Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 17th, 2016

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely fool-proof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

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


In today’s deal when East opened two spades, some Souths might have doubled, planning to give partner a chance to show values, and if not, to play three no-trump. That would be sensible, but at the table our hero jumped directly to three notrump, to end the auction. Since dummy was not without its features, the play in three no-trump would have been very straightforward on a spade lead. However, West hit on a fourth-highest heart three, and that gave declarer real problems, since he could not reach dummy except in the diamond suit, which would need the diamond king to be onside. Otherwise, if the heart honors were wrongly placed, East would surely be able to win the diamond and play a heart through declarer.

However declarer found a solution, based on the fact that spades were known to be 6-2. He won the heart lead on table, finessed the spade queen, cashed the top clubs and the spade ace, then exited with the heart king. West could cash out the hearts, but was then endplayed to lead diamonds, after which dummy was high.

The first time I looked at the hand I thought that if South had exited from hand at trick seven with a low heart, West might have won with the ace and successfully exited with a low heart. But that would have gifted South an eighth trick; to make a ninth, he would then have had to endplay East with a spade, to force him eventually to lead diamonds round to dummy.

Your plan here should be to double for takeout and cuebid over a minimum response from your partner. You will then follow up with three no-trump, suggesting a strong balanced hand – too strong for a direct bid of three no-trump. Despite your strength, you cannot guarantee even making game, much less committing your hand any higher, until or unless partner shows signs of life.


♠ A Q 4 2
 K 7 4
 A 7 5
♣ A K Q
South West North East
  Pass Pass 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


slarJanuary 1st, 2017 at 12:43 am

What is the difference between doubling followed by cue-bidding and doubling followed by 3NT? Or is the latter something you would generally want to avoid? I was thinking that this hand would call for double followed by 3NT and that double followed by cue-bid would show a strong-two unbalanced hand. Getting NT overcalls wrong is a pet peeve of mine and I’d hate to get one wrong myself.

bobby wolffJanuary 1st, 2017 at 1:35 am

HI Slar,

There is usually just a modicum of difference between cue bidding first and then 3NT vs. 3NT immediately or even cue bidding twice, usually after take-out doubling at the one level.

Jumping to 3NT may be moire of a solid long suit 3NT, but when doubles and cue bids then precede it suggests alternate contracts, but then 3NT as a likely final choice. Holding such as Ax(x) in the opponents suit often call for cuebids, in the hope of finding a trump fit and partner short in a key suit, offering better chances of a suit game or slam.

However, do not rely on the above from all partners, since it is only my inclination to search for otherwise difficult best games or even short card slams to be bid and, of course, made.

General cue bids and TO doubles emphasize asking while 3NT immediately tells, but 3NT after one or more takeouts suggests needing partner to figure out what to do next, although pass is usually the default choice.