Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 7th, 2015

To articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler.

W. B. Yeats

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


Today’s deal sees two declarers working hard to find a clue; but one worked harder than the other, and was suitably rewarded.

Both tables reached the notrump slam, against which West led the club queen. The first declarer took the club lead and cashed the spade ace and king. He saw only small cards from West, but the two and 10 from East. Since West appeared to be long in both spades and clubs, he played him for short diamonds and led to the diamond ace. Unlucky!

At the second table declarer won the club lead in dummy and continued with a spade to the ace, followed by the spade four towards dummy’s jack. East won his queen and returned a club to South’s king. The top three hearts came next and when both East and West followed throughout, South took his remaining top spade and saw West discard. Now South thought the balance of probability was that if anyone had a diamond void it would be East. Otherwise West would have begun life with a relatively rare initial distribution pattern of 11 cards in hearts and clubs. So he broached diamonds by leading the diamond king, and could now finesse West for the queen with certainty. Slam made.

Note that had the spade queen sat doubleton in either hand, declarer could have afforded to misguess in diamonds; but the trade-off of a possible overtrick to improve the chances of making the contract seemed like an excellent bargain.

Nothing looks better here than leading partner’s suit. Having implied length in hearts, should one lead a count card (a fourth highest two, or the three if playing third and low) or the eight? Since declarer rates to be very weak, I don’t feel obliged to clarify the position of the honors for him, and partner should be able to work out what I have from the sight of dummy. I will therefore lead a low heart.


♠ J 9 5
 8 5 3 2
 A 4
♣ A Q 8 7
South West North East
  1 Pass Pass
Dbl. Rdbl. 1 1 ♠
All 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


David WarheitSeptember 21st, 2015 at 9:33 am

In the 3d room, NS reached 6D, played by N. E led the C9 which S won and then misguessed D, cashing the A. He then cashed the DK, the remaining C, SA and HAKQ. He now has a choice: lead a D, endplaying W if he held the SQ or started with a singleton S, or cash SK and then lead the D, winning if W had only 1 or 2 S or if E had SQx. I’m quite sure I would have taken the second line (which works while the first line fails), but what do you think?

jim2September 21st, 2015 at 1:23 pm

I am confident that, at that point, the odds favor playing the second top spade and leading the third trump.

(Especially if West woodenly followed suit with the trey on the second club.)

slarSeptember 21st, 2015 at 2:48 pm

In LWTA, before I make my opening lead, shouldn’t I check my pulse first? Since North rates to have four hearts, shouldn’t I raise to 2? I think I would rather declare than defend. And if the opponents insist on declaring, I would rather them play at the two-level and the same opening lead problem would apply.

bobby wolffSeptember 21st, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

First David, thanks for the comprehensive and accurate analysis (I, for one, agree with your line of play) of how to play 6 diamonds and second to Jim2 for his agreement and addition of, when defending, always make every effort to legally attempt to confuse declarer with intelligent false carding.

Those above learning experiences are the heart and soul of climbing the ladder of playing to best advantage. By doing so, one is definitely proceeding the suggested direction of adding this and that to his/her game as a sort of learn as one goes, feeling good about oneself, with the idea of eventually basking at the top of Mt. Everest and thus becoming the master of all he surveys (at least in bridge).

Yes, the above describes the road to success without dwelling with the poisoned flowers and wicked witches along the route.

bobby wolffSeptember 21st, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Hi Slar,

After first making a TO double and hearing one’s partner make a weak response after LHO’s very strong redouble, I think the pass of 1 spade by RHO entirely appropriate in spite of holding 4 trumps for partner.

Yes, often when making a TO Dbl and hearing partner bid a suit, when then holding 4 of the same suit, it is fairly normal to give him a courtesy raise, but with this specific sequence, and especially when not holding an honor in that suit, it is much too optimistic to expect our side to buy the hand (it wouldn’t surprise me greatly, after partner has again passed, for the opponents to have missed a game).

And if West then rebids NT, I do not want to encourage partner to lead a heart from a broken suit.

In other words, this hand presents an exception to the above rule which you are suggesting. I hope this reasoning, at least, makes some sense to you.

slarSeptember 21st, 2015 at 7:00 pm

I think the reason I had a problem here is because I didn’t fully think through what West could have. (You don’t get that many situations where you double in 4th position, much less have West redouble in response.) I suppose West can only have one of three hand types:
* 18-19 balanced (assuming a strong NT)
* jump in diamonds
* 4-card major with reverse strength
If West actually has a reverse in hearts (which looks pretty likely in light of his subsequent pass), then I suppose you would be happy to find a green card in your bidding box.

bobby wolffSeptember 21st, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Hi Slar,

In the stages of trying to belong to the elite
high positions of our game, there is a tendency to overthink before acting.

Here, when you reopen with a TO dbl (clear, but somewhat light) and then hear redouble and only a minimum response (only indicating preference for suit, but denying strength) the immediate thought is that this hand belongs to the opponents and not just barely. When
RHO then answers positively though still severely restricted (0-5) with a higher ranking suit, spades, it means (at least to me) that we won’t have a better than 5% chance to be able to play our best suit in an undoubled contract.

Of course, if my partner is a relative beginner he might not know to jump the second time around, but that is another matter to be discussed in a class of “it pays to be ignorant” and if so that discussion belongs somewhere else, but certainly (and hopefully) not here.

You, by your descriptions, seem to be right on
with your facts and your valuations, so the next step is to rise to the applications of your learned bridge knowledge and either accept or possibly overlook the lesser performing participants in your at the table game experience.

Iain ClimieSeptember 21st, 2015 at 10:16 pm

Hi Bobby,

As a general guide related to the BWTA hand, how low a strength would you require for a take out dbl in 4th? I would guess that 1444 9 count would be ok after 1S P P but would you want more points with (zay) 2434 shape? Also, would you be more cautios after 1C / 1D P P as pard couldn’t find a bid? Pairs vs teams is also a consideration.



bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2015 at 4:04 am

Hi Iain,

Yes, all things you mention can figure into
the decision.

I would say as little as:
s. x
h. Kxxx
d. Kxxx
c. Qxxx

should result in a balancing double. However
s. KJ9xx
h. KJx
d. QJx
c. Ax

I would suggest a simple pass instead of its
competition a 1NT balance. Both the high cards held and especially the spade length does not bode well for enough tricks to be taken.

One very important word of warning and that is when partner does double and you have something likeP:

s. A6532
h. Qx
d. KQ10
c. Jxx

and having my partner balance with a double I would respond only 1NT, not passing nor jumping in NT.

Playing my way allows for very few doubles to be converted to penalties, since my partnership would stop reopening while short in the opponent’s suit for fear of not having enough help to set the opponents.

No successful bridge partnership can have it both ways, and I opt to be conservative on defense, not on offense.

Your last question about reopening with a partner who didn’t bid the first time, is a close question and has to do with partner’s preferred style. Mine is to bid if at all possible even to overcall 1 diamond over 1 club with s. xx, h. Qx, d. KQJ9, c. Axxxx just to get into the bidding and help partner choose his lead in case my LHO becomes declarer in a major suit (likely to happen). I believe in gambling to not be fixed on fairly normal hands and one important principle is to legally help partner with his opening lead.

Finally the rule of thumb would be to be aggressive at teams but conservative at pairs. However the real goal is to win and that usually is brought about by being generally aggressive. When close, bid rather than pass.