Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

I don’t see it as my role to save or rescue anybody any more than regular people feel the need to rescue each other from sleeping and dreaming.

Jed McKenna

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


Since the eastern Indian city of Chennai is currently hosting the Bermuda Bowl, we shall be considering deals from last October’s world championships in Sanya, China. Today’s exhibit from the Rosenblum semifinal between Monaco and Diamond nearly rescued the event for the latter.

In one room Helness and Helgemo for Monaco had stopped in three diamonds, for a comfortable 10 tricks, after Helness, North, had opened the bidding. Curiously, South had bid two no-trump in the face of West’s spade bid. Had North raised to three no-trump, we would have had a chance to see if West would have led the spade ace. Of course declarer would still have had to negotiate the diamonds after any other lead.

In the other room Brink and Drijver for the Diamond team pursued the sensible policy of ensuring that with an opening bid facing an opening bid, they would at least get to game.

West led the club queen against five diamonds. Declarer won in dummy and played a spade to the king and ace. West returned the spade queen, and declarer ruffed, cashed the club king, then ruffed a club with the diamond jack. He next ruffed a spade, ruffed a club with the diamond king, played a diamond to the 10, cashed the diamond ace, and exited with a diamond.

East had to win his diamond queen, and had no choice now but to lead into declarer’s heart tenace, and Drijver could not guess wrong. That was 11 tricks and a worthy gain of 7 IMPs for Diamond.

In almost every situation where a double is made under the trumps, you are trying to show cards, not play for penalty. I would describe this double as take-out, so I would not expect your partner to play for blood without sure trump tricks. If your partner supports hearts you will raise, and you will correct three clubs to three diamonds. If he bids three diamonds, that will be trickier. Sufficient unto the day…


♠ 8 7 5
 A 10 8 6 4
 K J 7
♣ A 6
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 2 ♠ Pass 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 WarheitOctober 20th, 2015 at 10:29 am

Alternate line of play: win CA & lead a low H. E wins K & returns a S. W wins A & leads another S which S ruffs. Now play D to K & D finesse of 10. Cash HQ, then CK, ruff a C, cash HA, ruff a H, draw trump and claim. I believe this line of play is slightly better since W could hold singleton DQ. Note that W’s bidding and opening lead tells you that his partner holds HK and that W doesn’t have a singleton H, since otherwise he would have led it. It also virtually guarantees that he has but 1D (lengthy S, lengthy C & at least 2H).

Interestingly, EW are only down 3 in 5S (losing a H, a D, 2C & a C ruff), making this a good save. I think E should have bid 3S over N’s 3D bid. This might lead to the good save.

Iain ClimieOctober 20th, 2015 at 11:56 am

Hi Bobby,

A few stray thoughts today:

a) Would you have considered passing 4H as South today? It goes off if 2 rounds of spades are led at it, but if a trump comes back at trick 2 and east rises with the KIng…

b) While I take the point about an opening bid opposite an opening bid being worth game, that singleton spade King is a huge imponderable. Perhaps pard has SAxx, Q10x or even J10x but it could also be completely useless. How much (if at all) would you have downgraded the South hand?

c) IF NS were vulnerable, isn’t it 10 IMPS in, not 7? Time to bazooka the wretched gremlin involved somewhere instead of just stunning him with a heavy book. Silly comment aside, though, the urge for a vulnerable game at IMPs would explain NS pushing onwards and upwards, along with South’s 2N bid in the other room. I’m familiar with the gambling 3NT, but I’d want a very forgiving partner before I risked such a bluff as this gambling 2N. There again, if it had been tried and worked, West would be carting his hand round everyone he knew or met as a lead problem against 3NT – which would make the SA a possible answer – along with the SQ (to pin dummy’s possible singleton Jack perhaps), and any non-spade lead which might put partner in for a spade through.



Michael BeyroutiOctober 20th, 2015 at 12:32 pm

to the attention of both David and Iain:
the diagram says Dealer: East-West…
VUL: North…
Both of you should be condemned to be Gremlin-Exterminators of Bobby Wolff articles till the end of the year!
So 7 IMPS it is. And the 5S “save” … isn’t!

P.S. I thought Declarer played it pretty well… until I saw David’s line. Anxiously awaiting our Host’s reply.

jim2October 20th, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Iain Climie –

What if declarer ignores trump (hearts) and trumps a second spade and guesses diamonds right. Losing 3 trump tricks is okay.

Iain ClimieOctober 20th, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Hi Jim2,

Isn’t it 3 hearts and the spade Ace in 4H, though?

Hi Michael,

Ouch, someone’s awake and it isn’t me.


bobby wolffOctober 20th, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Hi David,

Although I am not intending to argue whose line is best, yours or declarers, I will comment on what we both consider the facts.

I do not think that when the club queen is led, that West is necessarily marked with long clubs.

It does look like the spades are 6-3 (partner’s non-raise at the three level NV, isn’t consistent with four). However after declarer ruffs a club in dummy it does almost guarantee that West has started with four, not three (no jack) to which the late and great, Terence Reese, would describe as discovery. Hence the ruffing of the 3rd club with the jack and the 4th with the, of course, king.

Also, the consideration of taking a 5 spade sacrifice, even with the favorable vulnerability is, at least to me, a poor money proposition which offers a small upside (3 IMPs) to a much larger downside (12) when, and if, the diamond game goes set. Delving deeper, since all of East’s side strength lies in their opponents long suits, hence no courtesy 3 spade raise, the defensive prospects seem to offer more promise than does offense.

However, your points are well taken and after all, since that sacrifice could save 3 IMPs, the theoretical result suggests that you win the argument, no small advantage.

Except on this hand EW would have lost 9 IMPs (teammates were plus 130) instead of the 10 (compared against plus 600) they did lose. And what about the thinking of the possibility that declarer, South, at the other table may have gone down at either 5 diamonds or a cavalier 3NT with either a right on opening lead, or stellar play at a diamond game.

BTW, thanks for your overall analysis, No one will ever think that high-level bridge is ever worry free.

bobby wolffOctober 20th, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Hi Iain,

Your stray thoughts could be some other’s main course.

Since 3 spades by South was an attempt to hear 3NT by partner (s. Q10x, h. A10xxx, D. d. KJx, c. Ax) his then 4 heart bid (this late in the bidding) could easily be perceived as also a cue bid for the possibility of a diamond slam (partner, on a different day, could have, s. xxx, h. AKxxx, d. KQxx, c. A, making it almost laydown).

Yes, scoring up a bridge gambit (singleton K soaring) lives on for many hours turning that genius into the court jester (with the opposite effect to his taken in opponents), but the loser needs to treat that imposter just the same.

Immediate thought is that with the current big time news of quadruple worldwide big time pairs likely all cheating and with some for so many years, could even a lifetime suspension be long enough to offset the horrible heartache they have caused their honest opponents to suffer.

Perhaps two lifetimes would be appropriate, but alas, even that would not come close to their insidious choice designed for stealing ego and sometimes big time money with little risk, (at least until now). Sorry for the diversion, but I cannot get that thought away from my brain.

bobby wolffOctober 20th, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Hi Michael,

Yes, gremlins would be a plausible excuse, but since BW are my initials that is the cause, no others. However, look at it as an attempt to keep all readers sharp as they can be, if it were only so!

Of course, read my above response to David, wherein, like so many other queries about bridge, lets the reader take his choice.

bobby wolffOctober 20th, 2015 at 2:18 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, it definitely is, as long as the contract is 3 hearts, not 4.

bobby wolffOctober 20th, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Hi Iain,

Sorry for preempting you with my smart Alec response to Jim2. However +140 would have won the B-A-M board from +130 at the other table.

jim2October 20th, 2015 at 4:38 pm

I mis-spoke, but it would seem North may be able to engineer to throw in East late. I will think about this some — at least until my head hurts.

Iain ClimieOctober 20th, 2015 at 9:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

A thought on IMPs vs BAM scoring. In the former the odds favour bidding marginal games especially vulnerable. Presumably a less than 50-50 game is worth avoiding at BAM?


Peter PengOctober 21st, 2015 at 12:46 am

hi Mr. Wolff

The bidding being opened by partner 1NT – Dbl by RHO –
a partner recommended that we play RDL transfer to clubs, then you pass or correct to 2D.
The transfers to the majors, as well as Stayman are on, so the question is how to play 2C or 2D.

I thought that the suggestion was OK, but did not know how frequently one has a 6 card minor hand versus a
hand like xxx Axx KJx xxxx that I think cannot invite, has no 4 card major, no transfers, but would like to redouble.

In the suggestion, the hand would have to pass the double and miss a big penalty.

How can one evaluate the frequency of a 6 card minor versus the frequency of a 8 HCP hand opposite a 1NT opener?

thanks for your consideration

bobby wolffOctober 21st, 2015 at 1:04 am

Hi Iain,

In truth I would judge a 50-50 game contract at B-A-M exactly that. Of course knowing who will be bidding it at the other table may swing the pendulum. In other words, no great wisdom to be offered.

I believe that bidding a 40% game or slightly under when vulnerable and at IMPs is about a break even proposition. Better to be guided by a simple, “Be right, baby” and then do so.

bobby wolffOctober 21st, 2015 at 1:12 am

Hi Peter,

No doubt a balanced 8 count will occur more often then a 6 card minor, but do not, I say do not worry about discussing frequency, just get something practical (meaning playable) and remember it. By doing so you will jump ahead of a large majority of bridge scientists who argue about minutiae and then forget to what at least one of them thought they had agreed.

Virtually any type of runouts or specific bidding solutions to seldom held auctions will all, for the most part, be worth just adopting and then waiting for it to come up. When it does, however it becomes critical to be on the same wave length, so remembering it is the #1 priority.

slarOctober 21st, 2015 at 5:50 pm

We have a partnership agreement that we do not play 1NT doubled. After 1NT(x), redouble is runout and pass is forcing – opener must bid a 5-card suit or redouble. Partner can either pass the redouble or runout. The problem is that there are two different runouts – long minor and Baron sequence (bidding 4-card suits up the line until someone is satisfied and passes). Naturally one partner wants to do it one way and another wants to do it the other. And heaven help us if it goes 1NT-p-p-X.

As our host says, these are uncommon sequences. I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually ended up executing the runout – usually someone bids a suit or the double is actually conventional.

bobby wolffOctober 22nd, 2015 at 1:36 am

Hi Slar,

Your comment has served a dual practical purpose of:

1. Showing a home brew convention which, no doubt has merit when certain hands come up,
2. Risk is also ever present when bidding sequences do not always follow a chartered plan, causing one partner or the other to have to guess what his partner is trying to say.

If I had to rate their overall efficiency I would be skeptical of giving this creation a very high grade due to the uncertainty always present when new situations occur.

However for those players who like action, good luck in gaining the type of experience which may help that partnership to see for themselves what can and does happen, more often than expected.

Let all of us know what has happened after that type of bidding sequence actually appears.