Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.

Soren Kierkegaard

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


When North is only worth a simple raise of spades at his second turn, South contents himself with a bid of four spades. Since both players have minimum opening bids, there is no reason for a slam try (a jump to four hearts would be a splinter – appropriate if South had king-fourth of diamonds, say).

After winning the heart lead in dummy, South can see that he might lose a trump and three diamond tricks. One discard on dummy’s high heart seems irrelevant. South may be able to discard another diamond on dummy’s fourth club, but only after trump have been drawn.

South’s best play might be a deceptive move at trick two. He should lead the heart ace from dummy and discard the low club from his hand, creating the impression that he is weak in clubs.

Declarer now takes the trump finesse. West wins with the spade king and is likely to return the club 10. South can now win the club ace, draw the remaining trump, and cash the club queen. He then enters dummy with a trump to discard a losing diamond on the club king. When both opponents follow to the third club, dummy’s last club takes care of a second losing diamond.

West’s best chance to defeat the game comes if East can signal suit preference on the second heart — and maybe on the first trump as well. A high heart at trick two, and maybe the spade six on the first trump might tip West off to South’s devious plan.

I may be going out on a limb here, but I like a penalty double here. Your partner will pull with real extra shape (especially if he has concealed spade support) but if he has a balanced hand with spade shortage you surely want to defend here – don’t you?


♠ A Q 9 8 5
 10 8 7 2
♣ A Q 4
South West North East
1 ♠ Dbl. Rdbl. 2 ♣

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 ClimieOctober 6th, 2016 at 11:16 am

Hi Bobby,

I like the idea but TOCM could give east 4 spades while the clubs are 3-3. Explaining the loss of a game swing could be tricky.

At pairs, though, should the discard on the 2nd heart depend on whether east plays a high heart at T2? If so, it might be better not to risk 2-off.



BobliptonOctober 6th, 2016 at 1:01 pm

This is one of those lovely problems with no clear answer, because it depends on the psychology of the defender. Another elegant solution is to win the opening heart lead and then simply take the (losing) trump hook. While at IMPs or money, there is a good chance that West will realize he needs to get aggressive in his continuation, at least sometimes west will take the “safe” heart continuation (particularly at Pairs) or misanalyze the hand or what the declarer is doing.


Iain ClimieOctober 6th, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Hi Bob,

Nice comment and also a corollary to Zia’s tip yesterday about covering. If declarer doesn’t grab a fast discard, he doesn’t need it” is much easier to assume than that the discard won’t help him.


Bobby WolffOctober 6th, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, TOCM could rain on our deceptive parade. leaving only Jim2 to welcome us to his club.

However, the combination of the K fourth of spades being onside together with the clubs breaking evenly reduces those chances to slim (less than one in twenty. 5%).

Add to that, the somewhat subtle, thus clever deception this hand represents, and would you not agree that little is lost in attempting it, especially when the reward could be great with 10% of the upcoming joy. fulfilling an unmakeable contract, but 90%, the thrill of destroying those competitive opponents, who dare compete with you.

However, nothing will take away from, much less destroy, your ability to conceive other possibilities which, even if it doesn’t rain, will still put pause to the ceremony.

Finally, that talent of yours, is the cornerstone of what high-level bridge tends to be, especially declarer play, the process of deciding on the highest percentage way to get the best possible result, which in addition to represent winning the hand, but also, and most importantly, the following post-mortem.

Iain ClimieOctober 6th, 2016 at 1:31 pm

I’d love to find it, especially against someone I disliked as West. The opportunity to smile “innocently” at such a victim in the future could be a real (if ethically dodgy) pleasure. Fortunately fee players I know fit the bill but one or two are out there.


Bobby WolffOctober 6th, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes, everyone should enjoy your simple but poignant comment, if only because it may give the reader the incentive to join his thoughts with West’s dilemma, after winning the trump king and either being influenced or not, by declarers immediate trick 2 action of discarding a club.

No doubt, legal deception in bridge has a legitimate place and similar to a perfect vocal retort, at a propitious time, often wins the day.

Bobby WolffOctober 6th, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Hi again Iain,

Come on Iain since, any West, unless yourself
sitting East, becomes a significant enemy when competition is in the air. Whether the prize is only winning glory, coin of the realm or especially impressing fair damsel, is worth whatever it takes, or, at the very least, used to be.

jim2October 6th, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Love it!

My work here is complete.


Bobby WolffOctober 6th, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

So do I.

And since your disease has always represented the common bridge player, your name should go down (rather than set) in bridge history as representing Mrs. Gugenheim of SJ Simon fame in futility, therefore symbolizing the necessity for her to attempt to improve and at least give herself an opportunity to smell the roses.

You are FOREVER, a HERO!

Iain ClimieOctober 6th, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

Sorry, but the most annoying Wests I’ve had to deal with in the last 5 years were when I was sitting East. No names, mind you!

A British politician said the same about his opponents and his enemies in a basically 2 party system.


David WarheitOctober 6th, 2016 at 7:08 pm

Iain: There is no risk of 2 off. The most declarer can lose are 3D & 1S tricks. That is one of the most wonderful things about pitching a C on the HA: in and of itself it cannot cost a trick.

BryanOctober 6th, 2016 at 7:53 pm

on BWTA, if double as you indicated. What would you do if West redoubles and it is passed back to you?

bobbywolffOctober 6th, 2016 at 10:03 pm

Hi Bryan,

Your question brings into play the poker element ever alive in our game.

Since partner has now passed indicating satisfaction with my penalty double, I would simply pass and of course lead my singleton heart.

Yes, under some circumstances, with the cards lending themselves to being well placed for our opponents, they might even be able to score it up, but to me, there is an even greater likelihood of West meaning his redouble as SOS, but the opponents (by East’s pass) having a misunderstanding.

In every level of our game from the very top on down, there is a time to trust partner (and your own original judgment) and not be pushed around. Partner also heard the redouble, so that he, being 1/2 of your partnership should not stand for this double with fewer than 2 clubs or, of course, even a semi-fit in spades (if relatively short in clubs).

You have thrown a very good question to answer, and right from the get-go you need to show both partnership trust and enough grit to see it through.

bobbywolffOctober 6th, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Hi again Bryan,

Some minutes ago I answered your question, but then I think it prudent to go into slightly more detail.

That particular sequence, with your partner redoubling his RHO’s TO double, usually shows defense (rarely a good fit for his partner’s opening major, although still possible). Therefore the opening bidder’s penalty double after one of the opponent’s takes it out is merely a suggestion as to directing the final contract.

Therefore when South then doubles his RHO’s TO of 2 clubs it is merely a suggestion that it is the right bid to make, certainly not a command for partner to pass, but only that the final contract should be 2 clubs doubled played by East if, in fact, it looks right to the redoubler. For example the redoubler should almost never pass holding shortness (0 or 1) in clubs.

Therefore North is very much in the final decision when he passes the redouble by his RHO (the penalty doubler’s LHO) and has given his OK for 2C doubled and redoubled to be the final contract.

Just in case there is any conflict of understanding as to the meaning of any of NS’s actions, I thought it best to further explain.

Iain ClimieOctober 7th, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Hi David,

Point taken, you can’t even run into 3 D losers plus a trump promotion if the S finesse loses as the spade pips are solid.

Must put brain in (non-reverse) gear in the mornings – or get an automatic!