppose East wins and returns a spade. Declarer wins in dummy and ruffs a diamond. Now a trump to the ace discloses the 3-0 break, but declarer is under no pressure. He ruffs a diamond to hand and a club to dummy, then ruffs the fourth diamond and simply concedes two trumps at the end.

Once West is known to have three or more diamonds, the club ruff in dummy is safe.

I'm aware that I'm eligible for my AARP card. I hope I'm not betraying my age when I say I consider my hearts a less appropriate suit for a weak-two bid than most, and I would be concerned at opening this suit in second seat at any vulnerability. Even in first seat, I'd prefer to have the 10-9 in my suit before I open it. In third seat, nonvulnerable, anything goes.


♠ Q 5
 A 7 5 4 3 2
 K 10 6 5
♣ 9
South West North East

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 29th, 2014 at 9:35 am

Hi Bobby,

If North had bid 2H and south raised to game, the winning line is much easier to see. North would just concede an early diamond intending to ruff 2 in the short trump hand and throw one on the 3rd spade winner. It is a bit like chess here – sometimes looking at the position from your opponent’s side of the board can avoid oversights.



Iain ClimieJuly 29th, 2014 at 10:06 am

PS obviously I mean the hand opposite’s viewpoint. EW get a bit annoyed if you try a 90 degree rather than 180 degree change in viewpoint.

bobby wolffJuly 29th, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, you are giving what I think, is a likely valid reason for declarer drawing a round of trump unnecessarily leading to his failure at the death.

Especially, after getting doubled, which when two good partnerships are competing, is usually an indication to be extra cautious, since, in this and most cases, they know something you don’t.

Probably the right of passage from good to very good in playing bridge demands that both players of that partnership do not have hangups about almost everything which could happen at that table and playing from the short trump hand possibly is one of those.

Other caveats could be temperature of the room, playing against someone who is disliked,
how one is feeling (if really sick, should not be playing), extracurricular influences, too much or too little sleep, etc. Being a prima donna has no place in high-level bridge and almost always will not cut the mustard.

Patrick CheuJuly 29th, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Hi Bobby,could North have bid 2H or is that GF here?Would you have doubled with the North hand here if 2H bid shows 9+?With some partners,they play 2H 5-9 nf here.My preference is to show 5H(+) 9+pts or 6H NF,before the bidding gets too clouded,what say you?Possibly we may be revisiting old grounds here..regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffJuly 29th, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Hi Patrick,

You have the pulse of the matter in hand. A negative double, while being slightly awkward, is OK, but so is a slight overbid of 2 hearts.

NF free bids, while being in the minority, are nevertheless a reasonable way of playing, but require getting used to. In any event a competitive 2 hearts is not GF, but rather a one round force and if 3 hearts is then rebid it can be passed.

While visiting old grounds, it is still worth discussing since rarely is a conclusion reached, but rightly so, since whether to play one way or the other will not determine whether that partnership is successful.

In conclusion, with some partners (usually with very natural backgrounds) I would bid 2 hearts. However with others, (more scientific and thus modern) I would make a negative double.

jim2July 29th, 2014 at 8:03 pm

I confess that I do not understand why declarer ruffs the fourth diamond. Did something happen to the king of spades between column paragraphs four and five?

bobby wolffJuly 29th, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Hi Jim2,

In effect, the declarer ruffed two diamonds in hand (after losing a diamond at trick one) and silently, at least for column purposes, discarded the 4th diamond in dummy on the good spade.

Sometimes we run out of space for wordier columns, but do not remember whether this was one of them.

bobby wolffJuly 29th, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Hi Jim2,

Although this time I cannot make an excuse the first lost diamond was at trick 2, not at trick 1.

jim2July 30th, 2014 at 12:26 am

It was just that paragraph four said the last diamond would “be discarded on a spade” and the next paragraph ruffs it.