Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 10th, 2015

He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

Book of Common Prayer

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

*11 – 14


Whenever you take a long while to play a hand you have to work out whether it is your side or the opponents who are likely to gain most from the time you take.

Today’s deal features an example of a hand where declarer might do well not to give the defenders more time to think than is absolutely necessary.

East-West were playing the weak no-trump, and East was so relieved that he was not going to have to play in two hearts doubled (his sequence of bids having shown both majors), that he was sitting back and not paying a great deal of attention as declarer made his plan at trick one.

Eventually it dawned on East that dummy was a bit stronger than might have been expected. Since West presumably had at least 11 points, East had three and dummy had 20, that left only six for declarer. That wasn’t really enough for a call of two no-trumps.

The most likely explanation was that South had a good source of tricks and the only place they could be was in diamonds. Consequently when declarer won the spade lead and played a diamond from the dummy, East worked out to play the queen, killing the diamond suit and guaranteeing the defeat of the contract.

There was now no way South could come to more than three spades, two hearts, one diamond and two clubs. If East ducks the first diamond, then even if West withholds his king, declarer can utilize the clubs to come to nine tricks.

The three diamond call is a transfer to hearts, a suit you fit well. Should you do more than bid three hearts as requested? No indeed. Imagine partner with a hand that would pass three hearts (jack-fifth of hearts and the diamond queen, say). You might well be struggling to make even nine tricks. If partner had transferred to spades, I would do more – the fourth trump and ruffing value might be critical.


♠ A K Q 5
 K Q 4
 8 4
♣ A Q 3 2
South West North East
2 NT Pass 3 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


Iain ClimieSeptember 24th, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Hi Bobby,
Shouldn't south just have passed 2H dbl'd and led a trump if they stayed there? If EW run to 2S (not here clearly) and pard passes it round, then thinking may be needed but why bid 2N instead of taking a nice safe 500?

slarSeptember 24th, 2015 at 2:12 pm

If South passed then our gracious host would have no column!

bobby wolffSeptember 24th, 2015 at 2:20 pm

Hi Iain,

I always love your optimism, but even more so your indomitable spirit.

A problem, at least for me, is the almost certain randomness of the card distribution when these types of doubling marathons occur. Sure, on this hand, 500 is relatively easy to score by passing the double, but yahta, yahta, and yahta with different layouts, too numerous to search, but instead there are constant reminders which have been my guide:

1. While playing the game, especially during the bidding, at least fly to others which one knows, rather than leaving it up to that fickle lady, Dame Fortune, who deals the cards (computer or not).

2. It is almost always easier to declare rather than defend, both because of the blind opening lead, and even more so, because, while declaring, one can see all of his assets squarely in front of him.

3. As is here, if partner would have had a diamond fit, 3NT (+600) may figure (with his great hand) to be easier than trying to defensively pick apart a contract which may have found at least a decent heart fit.

4. When declaring, one doesn’t have to be on the same wave length as do the defenders. Fewer moving parts, the likelihood of fewer mistakes.

5. When taking the above suggestions, a partnership rates to steer clear of gross disasters, at least not allowing a cruel blow from the previously mentioned Dame Fortune.

6. Most importantly, I continue to be able to plot a course for action, and because of that, feel very secure which may turn out to be in my Ivory Tower.

Maybe I am just jealous of your self-confidence! Who, me?, impossible (or is it?)

bobby wolffSeptember 24th, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Hi Slar,

No doubt, but your practical application sometimes vanishes with the morning light, at least between people who love the analysis, accurate or not.

Iain ClimieSeptember 24th, 2015 at 11:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this, but a stray thought on doubling sequences. Pard hits 1NT, then 2C, so if he/she passes a subsequent rescue bids (assuming I still get a bid) should a pass be seen as forcing? Exactly when, in this sort of sequence, are doubles totally for penalties or doo they just show extras? The scope for confusion here suggests some clear guidelines would be useful.



bobby wolffSeptember 24th, 2015 at 11:58 pm

Hi Iain,

There are different factors which lead to different guidelines.

Some play that once a NT opening has been doubled then the doubling partnership cannot pass the hand out under 2 spades. However the underlying caveat which goes with is that the doubler cannot be hedging on his strength when playing that method.

Others play is that the partner of the doubler should in fact bid his suit, holding QJxxx in a major and nothing else 3-3-2 making the doubling side not forcing after the original double is taken out by the doubled side.

However if it goes something like: 1NT Dbl P P 2C Dbl P P 2D P by the original doubler his partner is now forced to act and is not allowed to pass.

Rather than give strict rules as to why, the way I would tend to describe it is in essay form describe why that is so. In that way a relatively new and inexperienced partnership will start to learn the theories of what needs to be done rather than just set up rules with no ideas of why they are.

Accurate bridge logic applies to all levels of players and until both partners understand why every bid means what it should, it will be a random type partnership subject to disasters.