Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Forethought we may have, undoubtedly, but not foresight.

Napoleon Bonaparte

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


In today’s hand, at his second turn South felt he had a little too much to sign off at two hearts, and when North also took an aggressive position, the delicate game was reached. Nonetheless, the competitive auction should have given declarer a blueprint for the play.

Against four hearts West led his singleton diamond. Declarer rose with dummy’s ace, and with the intention of ruffing a club in dummy, he next played dummy’s club queen. East rose with the ace and continued with the diamond king, on which West pitched a spade. Declarer ruffed the subsequent high diamond with the 10 and West thoughtfully discarded another spade. The club king was cashed and a third club was ruffed in dummy. Then came the heart nine – and again West correctly withheld the trump ace, since the dummy’s five of trumps would have protected declarer from being forced by a fourth round of clubs.

These maneuvers ensured the defeat of South’s game; if declarer played another trump, West would win and force him with a club, to promote a second trump trick for the defense. And if South played on spades, West could ruff the third round, with the heart ace still to come.

So what went wrong? South should have known that West had started with exactly four spades, and therefore East held three. So, South’s correct sequence of plays was to cash his three spade tricks after winning the diamond ace, before West could take any discards. Had South done so, he would have been home free.

Some textbooks tell you to redouble with all strong hands, with suit bids being limited. Not so: while new suits at the two-level can be played as non-forcing, you should always bid naturally unless you want to defend at least two of the unbid suits. In such a case, redouble would make sense. Here it looks right to show your long suit first. Bid one diamond, a forcing call, planning to reveal your strength later.


♠ A Q 6
 9 5 3
 A 8 7 4 3
♣ Q 6
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 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


slarAugust 31st, 2016 at 3:14 pm

RE: BWTA, how do you define “want to defend”? Do you generally need four pieces in the suit and either strength in the suit or shortness elsewhere? The reason I say this is that I don’t hate the idea of defending 1SX. I feel that with a little luck, declarer is down two when 3NT looks sketchy. Or am I too optimistic about defending and too pessimistic about playing 3NT?

Bobby WolffAugust 31st, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Hi Slar,

First a compliment to you.

Your questions seem to always remain on point so that you, instead of just woodenly learning what someone thinks is the right bid in that specific sequence, try to understand the complex process which high-level bidding is about and, even more importantly, what is expected to be gleaned about going this way or that.

Now cutting directly to my take as the correct answer, let me suggest that an immediate redouble of an opponent’s TO double, has come to mean, through the years, a direct interest in penalizing the opponents, obviously at a low level (one or two) and sometimes, but not always, is it the case.

Much of the fairly recent thinking has since differentiated redouble from ever having a major fit with partner (usually major suit, but sometimes even minor suit) with other bids, usually jumps (and likely even artificial) to immediately alert partner to realistically concentrate on offense and therefore not defense.

However, I see nothing wrong nor hindering to start with redouble when partner opens, for example, 1 spade and it goes double to then redouble while holding, s. KJx, h. Axx, d. Kxxxx. c. xx. Sure a trump fit, and likely a final contract of spades, but still enough defense so that later in the bidding when it has likely reached the game level, (and with the opponents competing) partner can still play you for a somewhat balanced hand rather than one totally dealt for offense.

Finally and to the chase, I think redouble is necessary immediately in order to allow partner to differentiate for judgment purposes, especially after the next round, when you support spades,, that you still have transferable values for both offense and defense.

With the above BWTA, the hand described, although relatively strong and balanced, is now thought to be better to make an alternate forcing bid of 1 diamond rather than redouble (which I, in my heart of hearts, still prefer).

Since the opponents will likely (although somewhat depending on both the vulnerability and whether IMPs or matchpoints) the choice of 1 diamond perhaps is motivated by not having a 4 card major (just in case the opponents are vulnerable and, of course partner is also fairly balanced), but in reality it is unlikely for our side to double them at the one level for fear that their distribution will allow them to take seven tricks in their best trump suit and, (never forget) the advantage of being declarer as against defense when the opening lead is blind and the entire 26 assets of the partnership are not in full view. The above is not to quench your desire to double them, it is only designed to point out the poisoned flowers in order to make you a bit more cautious.

The caveat to be learned is that it is difficult to almost impossible to defend perfectly when on defense, where as declarer, perfection (or almost) is done often on offense.

Hoping for the above to have helped, and in time and your then added experience will become more realistic, but certainly subject to your individual taste and therefore judgment, to apply.

Mircea1August 31st, 2016 at 6:56 pm

Hi Bobby,

So is it fair to say that in the modern style, a Redouble of a T/O double of partner’s opening suit at the 1-level can have two meanings:

1. you would redouble with invitational or better hands and a fit, planning to raise partner’s suit later

2. you would redouble with opening values hands, no fit and all other suits under control (essentially a hand suitable for a t/o double against your partner’s hand, if that was possible), therefore very defensively oriented. With such a hand, you would double any subsequent bid by the opponents at the 2-level or higher (but not at the 1-level). It is not mandatory for partner to leave the double in, he can pull with off-shape, very offensive type hands.

As a corollary, you would never redouble with a single-suited or two-suited, good hand.

Are all these dangerous oversimplifications?

Bobby WolffAugust 31st, 2016 at 9:54 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Yes, I would redouble with #1, but the expert community seems to not want to, with cue bids and artificiality revolving around NT jumps which take the place of good immediate fits. Also present with overcallers and their partners.

A commercial for my meaning is simply that my partner can easily handle the two way nature of #1, while the overcaller to some extent and his partner to a greater degree sometimes find it difficult to preempt over a redouble while they would have no fear over a strictly offensive bid denoting a great fit with the opening bid.

With #2, rarely is anyone dealt an entirely one way hand, and to make any bidding toy useful thus making frequency of occurrence at least somewhat of an issue, causing the strict meaning of what you suggest not usually the case, but rather just initially pointing the direction.

In other words the perfect redouble after 1 spade (by partner) double by RHO, then s. x, h. KQJx, d. QJ10x, c. KJxx. However when holding s. xx. K10xx, d. AJx, c. Q10xx redouble now has been restored to normalcy, making defense paramount, although with unsuitable distributional hands the opening bidder will overrule and continue bidding.

In the very high level game, since opening bids have become lighter and lighter (even completely balanced 11 hcp hands qualifying with some) enough to defend low part score hands doubled has become a real gambling venture. Just too much opening bid value consistency violated, causing IMO just too much partnership stress.

In efforts to create the perfect martini (bridge style) experience is necessary before any method becomes anywhere near universally approved, and at least to my observation, we are not much closer (or any) to improving on the systems created 10 to 30 years ago. Never perfect or even close but playable, but only so if both partners try to compromise their preferences into a reasonably successful partnership.

Finally and in answer to your next to last paragraph, single-suited or especially two-suited good hands need to be bid ASAP but since only 1 level responses are forcing and cue bids tend to show immediate fits or asking partner for a stopper for NT (showing a long solid suit), sometimes the only sensible original bid over an opponent’s TO dbl. would be redouble.

The good news is that since there are only so many high cards in a deck, this type of problem is a rare one, but long suits are where one finds them and thus since most times neither the opening bidder nor the overcaller is psyching then the responder can just haul off and bid what he thinks he can make.

In other words, science goes out the window and good judgment is required.

Finally, you asked very good questions in which demanded better, more understandable answers than I gave you, but at least IMO no one else could intelligently answer either.

No, you did not engage in dangerous oversimplifications.

Jantung bocorSeptember 4th, 2016 at 3:19 pm

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