Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Real hope combined with real action has always pulled me through difficult times. Real hope combined with doing nothing has never pulled me through.

Jenni Schaefer

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


In today's deal declarer finds a way to compress his four losers into three.

West’s two-heart opening was in the modern aggressive style, showing five hearts and a four-card minor.

South should no doubt have passed his partner in three no-trump, but he corrected to four spades because of his singleton club. It looked as if he had done the wrong thing when four spades appeared to have four certain losers, while three no-trump had much better chances. But declarer made up for his bidding with a neat play.

West led his singleton diamond, which went to the nine and ace. Declarer played off the spade ace and king, then a third spade (discarding one card from each side-suit) to East’s 10. East cashed the spade queen, dummy throwing another diamond, and played a low diamond to dummy’s now-bare king.

Declarer won, thoughtfully cashed the club ace, then led the club 10, without cashing the club king, which would have been fatal. When East covered, South ruffed in hand. In the five-card ending, he had two hearts, two diamonds, and a trump in his hand, while dummy had the K-9 of clubs and K-9-7 of hearts. When declarer cashed his last trump, West had to come down to either two hearts (when declarer would pitch a club from dummy and play the heart queen from hand to set up hearts) or else to just one club, when declarer would pitch a heart from dummy and lead to the heart king.

There is a temptation to open one diamond here, to plan your rebid, but I find that this approach rarely works for me. All too often my partner totally misreads my minor-suit pattern, and we end up in an inferior strain. Meanwhile, if you open one club, maybe the opponents (not your partner) will bid spades, when you will be happy to have started by bidding your long suit first.


♠ —
 K 9 7 6
 K J 7 6
♣ A K 10 9 3
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


MirceaSeptember 28th, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

Is South strong enough to start with a double in the balancing seat and correct to spades over anything else but diamonds from North? I’m sure North would have salivated seeing the red card, and passed instantly. I’m not trying to make this up but I’m not sure if the same recommendation for bids in the balancing seat apply to Double, that is to add 3 points and bid as if in the direct seat.

bobby wolffSeptember 28th, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Hi Mircea,

Your inquisitiveness may have opened up a new learning chip.

While I, believe it or not, had never heard of the balancing bidding guide you suggest, it, like other rhymes (or almost), may make some sense. However, like so much in bridge, other considerations, do come forth.

First, even if partner did bid diamonds, it would be wrong for South, after doubling back in, to not bid spades. However, a greater reason not to double, but rather to merely bid 2 spades, with a jump to 3 to be considered, but not made, because the hand is not quite good enough, together with the spades not quite as strong (weak intermediates) as a jump should show.

Second, when an off shape double is considered, partner will remain in the dark while responding, and although he will expect spade support, South’s hand, 6-2-4-1 instead of the classic, 4-1-4-4 is not recommended since to even mislead partner in these early stages may, especially if the opener’s partner then gives a belated raise, cause the bidding to get too high before partner begins to recover from what he expected.

Even here, partner’s hand (after South reopens with a double) will look like an excellent candidate for a minor suit slam, one in which, despite the minor diamond fit, is far away from such a thing.

The faster both partner’s understand each other’s distribution, the less likely a bidding misunderstanding may occur. While North certainly has a good enough hand to bid immediately (I would consider an immediate 3 clubs or maybe even a big overbid to 4NT, for the minors) the more prudent pass would probably may be a good player’s choice.

Bidding is merely only a code language, with perfection or anything even close, usually just not in the cards. Therefore choices should concentrate on both values and distribution, and very simply, bidding long suits first, if other factors do not override, should rule.

No doubt, this is a difficult hand to bid, and although the final contract is not a good one, I can sympathize, to the point of accepting their choices.