Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Sometimes we focus so much on what we don't have that we fail to see, appreciate, and use what we do have!

Jeff Dixon

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


All the deals this week comes from last year's NEC tournament in Yokohama. In three clubs Willie Whittaker received repeated spade leads, and ruffed, then unblocked the diamond king and led a heart to the queen and ace. Back came a heart, after which declarer can succeed by cashing his winners, taking a trump finesse, then ruffing two diamonds in dummy to score the ace-queen of clubs and four red-suit winners, plus three ruffs. Instead Whittaker played to ruff a diamond before cashing the second heart trick and that let West get a heart away. Better defense for West would have been to lead the third top spade when in with the heart ace, which promotes an additional trump winner and ensures the defeat of the contract.

In the other room the contract of three diamonds looked more playable; but again, if the defenders play three top spades early on, it may let East discard a heart loser.

In fact, though, after a top spade lead West shifted to trumps. Declarer voluntarily ruffed a spade to hand, and that let West subsequently play a third spade without setting up dummy’s jack. Declarer subsequently misjudged the play to go down two.

By contrast, when Ashley Bach for team Lorentz played three diamonds, he ruffed the spade at trick two and led the heart queen to the ace. He won the trump return, crossed to the heart jack and played three rounds of trumps. East could take two trump tricks but then had to lead a heart or club, allowing declarer to test both suits, and come home with nine tricks.

There is no single best treatment after opener's reverse, but I recommend that raising either of opener's suits is game-forcing. A rebid of your own suit (two hearts here) shows at least five cards and is a one-round force. The cheaper of fourth-suit and two no-trumps is an artificial negative, the other call being forcing. So here preference to three clubs is natural and forcing; perfect!


♠ J 7 5 4
 K 4 3 2
♣ J 7 3 2
South West North East
Pass Pass 1♣ Pass
1 Pass 2 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1February 24th, 2015 at 10:36 am

With no fit for partner and some defense, including four (anemic) spades, is pass of 2Sx a valid option?

Iain ClimieFebruary 24th, 2015 at 11:11 am

Hi Mircea, Bobby,

I was going to post something similar, especially given the D misfit. 2 off looks likely while it is often suggested that not conceding the odd score of 470 or 730 means you aren’t doubling enough at pairs.


slarFebruary 24th, 2015 at 2:26 pm

As Bobby reminded me last week, this column assumes total points or IMP scoring.

The hard thing for me is to handle this kind of situation in tempo. I got caught in a bind last week as opener in a team game with Kx/Jxx/Kxxx/KQJx and white vs. red.
If you can handle this in tempo, more power to you. I ultimately bid 3H (not willing to risk the disasterous 3DX= or the speculative 3NT which is probably down 2), raised to 4H which was down 1. Did it matter? I think any plus score (for example, if partner passed 3H or pulled 3NT to 4C) would have been adjusted due to the BIT.

Iain ClimieFebruary 24th, 2015 at 2:36 pm

Good point Slar, especially as 3 team mates may demand beer instead of one partner. The extras partner should have plus the diamond misfit still make it tempting, though.


Iain ClimieFebruary 24th, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Also, albeit ironically, passing 3D slowly may be the one bid not entering an ethical minefield!

bobby wolffFebruary 24th, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Hi Mircea & Iain,

If there is one highly controversial attitude in high-level bridge, your discussion unearths it.

Whether to pass a TO double or bid on with a possible semi-misfit is the culprit. Let’s attempt to clinically discuss it.

1. May get a significant number (300+)
2. Teach the opponents not to compete against your partnership so vigorously.
3. Win the turf war by thwarting their competitive overbidding.
4. Together with one’s partner, learn to defend better.

1. Receive one of those frightening minus numbers Iain mentions.
2. Defense is universally thought to be the most difficult part of the game and the blind opening lead often confirms that.
3. In a pinch, go for the smaller minus, although it doesn’t always turn out that way.
4. Follow Edgar Kaplan’s thought to be sound advice, take out partner’s take out doubles.

All of the above, at least in my judgment, are worth consideration, but the real litmus test narrows down to, who one’s opponents are and then, of course, what are their competitive habits? In other words, if someone presents a problem of this kind it is very proper, at least to me, to do one thing against one pair of opponents (or even a particular player) and another against a different set.

In bidding contests when this problem is included, it usually has more to do with the game (iMPs, rubber bridge, or matchpoints) being played or the specific bidding up to then, testing the bidding panel on their interpretations of the type of bidding sequence leading up as to what to generally expect the other three players to hold.

From that above point, a veteran and observant panelist will probably be able to predict which other bidding contestants will pass the double and who will not. And then following, all readers and then players will realize just how close and therefore controversial that decision will always be.

Finally (whew!) sometimes it even depends on how a particular player or partnership handles adversity (the opponents scoring it up).

FWIW, The great Italian Blue Team (for whatever reasons they were) almost never doubled a close contract for fear of an opponent having an unusual surprise distribution which would enable him to make it, mainly because two of their three really great players were very emotional and they wanted to protect against that effecting the immediate hands following.

bobby wolffFebruary 24th, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Hi Slar & Iain,

An unintended point to be brought up is the very small technical advantage in opening the higher ranking minor suit diamonds when holding equal length just so that in the case of your LHO jumping to 2 of a major, then double followed by pass from RHO would enable you to more conveniently TO to 3 clubs (a real suit) rather than the 3 heart option you chose (reasonably) to what did happen. That would, of course allow partner a chance to prefer one minor or the other at the 3 level and is less awkward, although the contra argument of wanting a club lead in case of it being the opponents contract also weighs significantly.

Back to what actually happened, there is, of course, no 100% (or even 60%) solution, but only a difficult choice, attempted to being described above. Your bid of 3 hearts then being raised to 4 by partner, down 1 seems entirely realistic since your hand not only had an almost worthless king (diamonds) but a total minimum in HCP’s, but one trump less than usual. You must have played the hand well to hold your losses since partner’s raise to game (without having any idea of his specific hand) was probably totally justified.

Bridge ethics are a difficult subject to understand or maybe better explained, be justified. Obviously you are referring to, if your partner, while holding 13+ points plus at least holding 4+ hearts, then did pass your labored effort to bidding 3 hearts, it could be successfully argued that your partner should not be allowed to exercise such all knowing judgment.

While I would accept that ruling, please remember that you could have been thinking about making a stronger bid yourself (such as jumping to game, or even making a 4 diamond cue bid) or for that matter bidding 3 NT or, of course other suits including spades or rebidding clubs.

Suffice it to say that proper bridge ethics are a very necessary part of our wonderful game, with the only sad part that the judicial department of our law enforcement is savagely untrained, with professional bridge and likes and dislikes, often biased and a home office who doesn’t lead nor apparently care about correcting such faults and leaves it up to non paid, subject to ridicule, others, (bridge lovers, but only human who can only do so much). However at the common bridge players level it is not as important as is the very high competitive level, but the whole process needs to achieve much greater consistency regarding precedents, reporting and especially training with not much prospect of it ever happening.

Iain probably has the right attitude of “do not take these things so seriously” which I tend to agree (especially your ironic comment) except at the very high levels, which continue to suffer grievously with what I consider one poor ruling after another. (and poor is not a strong enough word)