Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.

Yogi Berra

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


Against three no-trump East takes the first spade with the ace and returns the spade seven. Declarer follows small from hand and West’s jack captures dummy’s 10.

Now West knows he can take two more spades if he can put East in to return a third diamond. But East’s play of a high spade at trick two suggests an original three-card holding – so South would still have a spade guard left if West leads out the suit from the top. East would return a low spade at trick two if he had three spades left.

Since West knows South has about a 12-count at minimum there is room for East to hold one significant card. If East has the club king, he will surely win a trick with that, since declarer cannot come to nine tricks without establishing the club suit. So the question is when it matters which red suit to play.

The simple answer is that the sight of the diamond ace in dummy means it must be right to play a heart. Even if East has a diamond suit that included the king, a diamond shift now wouldn’t help – declarer would have three red-suit winners and six clubs. But as the cards lie, playing a high heart now lets East win and revert to spades, for the defenders to cash out their five winners.

Had dummy held the heart ace and diamond king, West would have shifted to a high diamond, using similar reasoning to hope to find East with the diamond ace (or club king).

Do you think your partner was preempted out of bidding his suit? Of course you don’t – and neither do I! If he chose not to bid over the redouble, it must be because he wanted to defend, and you have absolutely no reason to disbelieve him. Pass, and I guarantee one side or the other is going to be having an animated post mortem when the deal is over…


♠ A 7 4
 A J 9
 Q 9 8 3
♣ 8 4 2
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ Pass Pass
Dbl. Rdbl. 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieSeptember 7th, 2016 at 10:31 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, I’ve got a bad feeling. Couldn’t pard have a modest 4441 hand (say a 7 count) and be passing it back to you, although it is better if he doesn’t sit on the fence? If he’s got a club stack, then surely RHO isn’t just going to sit there. Perhaps the right action is to ask what the redouble meant…



bobbywolffSeptember 7th, 2016 at 10:51 am

Hi Iain,

Yes, these situations are times which try one’s character.

No doubt, with a fairly modest 4-4-4-1, North would prefer South to choose his longest unbid suit to be trump, but, if so, to achieve that modest goal, is just like playing with a stick of dynamite. Better to just choose one heart (a major suit) and chance playing in a 4-3 instead of a 4-4 in order to not tempt (which soon may be his former partner) into passing, thinking a trump stack.

It is often better, in the absence of a “firm” agreement that such auctions are meant to show a “penalty pass” rather than an “Alphonse-Gaston” routine where two well meaning athletes, usually playing baseball engaged in, “I’ll take it, no you take it, no, I’ll take it, no you take it, while trying to catch the ball until it fell in untouched”.

Your solution of asking what the redouble meant may work and is at least 2nd best, but for my money, a previous discussion of such “key moments” is “firstest with the mostest”.

slarSeptember 7th, 2016 at 1:20 pm

I’m with Iain on this one. I’m having a hard time understanding what hand partner could possibly have to warrant wanting to play 1CXX. With four good clubs or five lousy ones, he could bid some level of NT. No, I think partner has equal length in the majors and wants you to pick one. Keep in mind that if you’re wrong, the opponents could be scoring a BIG number.

I’ll just bid 1D.

ClarksburgSeptember 7th, 2016 at 2:16 pm

View from the Beginner’s corner.
In the absence of prior agreemment:
Couldn’t North have quite a decent hand that was not suitable shape for direct TO or overcall at first call?
Couldn’t passing the 1CXX then be saying “I have a decent hand; I’m OK with defending 1CXX if we must; if I really didn’t like defending 1CXX, I would have acted myself; Partner, you decide please” ?

Jane ASeptember 7th, 2016 at 2:47 pm

I am bidding one diamond as I think my partner is saying pick any suit you like other than clubs and I am OK with it. It seems to me if partner had the “trap pass” type hand, he would be bidding NT, but with the redouble by opener, I don’t believe this is likely.

My partner and I play in this sequence, the opener has a very good hand by making the redouble bid, so it allows partner to bid something later if he chooses, even after passing the one club open. So asking what the redouble bid means is what I would be doing as well. If opener’s partner does not know what it means, then their post mortem could be the more interesting one.

Iain ClimieSeptember 7th, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Hi folks,

A further concern is that the doubler has 3 clubs, so how is the suit split? I’m guessing that the opener has a good all round hand, but probably no more than 4 (or even 3) clubs and perhaps our oppo each think their partner has some of our trumps. If so, we could be laughing.

If pard has passed the buck with (say) a 3334 hand with a few points and rho has a maximum pass but 3 clubs this could hurt badly, although so could running, of course. In the absence of any formal agreement, somebody is getting stung big time. I assume the redouble doesn’t show club length (it is hardly preemptive) but what if the oppo are weak and think it might be.

Good problem and food for thought.


Jane ASeptember 7th, 2016 at 4:29 pm

I think the redouble could easily show club length and is telling partner that it is OK, I can play one club redoubled, but that is just the style I play. Who knows what the opener in Bobby’s world has? It is alway fun to try and figure it out, even at the table, which I am fortunate to get to do with him and Judy once in awhile. It is never a dull moment, and always a learning experience.

bobbywolffSeptember 7th, 2016 at 4:41 pm

Hi Slar, Clarksburg, Jane A, and Iain,

Our group only proves just how important partnership agreement (necessary only for a few situations) can be when an unusual bidding sequence occurs.

Seriously, we cannot afford to be wrong, but at the same time we need to take out assurances that we are not, otherwise we will be missing out on getting our top board or game winning IMP swing.

There are also other advantages with discussion about these “off” topics since we can then exchange “feelings” about how to handle them in concert which, believe it or not, helps a partnership both understand his partner’s general approach to the game (only, of course, with serious players, and not those who only play bridge for a pastime).

All in all only proving, by putting “nuts” away for the winter we will be learning more about our current partner’s thoughts about the game itself which might be insightful to his aggressiveness or to his conservatism.

Over a lifetime, the type of sequence depicted has come up perhaps 4 or 5 times and every time, believe it or not, not to my surprise, my *usual” very good partner has played his pass for “business” usually stating during our discussions that every now and then an opponent will open very light and his partner will redouble on both no fit and no hand in order to try and keep us from learning and then being able to act, on our values.

One often never knows unless two relatively new players, looking forward to their partnership, get to know each other.

So, no real answer except to say discuss, discuss, and discuss more and although not necessarily wise while just playing social bridge, it will create a more serious mood at the table which will, in turn, result in better bridge since for sure, it is mpre fun to win, than to engage in the other.

slarSeptember 7th, 2016 at 5:03 pm

I guess this problem can’t be solved if you don’t understand opener’s redouble. In GIB, redouble shows good hand/good suit. (I suppose this is reasonable because it invites partner to compete to 3C without sticking your head on the chopping block.) In other systems (including my own…I think…) XX is for rescue and if it is for rescue then passing by north must be for business. However, if it is for rescue and east passes, what does that say? I would guess a bust with 3=3=3=4 distribution. If that is the case, don’t we have 3NT?

I suppose it would behoove me to inquire on redouble regardless of the UI risks.

Iain ClimieSeptember 7th, 2016 at 8:46 pm

Hi Slar,

One experienced partner and I fell foul of a novel form of redouble against two keen but inexperienced players at an ordinary club session. Pard passed, RHO opened 1S (4 card major potenttially) and I doubled with something like a 2-4-3-4 15 count with SJx. LHO redoubled, partner bid 2D, RHO passed and I passed to await developments. There were none – LHO had redoubled with a 1 count and 5 spades as he was confident of making 1S despite the low point count. Cue huge hilarity all round as my partner and I accepted a less than 30% score with reasonably good grace. We had a fair chance of making at least 2NT and they might have let us make 3.

Mind you, I doubt if asking about the XX would have helped matters. One of the (perhaps dubious) joys of playing in very mixed fields on a regular basis is that pairs who you see regularly, and who you know will often gift tops through nerves and weakness, occasionally fix you out of sight.


slarSeptember 7th, 2016 at 9:05 pm

I guess my comment about 3NT doesn’t make sense unless we are at unfavorable vulnerability. If we can take 9 tricks then the opponents are down 3 in 1CXX. If we can only take 8 tricks then we should be happy with +300/500. I think the key is that if the opponents are unbalanced, they might be able to scramble for some tricks and that we need to play in 3NT. If everyone is balanced, just defend and hope you don’t endplay yourself too badly.

Maybe some horrible experiences in redoubled contracts have me gun-shy. They often are good contracts only if your play is precise.

Iain ClimieSeptember 7th, 2016 at 9:41 pm

I remember one comment fromn years ago regarding pairs play (it is harder at teams). All those who learned to play bridge at university / college will appreciate the value of a plus score. Playing (or defending) a redoubled contract shouldn’t be a disaster as long as you go plus somehow. The nightmare scenario on today’s hand is where opener has a balanced 18 count, dummy has a flat 4 or 5 count and, even in a 3-3 fit, this is minus plenty if I pass 1C XX out.

The advice about plus scores was in the days when students often played bridge though; sadly it seems to be far less common now with the rise of Texas Hold ’em and interactive computer-based games. How many potential bridge stars have been lost to the siren call of Mortal Wombat VII (or something like that) and that is keeping it clean.


ClarksburgSeptember 7th, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Same thing applies to golf.
Many of todays younger generation would rather play golf on a simulator, at night, in a bar, than outdoors, on real grass in the Sun.

Iain ClimieSeptember 7th, 2016 at 9:56 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

I suppose it is a quicker route to the 19th hole that way but it is still sad.


slarSeptember 8th, 2016 at 2:43 am

Golf is too time-consuming and expensive. I get roughly the same enjoyment in a round of golf as I do a bridge session but it takes twice as long and costs much more. Plus there is the whole daylight and fair weather thing.

Back to redoubling, in a one session team-game we were playing a precision pair and the auction was ping-ponging back and forth. I had 3=2=3=5 distribution with a pretty good suit so I doubled 3C for the lead, LHO passed, and RHO redoubled. My partner dutifully led a club and I won the first trick. I could see that drawing trump wasn’t going to work so I exited but I made the critical mistake of ruffing the third heart and getting overruffed (the correct play was throwing a diamond as declarer was 4=2=4=3). I’m not sure how many would have found that play but it was a big difference, -840 vs. +200!

I just hope that by continuing to play aggressively (but sensibly) I will get these learning experiences under my belt.

bobbywolffSeptember 8th, 2016 at 4:26 am

Hi Slar,

Although no doubt very painful, your current experiences will toughen you up, if you continue along the Yellow Brick Road to where you eventually want to be in bridge.

There are no easy paths, at least, the ones I know about, so staying in there, up to date with bridge theory as it changes from time to time, and still confident and mostly aggressive while at the table, may be enough to get it done.

It would be helpful if you could find a partner, in the same boat as you are, who loves the game and is willing to take it seriously enough for both of you to benefit as you improve.

No easy task accomplishing the above, but, if able, and lady luck allows you the time and inspiration to hang in there, you, at the least, will have a chance to at least get to the outskirts of the Emerald City.

From there, it will be up to you, but reaching that point should be your first and foremost goal. Always be as honest about your game and the results you achieve to both yourself and to your partner and here is hoping that you find one who can share your enthusiasm.

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