Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 18th, 2014

Tut, tut, child.

Lewis Carroll

North North
Neither ♠ K 10 9
 10 9 8 3
 K 10 2
♣ A 7 5
West East
♠ Q J 6 3 2
 6 5
 A 7 5
♣ J 4 3
♠ A 8
 K 7 2
 Q 9 6 4
♣ 10 9 8 2
♠ 7 5 4
 A Q J 4
 J 8 3
♣ K Q 6
South West North East
Pass Pass
1♣ 1♠ Dbl. Pass
2 Pass Pass 2♠
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass
3 All pass    


With the world junior teams championship beginning this week in Istanbul, I shall be using deals from the 1999 event, held in Fort Lauderdale.

In the round-robin match between Denmark and Italy in the World Junior Teams, a textbook hand in suit-preference signaling came along. Unusually, it was the hand on lead making the suit-preference signal, rather than the hand following suit.

At the table Morten Madsen of Denmark as East had taken a calculated risk when he tried to push his opponents up a level with his call of two spades. The defense would have been able to take seven tricks against that contract, but when North doubled a second time just to show cards, South rather illogically decided against trying to take the penalty.

The opening lead of the spade queen held the trick. Now Kaspar Konow as West deliberately set up dummy’s spade 10 by leading a suit-preference jack at the second trick, knowing that his partner’s delayed support was very likely based on precisely a doubleton spade. Hence he had to prepare the way for a spade ruff. Madsen as East won his ace perforce and duly led a diamond (the higher of the minor suits) to ensure that he got his ruff. There was still the diamond queen coming to the defense for the setting trick.

Notice that if East had played a club after winning his spade ace, declarer gets in to draw trump at once, and the defendees lose their ruff.

Your red-suit values have not improved on this auction. The choice is to double one heart for penalty and decide what to do when the opponents run, or to bid one no-trump immediately to get your hand type across. I prefer that route; you may be able to balance into two hearts over a minor.


♠ K 10 9
 10 9 8 3
 K 10 2
♣ A 7 5
South West North East
1 Dbl. 1

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 ClimieSeptember 1st, 2014 at 9:57 am

Hi Bobby,

If east is going to put his head (or his partner’s head) on the block, wouldn’t he do better to bid 1N or 2S on the first round? The latter could work well if the suit is 5332 round the table so NS each assume their partner may be short.



Iain ClimieSeptember 1st, 2014 at 10:41 am

Or possibly Redbl – what would that suggest?

bobby wolffSeptember 1st, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Hi Iain,

Your probing interest in this part of the game is duly noted since little is written about it, but fierce competitive skills, especially among youngsters, often signals a strong desire to be a winner.

The reality of discussing this area is that, at the table, and when these hands arise, neither side wants to make a close penalty double since distribution of the opponent’s hands may lead to a trick or two more than expected for them and being on the wrong side of a doubled into game result is horrible and very much worth guarding against.

The usual hoped for result, and from both sides, is to push the opponents one trick higher than they want to go and then strive for a one trick set. Such was the case here, but the thought of a final penalty double, IMO is a losing proposition at IMPs (the scoring system, emphasizing the potential game bonus at stake, is the tie breaker in favor of conservatism).

Matchpoint scoring is much different, where frequency of gain rather than amount is the goal, demanding altogether different strategy, but that discussion is for another time.

All that you say about East bidding earlier with 1NT is a possibly better plan, but since that bid would also be slightly pushy, his choice of a back-in effort of passing first and 2 spades later is also acceptable. To first redouble instead, is just too much and should require at least another high card (such as a stray king).

BTW, it may be worth noting, I was the coach of that team in 1999 and the USA team had several of today’s bigger world stars as players with our overall result of 2nd (silver medal) representative of our performance. However since Europe easily and justifiably took first, third and fourth, it was obvious to me that the mantle was passing across the Atlantic, because so many of their players were successfully taking to what they had been learning in their schools on a daily basis.

And also they were all, including our team, classy kids (25 years old and under), well dressed, spoken (many, several languages), sharp with overall, very positive personalities.

Iain ClimieSeptember 1st, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Thanks Bobby, although east had passed initially so perhaps the possible redouble could be shaded, although a moderate 9 count is still too pushy. Your comments about modern youngsters suggest they’re better behaved and probably dressed than I was at that age!


bobby wolffSeptember 1st, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Hi Iain,

Right on and also add that judging what some modern bridge players dress should be if determined by their bridge table antics could very well be no doubt, diapers.

Yes, once East had passed, a redouble should only suggest, a maximum, albeit perhaps only a modest fit (Ax), for partner.