Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Evil is easy and has infinite forms.

Blaise Pascal

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


In today’s deal the route to three no-trump looks too easy. There must be a catch here… right?

When South responds one heart to his partner’s opening, North rebids his long suit. Now South, with a full opening bid and stoppers in all the unbid suits, can bid game in no-trump; no other contract looks appealing, and slam is a long way away.

After a small spade lead by West, South puts up dummy’s spade queen at the first trick because the queen may win a trick now, but can never win a trick later. (If dummy had queen-third of spades you would duck, naturally, to preserve your second spade trick if West had led from the ace.)

As it happens, the queen holds the trick, and South knows that West has led from a long suit headed by the ace. It is now necessary to develop the long diamonds without allowing East on lead. If that happened, East would continue the attack on spades, and West would then defeat the contract by running his suit.

Once you see the problem, the solution is relatively easy. At trick two you should lead a low diamond from dummy and finesse the nine. If this finesse should lose, the rest of the suit would be good, and West could do no harm.

As it happens, the finesse wins. The rest of the suit is good, and South is off to the races. If South had played the diamonds from the top, he would have lost a trick to East’s jack, and the spades would then defeat him.

Your partner’s pass of one diamond redoubled when ‘under’ as opposed to ‘over’ the trumps, should not suggest playing there. It indicates that he has no clear call, (otherwise he would have acted already) and asks you to run to your cheapest real suit. Bid one heart and take it from there. Contrast this position with where you reopen with a double, where your partner’s pass of a redouble would be to play.


♠ K 7 5
 K 10 5 3
 Q 9
♣ A Q 6 2
South West North East
    Pass 1
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 13th, 2016 at 11:50 am

Hi Bobby,

A stray thought on BWTA. If pard has something like D KJ10xxx and little else, and you bid 1H (dbl follows, no doubt) should 2D now be an attempt to escape into the opened suit?



Bobby WolffSeptember 13th, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Hi Iain,

As occurs often, you bring up an “electric” topic.

Definitely yes is the answer, since unless East has opened with a psychic, the opponents apparently have caught NS “speeding” and the results bode badly for NS, unless, as in this case, a final low level diamond contract NS is the result.

Furthermore if North had a good hand (the other extreme) he would have bid his best suit or even jumped to 2 spades if he held something like a 5-1-2-5 weak hand but having that distribution would know that he would have get at least 3 spades from dummy plus, of course, enough high cards to make a TO double, especially an important club honor or two, which will make the play much more successful.

The sheer high-level logic of all bidding as we know it, works it way out, as long as the players themselves apply it, usually after the experience gleaned after playing a year or so with an equal (or better) who also has learned to love the game itself and, most of all, the consistent logic which is always there to find and apply.

You have always, at least to me, been Johnny or should I say Iain, on the spot, as an experienced veteran in the art of learned bridge logic.

Of course, if playing with a mentee instead of a grisly veteran, your confidence may not be justified to follow the above thoughts, but even when and if that happens, your future partnership, if playing with a possible best and brightest player who only lacks experience, will be tested and though likely not landing on your feet on this hand, will result with a positive grist for a great learning experience which will be of significant help for your partnership’s future with the ever present caveat of partner wanting to learn, instead of just accepting bridge ignorance, without accepting the challenge.

Perhaps I am expecting too much, but when at least one partner is in the learning stage, he or she will be fortunate to encounter these problems early in his bridge development process where he needs to be pliable enough to learn from it rather than not experiencing it early, in order to often set off a chain reaction which, in turn, will enable a much better bridge mind attitude toward the future.

Sadly, there are many otherwise almost brilliant people, who are just not equipped to understand what successful future players must grasp, which, without doing, will suffer many shallows and miseries.

To those very worthwhile individuals, perhaps unless they can suddenly reverse their thinking, will probably be better off staying away from our beloved game and instead fly to other subjects to which they will be much happier devoting their valuable time.

BryanSeptember 13th, 2016 at 2:21 pm

How would NS agreements change answer? I played once with a pard who had passing a low level redouble was optional meaning if not ok with defending, North would bid. By passing, North was ok with South passing also.

Bobby WolffSeptember 13th, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Hi Bryan,

While the column hand is, at least to me, an exception, the vast majority (my guess at least 90%) should suggest not able to make a decision such as (3-3-3-4 or (3-3-4-3) and how about (4-3-2-4) or (2-2-5-4) when by taking the slow route, the overmatched hands may get lucky and one opponent or the other would decide to not double a one level contract but just bid (usually winding up in 3NT).

To make an agreement (after the redouble) to consider standing for the redoubled contract might range anywhere from 5 small in that suit to KJ10xxx, representing today’s column hand) and just in case some may have not added up the result of multiple redoubled overtricks (plus major suits also receiving the game bonus when that one level contract is made) to determine the massive number to which it may result with nothing special to do as the declarer, other than just take his tricks.

The above only emphasizes the necessity to carefully prepare one’s bidding system for realistic answers to thorny and unusual bidding problems while having the time to include them in theoretical atmospheres rather than directly at the table and in real competition.

PeteSeptember 13th, 2016 at 6:53 pm

Hi Bobby,
Could you or one of your regulars rate these bids. Nobody vul. You hold S-K,Q,9,7 H-K,Q,8 D-9,6,5 C-A,6,5. Dealer opens 1S. You are next to act. I can think of three conceivable bids: 1N, Double, Pass. Could you please rate them. Thanks.

David WarheitSeptember 13th, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Pete: Pass–100. Anything else–0. I’m not sure I’ve ever even thought of making a takeout double where not only my longest suit is the suit I’m considering doubling, but it is also easily my strongest suit. A 1NT overcall should show at least 15 HCP. You only have 14. Yes, the SKQ are better than usual, but the 4-3-3-3 distribution is as bad as it gets.

Final point. I can’t tell you how many times I have gained in the play by being quiet holding a good hand. The declarer naturally assumes that I can’t possibly have anything like the strength I do, but of course he’s wrong and it will cost him. Also, unless partner has a very nice long suit, in which case he may enter the bidding all by himself, the chances of a disaster, and not even merely a somewhat bad result, are extremely high.

PeteSeptember 14th, 2016 at 12:25 am

Thanks, David. After 1S P P, my partner didn’t balance with
S-5,2 H-J,7,4 D-A,Q,J,8,4 C-7,3,2, and then blamed my pass for our bad result.

Bobby WolffSeptember 14th, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Hi Pete,

The type of hand you held and how to handle it, being somewhat commonplace, thus providing a high-level significant battleground for radically conflicting opinions, is worth a specific, at least to me, non arguable fact.

When one decides to pass, right or wrong, he becomes demanding from his partner to always protect when holding a much lesser hand. It is similar to the theory of Roth-Stone (circa 1950’s), a system promulgated by two great players of yesteryear, Al Roth and Tobias Stone (both who lived into their 90’s but are not now still with us), pass now and bid later.

It had an advantage in that they averted being doubled early in the auction (when partner had an entirely unsuitable hand) but it did put much more pressure on one’s partner to bid later, on weak values, counting on the auction to logically tell him that his or her partner was loaded, or, at the least, had significant values.

However, like many similar theories in bridge which have gone out of style like the morning milk, it will always be demanded of the younger best and brightest player, to look closely at both the advantages and disadvantages of such handling, before reaching an irrevocable position of right or wrong. For one positive reason to bid, partner could have a very weak hand but a long suit (in any but spades) but a great source of tricks if that suit became trump.

While some theories (many of them in bridge) look logical, always consider the “moving parts” to one way or the other, and then in the cold light of day decide on whether or not the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

In this case, does the “trap pass” gain or lose in the long run. Some say always “yes” others say always “no” and, at least to me, the ones who do (either way) are not looking objectively at their results, but rather like a lawyer in court who, while representing his client, is not seeing the forest for the trees, but after all he is getting paid to act that way, but a bridge player is not and thus turns out only limiting his ability to move forward.

Finally, it is quite different, holding the 2nd seat hand you suggest, but instead, having
s. AQJ9x, h. Ax, d. KJx, c. Jxx where this hand seems to start out being a misfit from the beginning, resulting in whoever winds up playing the hand will take less tricks than their point count indicates. Again and in other words, most everyone would agree that this hand should be passed when RHO has opened 1 spade.

Thanks for listening and only intended to present both sides of this bridge conundrum.