Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it.

William James

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


There are enough inferior plays and cutting comments at the Dyspeptics Club to provide splendid entertainment – though a significant portion of the discussions might carry an R-rating.

In three no-trumps one might have expected South to make a play first, and start thinking about what he should have done later. Instead, declarer captured the spade lead in hand, and actually paused to consider what might go wrong. The only danger that he could envisage was a 4-1 diamond break, so he improved on the simple finesse by leading to the diamond ace. Had East held a significant singleton or West the diamond king, this line would have worked, but in fact the shortage of entries to dummy would have left declarer awkwardly placed against anything but a singleton king. And today with East having a small singleton, his line failed. When South complained about his bad luck he received the verbal equivalent of raspberry from his partner. Can you see why?

Leading the nine to the ace might have covered the situation where East had a singleton king, eight or 10, but it is possible to do even better. Best of all would have been to lead the diamond jack from hand at the second trick. If West covers with the king declarer can win the ace and lead to his nine to ensure four diamond tricks. This line works against any singleton in East bar a singleton king, and also against a singleton king or 10 in West.

You have more than enough to bid on here, given your double fit plus the knowledge of partner being really short in spades. But bidding four hearts would be lazy; you must bid four clubs to keep partner in the picture and to help him judge the five- or six-level. Would it amaze you if you were cold for slam in either clubs or hearts? It certainly wouldn't surprise me!


♠ Q 7 6 4 2
 Q 10 9 2
♣ K 10 2
South West North East
1 Pass
2 2♠ 3♣ 3♠

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


Iain ClimieMarch 10th, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Hi Bobby,

At what stage on BWTA would you decide the best way forward is to take the money off a spade contract,, obviously considering vulnerability and the oppo’s diamond fit?



Bobby WolffMarch 10th, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Hi Iain,

Your ‘where the money is’ question no doubt is worth much in discussing views, before arriving at a well considered individual conclusion.

All I can do is offer what my thoughts opine and elect to do so by the numbers:

1. This very worthwhile exercise will, of course, be limited by not knowing the vulnerability, who the opponents are in terms of risk taking, with overcalls (never with 4 card suits at the 2 level or then as partner, raising with fewer than 3, both very unlikely but nevertheless possible), level of defense (sitting for it, almost always should, since a double in this situation is not at all cooperative), even with the likely void held and then choice of opening lead as well as the necessary sophisticated defense, sometimes determining a several trick variance and then measuring the virtually close to 100% success of only a game contract NS with, as mentioned, the possibility of a laydown slam (or almost) following, together of course, with the critical NS vulnerability.

2. If we interchange our minor suit holding it becomes a slam dunk to double instead because of the huge defensive difference with both the major honor and of course, the length (3 cards opposed to a singleton opposite partner’s likely two suiter in the suits in which he has bid. Another big factor is the 4th heart as opposed to only 3, which, while boosting us to a slam possibility, in turn and without that card, probably rules slam out but a game, almost certainly.

3. The skill of West’s declarer play also comes into play, since several tricks may be in the balance, keeping in mind that the play will likely be double dummy by him (if he is talented) since the distribution and likely high cards figures to be easily ascertained. In other words, please do not be so optimistic while defending and hoping that he will lose control of the hand since no really good self-respecting declarer, will let that happen.

4. However, the elephant in this room is whether or not partner may possess the gigantic singleton trump, rather than void. With that card and that lead will brightly shine the answer. Please remember that partner will expect you to have the right length (and maybe strength) in trumps and since you made a firm penalty double, while expecting the hand partner probably has, but already has shown he will put his trust in you to be doing the right thing. To let him down and (DRUM ROLL) you need to expect a void in trumps, meaning one more trump for declarer one less for the defense (and, like The Ancient Mariner, none to drink nor, in this case, lead).

5. Yes, you are quite right to which choice I am leaning and that is to bid 4 clubs as a basic safety device in search of our best contract and not to be diverted, off course, away from normalcy into what may turn out to be an illusion.

6. Can anyone be criticized for doubling? Not really, since sometimes partner will have a trump, you will wind up with a huge number and all will then be right in your bridge world. However the discipline in this not common situation should keep a possible great partnership on the straight and narrow to legitimate success without having to go through a false god of wincing for that one trump from partner which only Dame Fortune, not good card playing, can provide.

7. The next thought from a non-believer of the above is to rail out against anyone who will not take the less traveled road of defense against offense. All I can add is that bridge caters to declarer with the only advantage for the defense is the original lead and that like bridge’s grandfather, Whist, is severely restricted by its blind nature. Of course, on this hand that really does not apply since a trump is so called for, but nevertheless the theme of this paragraph is to recognize the innate advantage of declaring rather than defending.

8. I’ll now be thoughtful of the reader and sign off, however grudgingly.

Iain ClimieMarch 10th, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Thanks Bobby. All I have to do next time such a situation occurs at the table iis put all this advice into practice! Bidding 4C or even 4H in rythmn will often get 4S, though, and I know what to then if partner doesn’t take the push.


jim2March 10th, 2015 at 10:51 pm

I agree that 4C is the probably the best call in a bidding quiz.

I am less confident that it would be best at the table. My hunch is that — in real life — West would have a pointed-suit two-suiter and take advantage of the bidding space politely provided by 4C to bid 4D. East — who on the previous round was forced to show 3-card support instead of bidding a 5/6-card diamond suit — will now ensure they end up in the 10/11 card fit instead of the 7/8 card one.

N-S would quickly be given the choice between defending 6D or playing 6H.

OTOH, calling 4H with the South hand on this round would preempt the opponents’ certain diamond fit. Thus, N-S would get to choose between playing 4H or doubling 4S / bidding 5H. I think, in the long run, those would be better choices.

Bobby WolffMarch 11th, 2015 at 12:58 am

Hi Iain,

All too often, the only bids predictable, is the unpredictability of what might happen.

Most highly competitive auctions become only coin tosses, with the most underrated quality to be achieved is to have one’s partner satisfied with his pair’s performance. Often, that takes time to get done, but the end result will point that partnership to get in the right mood and going in the proper direction for the future.

The overwhelming choice is for a partnership to have confidence in one another and that requires discussion, concentration, hard work and consistency.

Bobby WolffMarch 11th, 2015 at 1:07 am

Hi Jim2,

Yes, your forecast is likely to happen and might result in the best result possible (4 hearts making 6), instead of the best possible result (6 hearts making 6) but better than only a lesser plus in even 7 diamonds doubled (possibly around +300) (depending on the respective vulnerabilities).

As you rightly explain, cutting out your worthy opponent’s easy access is very much a necessity in order to achieve a winning result, although it is often difficult to assess when and if, that happens. However it should always be a part of every post mortem of contested auctions.