Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

It is imperative, for our own survival, that we avoid one another, and what more successful means of avoidance are there than words?

Janet Frame

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

*Promises three-card support for hearts


A highly competitive auction saw East-West do well to push South to the three-level. After the lead of a top club, declarer was forced to make a somewhat unusual play to prevent East from getting on lead for the killing diamond shift.

Declarer ducked the opening lead of the club queen, then ducked the continuation of the club jack, because he did not want East on play; this second duck prevented East from ever gaining the lead in clubs.

South won the third round of clubs with the ace, then played the heart king. West won his ace and took his diamond ace, knowing declarer’s diamonds would disappear on dummy’s hearts if he did not. That left declarer needing to negotiate spades, and when he led to the king and back toward his hand, he was spared the guess.

Well played by declarer, but can you see how the defenders could have done better? The fault was West’s at trick two. When he continued with the club jack, he denied possession of the 10, so East could not overtake his partner’s honor. Had West played the club 10 at the second trick, East could safely have overtaken. Declarer must now win the club ace and go after hearts, by leading the king as before. West could now have won the heart ace and played a low club to his partner’s nine to create the entry for the diamond shift. That lets the defenders cash out for down one.

This hand is certainly too good to pass. The question is whether you are worth more than a simple raise to two spades. I’d say no: with such sterile distribution, maybe a little caution is appropriate. Give yourself a doubleton diamond, and I might think about a jump to three spades.


♠ K 10 4
 Q J 5 3
 8 7 3
♣ 8 7 4
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. Pass
1 Pass 1 ♠ 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


Mircea1January 6th, 2016 at 11:40 am

Hi Bobby,

Two quick questions on the auction:

– What is the best treatment for Redouble of a Responsive Double?

– What is West’s second double?


Iain ClimieJanuary 6th, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

An instructive hand, but what if East helpfully encourages with the C9 at trick 1? I also suspect that TOCM would give East CKxx and possibly even DK but no spade Queen if West tried to put East in for the killing shift. If East had the DK, though, should he be playing a high heart as some sort of suit preference on the first round of hearts, since West can see discards coming on the hearts regardless?



Bobby WolffJanuary 6th, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Probably the best meaning of a redouble is the one used by North in the column hand.

In the absence of a so-called “book meaning” an example being when a cue bid is doubled, a redouble by the next to bid, should promise at least 2nd round control in that suit. However, in this case when North redoubles, after failure to raise spades the first time (over West’s support double) all he is doing, without having to raise to the 3 level, is showing some support for spades and at least a few scattered hcps.

A general answer to your topical question is that “bridge logic” should always prevail, meaning whatever sounds natural is what is meant. In this case, a redouble shows a smattering instead of what might be worse, a doubleton or fewer spades and less points throwing up a warning flag to partner to beware competing further since no support will be forthcoming from him.

A word of caution while out there among the great so-called unwashed public, simply when discussing with another relatively inexperienced player he will, upon being asked the same question as you did here, answer it to his satisfaction, but with little chance of applying what should (and could) be figured out, the above description.

The more you play with the enthusiasm for the game you undoubtedly show, the easier it will become and so prepare to be the local guru in your group as you should be the one, other players turn to, for logically answering various questions you will be asked.

Bridge would indeed be fortunate if Mircea1 would multiply to at least Mircea10 and ASAP.

Bobby WolffJanuary 6th, 2016 at 6:08 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt bridge itself, to which you subtly referred, creates its own wicked witches and poisoned flowers along the way making perfection in bidding, declaring and defending well nigh impossible, or at the least, improbable.

All any partnership can achieve is as close to playing well as possible, which more often than we fear, is not as close to perfection as we wish.

If someone, after a 26 board duplicate bridge session, states that his partnership only made three or four errors all day, he is likely understating it by double digits, but there is nothing to be ashamed of by so admitting, since our game, with so many opportunities to go wrong, can become a fool’s paradise, if taken too seriously.

Yes the defensive club combination in today’s column, presents just such an enigma, but West (as described above) should definitely have led the 10 of clubs at trick two,, not the jack after East brilliantly had not encouraged with that precious nine the first time.

Sure it can be figured out to defend perfectly, but that is the ultimate test and if we pass it even once in five tries we will be well above the average, since most would not, and worse, never even realize they could.

However since we all know that only a VERY ill wind blows no one no good, it allows bridge writers to preach, potential bridge greats to reach their zenith, but sometimes only in their own mind’s eye, instead of where it belongs, at the table.

I have always thought that playing bridge mirrors life itself, in that, while at the table, problem solving enables logical thought (among many other attributes) the correct solving of such boosts the ego and does so in the best possible way, since failure only produces a lesser score, rather than a much greater and longer lasting disaster.

The above feelings are only representative of my life long romance with bridge, and shouldn’t be confused with any more worthwhile project.

Thanks always for what you constantly provide us all.

slarJanuary 7th, 2016 at 3:18 pm

This hand is an example of why I keep getting pressed to adopt upside down count and attitude signaling.

Bobby WolffJanuary 7th, 2016 at 8:10 pm

Hi Slar,

Just hold J32, 1032 or ever 952 a few times and you’ll be back to square one, to decide what is best.

At one time, not long ago some of our best players, Bobby Goldman being one, was convinced that virtually all signalling methods were essentially the same, whether they were upside down, downside up or even one’s social security number, therefore the one to accept would be the one those particular opponents were not used to. To that some bridge players turned con artists would go further and play all standard signals except suit preference while giving partner a ruff.

This had the added advantage of not requiring an alert, because of the sensitivity of reminding partner, so their goal appeared to be whatever a partnership could get away with legally.

Somehow that seems to not follow through with whatever is supposed to be the ethics of bridge.

Anyway, do not worry about the difference, since whatever that might be, is certainly not critical.