Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Even if the doctor does not give you a year, even if he hesitates about a month, make one brave push and see what can be accomplished in a week.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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


South was all set to become declarer at two spades when West girded up his loins and produced a balancing double, pushing his opponents up to three spades.

When West led the heart four, declarer wisely played low from dummy, reasoning that an underlead of the ace was highly unlikely. When East won and returned the club nine, South played the king, and West took his ace and exited passively with a heart.

South now tackled trumps by leading his seven to dummy’s king (in case West had a singleton honor) and was happy to see trumps break. He went back to dummy with the spade eight to the nine, to advance the diamond jack. East now saw the necessity to hop up with his ace and play a second club. Had declarer finessed, West would have won and exited in clubs; but South divined the position accurately. He won his club queen and played a third club, forcing West to win and lead diamonds for him.

Had East ducked his diamond ace, the defenders would have been unable to establish their second club trick in time; but in fact the defenders had already missed their best chance to set the contract. West had to duck the first club, leaving communications intact for the defenders. When East gets in with the diamond ace, a second club dooms the contract.

Ducking the first club to preserve communications is an important point of technique, but making the play in good tempo requires both skill and experience!

With no quick tricks on the side, how likely is your side to make three no-trump? Your partner really needs six solid diamonds plus an ace and a club stopper — but with all that, your partner should have taken a shot at three no-trump himself! Your diamond support is useful, but is it enough to bid over an invitational call? I think not; I would pass.


♠ K 9 6 2
 K 6
 J 10 9 7
♣ 7 4 3
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ 2 ♣ 3 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Peter PengApril 12th, 2018 at 1:35 pm

hi Bobby

at the present colors, balancing double OK

but at opposite colors, would it be?



A.V.Ramana RaoApril 12th, 2018 at 1:38 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Pardon me, but as the cards lay , even if west ducks the first club, south makes this contract as west is endplayed after winning the club when east rises with diamond A and returns a club. West can cash his club winner but now will either concede a ruff and sluff or lead into the diamond tenace of declarer. The Guardian Angels of South worked overtime to place every card in its place. Hearts 2-2 with Dummy and South, trumps breaking and diamond J & ten with dummy. Even if dummy misses the nine of diamonds, south can make the contract by leading low diamond from dummy but the nine is just a bonus and south can close his eyes and play any diamond from dummy after clearing trumps playing east for A. If east wins and returns a diamond which west wins, the second club trick for defense evaporates and if east returns a club, the second diamond trick disappears. Defense gets just one heart, one diamond and two clubs

A.V.Ramana RaoApril 12th, 2018 at 1:52 pm

Please read last line as one heart and three tricks in minors

BobliptonApril 12th, 2018 at 2:32 pm

Mr. Rao,

Should west duck the first club, then east can play low on the first diamond. Eventually, declarer will have to concede a diamond to the queen and the Ace; and when in with the diamond Ace, a club will produce one trick in hearts and two in each of the minors for down one.

It’s not an easy defense to find at the table, but it’s there.


A V Ramana RaoApril 12th, 2018 at 2:48 pm

Hi Mr. Bob
Thanks and sorry for the post. Saw the defense belatedly.
Mea Culpa – the phrase I learned from Mr. Wolff

Peter PengApril 12th, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Opposite or red all

bobbywolffApril 12th, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Hi Peter,

An excellent question, deserving of a thoughtful answer.

Certainly, as you colorfully said, definitely at this vulnerability a balance, while not perfect (much better a singleton spade), is strongly suggested,

However, my experience, even at matchpoints where -200 on this type of hand is a kiss of death, I would still recommend a balancing double. Sure, your overall catch from partner is not disappointing, but against almost all decent defenses will still result in only 8 tricks for EW (in hearts) and, if the opponents do double will result in close to zero for EW (say 10% of the matchpoints). However, instead to defend two spades, even correctly (by not taking the ace of clubs too early or even if taken, a really bad play) the opponents +110 will be below average for your side with +140 about 85% for them leaving only 15% for you.

Now, back to the hand itself, who, North or South is going to double 3 hearts? The answer is very likely neither, and with North knowing that his side has at least 9 spades (playing the normal 5 card major system, popular today) it will take a double dummy effort from him to not take the plunge (from his point of view a likely save itself, with always the possibility of a make, especially since declaring is usually much more successful than is the more difficult, perfect defense).

IOW, sure, NS (and or that matter so would EW with hearts as trump) would much rather play an 8 trick contract than a 9, but to defend against a 3 level contract by the opponents with at least 9 of the ranking suit is definitely not an attractive choice. And doubling them for a possible zero, although I am not suggesting for them not to, is a very high risk, never to be done at IMPs nor rubber bridge and certainly nowhere near automatic even while playing matchpoints.

Bridge is not, nor ever thought to be, by any stretch of the imagination, a perfect science, so by regarding that as so, all any player from world class to a relative beginner can do, is play down the middle and hope for the best.

Sure the best players will win an inordinately large percentage of the times, but on that rocky road to the top we still need to play every hand as it comes up with the idea of improving with age (and all who have at least some promise, and with anywhere near maximum effort, no doubt, will).

Other experienced players will not necessarily agree with the above, but, if so, I will say no more, but wish them well, and they will need that luck, since they will only be playing results, not always the result on this type of hand, nor IMO, realistic.

bobbywolffApril 12th, 2018 at 4:02 pm


While liking your overall bridge philosophy you discussed will take some issue with your conclusion. Since East had to rise with the ace (didn’t have to, but did) and switched to the nine of clubs, and as the column said should have ducked declarer’s king by playing an encouraging card, if high then the 6 not the 2. Then when declarer later leads the diamond jack from dummy East ducks and South will play low, in time allowing the defense to take 1 heart, 2 diamonds and 2 clubs for one down at the 3 level.

However, even all of us (me surely included) sometimes fall victim to erroneous reporting.

Join that club since almost all bridge players are members and thanks for writing.

Peter PengApril 12th, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Hi Bobby

another one that bugs me

I seat 2nd, all Vul

I hold


The bidding goes

P -1H – 1S – 2S

First question – Would you open 2nd seat holding 12 poor points?
Second question – What does the cue bid shows?

The bidding continues

DBL – P – P – 4H

all pass

third question – After partner’s cue bid and RHO dbl, would 3H by me a stronger bid than a Pass?

thank you for your comments

bobbywolffApril 12th, 2018 at 4:10 pm

Hi Bob,

Since I do not read all of the comments before attempting to answer the earlier ones, I apologize for replying to AVRR before learning you have already spoken up.

Sometimes being crossed in the mail is the reason, but this time my lethargy was responsible.

bobbywolffApril 12th, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Hi Peter,

In answer to your first question, I definitely and unequivocally may or may not open 1 heart on that bland collection.

Depending on:

1. My mood
2. My partner’s preferences, assuming I should know what they are.
3. My opponents, shy or not, where against non-aggressive ones I tend to be the opposite.
4. While I have no qualms about entering the fray as early as possible, the biggest minus would be a devastatingly poor lead from partner if and when my LHO then becomes declarer.

Three hearts would be a stronger bid than passing, although possibly with a very strong hand I may pass and await partner’s next bid (2 spades being a GF and showing excellent heart support). If so I will probably make a further cue bid, removing doubt from partner that I am not interested in slam, therefore cancelling my previous pass and letting him now join with me in at least attempting to reach the right level with hearts as trump.

PS; If partners next bid (after my pass) is 4 hearts, he is showing a minimum GF, but still enough to make game opposite a minimum opening.

I’ve now answered your second question:

Undoubtedly primary heart support and enough for game opposite a minimum.

MartinliathApril 12th, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Hi All im noob here. Good article! Thx! Thx!

Peter PengApril 13th, 2018 at 12:07 pm

hello Mr. Wolff

thank you for the answers – sorry for the delayed re-reply.

on the question of second hand opener

p – 1H – 1S – 2S
p – ?

which hand is stronger, whether the 3H or the pass after the cue bid,

you told me the 3H would definitely be stronger.

However, I thought that perhaps there could be some

agreements that said

1. 3H is drop, minimum minimorum
2. Pass is – “you place the contracrt”

As I am not that familiar with the history of the game, that was the origin of my question.

Thanks once more

bobbywolffApril 15th, 2018 at 12:54 am

Hi Peter,

During the course of your continued improvement you will likely receive advice and of many natures. I suggest you pay little attention to at least 50% of it and absolutely no attention to the other 50%, In no way am I saying that whomever is offering tips is doing so maliciously, only that most players, fairly new to competing in tournament bridge,
are only relating their own experiences without benefit of mentors nor a large number of very good players to consult.

Your example hand above does not include a competitive bid, therefore, and, of course, you, his partner, should not let him stay in a cue bid, but rather instead just make the most intelligent response you can muster.

However if you meant that your RHO bid over your partner’s cue bid, then pass should show the least, with rebidding your suit slightly stronger, especially in the trump suit itself. However there can be exceptions where you can pass with a good hand awaiting your partner’s response (and after cue bidding he is duty bound to then bid again rather than pass it out and let the opponents steal from you).

You could do yourself a favor if you, yourself would deeply think about the so-called melody of our game (especially partnership bidding). It is essentially a study in logic, trying to make code language take the place of illegally just showing partner your hand. Nothing more, nothing less, but learning the protocols and, most importantly, why those choices, will allow you to better understand and more importantly, improve by bounds and leaps.

IOW, pretend you are on a desert island with your favorite partner, with nothing else to do but play cards (lucky you brought a couple of decks and that there are four of you). Then develop your own systems of describing your hand, while at the same time learn the rhythm of taking tricks and how trumps play such an important part of that process.

While realizing that I am not talking about really learning more, but still all of us should spend much time learning the theory of our wonderful game and then partake the details of climbing up the ladder to as high as you can achieve.

Finally your 1 and 2 above is just too confusing to cover, although sometimes, by passing, (once partner will have another chance) will then help clarify what to do next, but when to do it, is above our pay grade at this moment.

A good exercise would begin with you telling me when you think it is right to do so and don’t forget to give the bidding up to then and exactly your hand (and then your next bid after you pass it around to him).

Good luck to you, whether or not you think the above is a good idea and/or whether you do it or not.