Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.

H. L. Mencken

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


When I saw this deal, I was reminded of “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. After all, how could anyone go down in three hearts with trumps and diamonds lying so favorably?

It was East who reported the deal, remarking that perhaps he should have pre-balanced with two spades at his second turn – but as he commented, if his partner couldn’t balance, maybe his side would do better to remain silent.

In three hearts declarer, a very skillful player, won the spade lead in his hand and led a low heart up. West, Chris Compton, ducked smoothly, a task not many defenders would have been up to. It seemed twice as likely to declarer that West had been dealt a doubleton jack or 10 in hearts than that he had begun life with the doubleton king. So South cannot be blamed too much when he inserted the heart seven on the first round. Later he crossed to dummy to led the heart queen in an attempt to pin West’s remaining honor. This maneuver is known as an intrafinesse, but today all it succeeded in doing was losing an extra trick to the now bare heart king.

Accordingly, the defenders collected two hearts, two diamonds, and one club for down one.

It occurred to me that a weaker player would never have seen the possibility of the intrafinesse and would simply have led a heart to the queen at some point. It was lucky for East-West that they were playing the deal against an expert.

Even if you have shown constructive values (when playing forcing no-trump, so that the raise shows 7-10), you have a decent hand, without too much in partner’s suit. Thus, you are very suitable for defending, and would be delighted if you could persuade partner to double the opponents. Redouble to show a maximum, and then let partner decide what to do later if they run to a black suit.


♠ A 9 3
 Q 7 4
 Q 10 2
♣ J 9 6 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
2 Pass Pass Dbl.

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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


slarMay 7th, 2016 at 7:44 pm

RE: BWTA I agree with the redouble but the real question is what what N/S do if E/W run to a minor. (After all, South could have the same shape as E or N from the play hand.) In Matchpoints, I’d be looking to double almost anything. But what about IMPs? Can you risk doubling with 4 small or honor third with a balanced/semi-balanced hand?

On the play hand, I struggle on when to fly up and when to duck. Often the best I can do is to guess and decide before the suit is led so that I don’t give away the situation with my tempo if I duck. I’m at least getting exposed to the kinds of hands where this matters. Eventually my experience will catch up.

bobby wolffMay 7th, 2016 at 10:41 pm

Hi Slar,

Your questions and other comments create a pretty picture of both your attitude and what to expect bridge wise from you as you mature into hopefully a very fine player. IOW, you are asking the right questions.

You have the theory about winning matchpoints to the right degree. Since frequency of gain as opposed to amount of gain (at IMPs and rubber) is the goal and while playing against aggressive opponents, a winner needs to double them in their strategy to competing for a part score.

When both opponents pass until their balance begins (at the conclusion of the opening bidder’s side auction) chances are the distributions then faced will not favor the eventual declarer’s side and losers for them will stay losers, but only good defense will be necessary to receive many matchpoints (often close to a top) by so doubling them.

However especially at IMPs (my overwhelming favorite game) more caution is necessary since the stakes are higher usually because of the game bonus they will add to their score when doubling them turns sour.

However that does not mean to never double them, but instead, use good judgment, based on who the opponents are and what are their tendencies, a special requirement which all top players must have, if they expect to quickly move up the bridge ladder to becoming anywhere near to World Class.

Also your frank admission as to the difficulty on defense to make quick decisions (in order not to give the show away) is very true, and all I can advise is to continue to play against the very best competition available and keep your eyes and ears open in addition to the intense concentration always necessary.

Yes that experience will be the medicine which will cure the invisible shield which sometimes hurts rising stars becoming as good as they need to be.

Good luck and keep all of your friends here on this site up to snuff on your progress.

slarMay 8th, 2016 at 2:16 pm

It has been a pretty good year for me so far and this has earned me some opportunities to play with better partners and against better competition. It is exciting.

bobby wolffMay 11th, 2016 at 11:44 am

Hi Slar,

Very happy to hear from you. And in regard to the future, our wonderful game will continue to be exciting as long as you appreciate the advantages of now having better partners and above all, testing your new found status, by playing against the best competition you can find.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained”.