Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 26th, 2016

‘The man is a common murderer.’
‘A common murderer, possibly, but a very uncommon cook.’


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


The Blue Ribbon pairs, consisting of two days of qualifying and a one-day final, has traditionally been regarded as one of the ACBL’s most challenging pairs game.

In today’s deal from the second semi-final session of last year’s event, while it is normal for the two defenders to look out for one another’s interests, one player was forced to stab his partner in the back.

Steve Beatty and Tom Carmichael were respectively North and South here. Because of the friendly position in the heart suit, nine tricks would have been easily available at no-trump in the form of seven hearts and two aces. But against four hearts, East-West could have taken the first five tricks on a cross-ruff, for down two.

However, the defenders didn’t find their cross-ruff. West led a club to the ace, Carmichael pitching a spade. Declarer led a heart to the jack and played two more rounds of the suit. Now he exited with the spade queen to West’s ace. South could ruff the club return and pass the spade eight round to East.

In this ending East could not lead a spade without setting up two tricks for declarer, so he played a club honor – which did not cost a trick but had the effect of stripping West of his exit card.

Carmichael ruffed the club, then played a low diamond from hand, ducking when West contributed the 10. West now had to lead a diamond around to declarer’s queen, for his 10th trick.

Without your opponents’ double you’d rebid one spade of course. But here when RHO has implied spade length it seems right to emphasize your extra club length at once. If you bid one spade, then should the opponents climb high in diamonds quickly, you haven’t really described the main feature of your hand. You can bid either two clubs or three clubs; I think I prefer the jump but it is close.


♠ K J 5 2
 Q 7
♣ K Q J 8 7 3 2
South West North East
1 ♣ 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


Iain ClimieDecember 10th, 2016 at 11:47 am

Hi Bobby,

Is there any case for East doubling 4H to try and get a diamond lead? West will realise East hasn’t got a trump stack and East’s hand surely suggests that NS should have problems, with the SKJ sitting over North’s potential spade holding. In more general terms, what should such out of the blue doubles mean?



jim2December 10th, 2016 at 2:13 pm

I am not Our Host but, in my partnerships, that double would ask West NOT to make the normal lead. In this auction, pard leading his own suit would be normal.

David WarheitDecember 10th, 2016 at 5:33 pm

How about opening lead SA and E plays the K?

bobby wolffDecember 10th, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

Although through the years there has been talk about so called “Lightner doubles of games as well as slams”, eg a final penalty double of only a game contract emphasizing giving that defensive partnership a better chance of defeating the game rather than increasing the set, but, to my knowledge, very few partnerships, if any, have incorporated that intriguing principle to effect, at least as far as specific examples.

Perhaps the underlying reason for not doing so is that it is often difficult to impossible, to separate the “called for” situations when and if they arise (IOW, both partners needing to be aware of the waving flag, making the flag waver more or less invisibly, when, and if, it actually occurs).

Iain, though a penalty double certainly might imply shortness in your partner’s suit (usually lends to better defense against suit contracts) it could instead, warn partner off leading from a broken holding for fear of a small singleton in partner’s hand.

When, whoever was the genius who first created the skeleton of our great game, was considering the overall pattern, he obviously decided that, yes the game itself, from generation to generation, will be improved, but damn, it will not be a slam dunk change, if only to keep bridge as we know it, a challenge to end all challenges, when intelligent competitive games are the subject.

In any event, as usual, thanks to both of you for bringing intelligent bridge principles up for topical discussion among all bridge lovers.

bobby wolffDecember 10th, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Hi David,

No doubt that would do the job, but only by playing with transparent cards might that occur. BTW David, you would be my first hire were I called upon to write a bridge comedy.

However, since teaching bridge in worldwide schools has come to pass, together with rave reviews from both the students and teachers, your bridge humor figures to become, as time goes by, increasingly demanded.

Pity, that the USA has not chosen, nor to my view, been prompted enough to do so, not allowing your bridge genius to extend to the masses who, no doubt, would thoroughly appreciate it.