Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Most editors are failed writers — but so are most writers.

T.S. Eliot

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



Whether to balance into your opponents’ auction is often a simple decision, and players become used to evaluating their hands well enough that they tend to know when it is right to bid and when to pass.

Occasionally more complex is how the partner of the balancer should react when the auction continues after the opponents compete again. The question may be just how many of your own values have been bid by your partner already! It is often the case that he has bid every single one of them — and sometimes even more.

In today’s deal, North was faced with just such a decision. He was swayed into competing again because it sounded like both sides had a double fit, and the vulnerability meant he might be able to afford to be off a trick in his calculations and still not be severely punished.

He was absolutely right, with both sides having play for their three-level contracts. In three spades, South ruffed the third diamond and led a heart to the nine and queen, then won the trump return to eliminate the trumps and hearts. At this point, he knew West to have started with a 2=5=4=2 pattern, and to have 10 points in the red suits. So, he needed a club honor to justify his opening bid, which in turn meant declarer could guarantee his contract by playing the ace and another club. West did his best by unblocking his club king, but the defenders could score only one club trick, no matter what.

Your partner’s double is take-out, suggesting opening values or so. It seems obvious to bid three diamonds, since you prefer that suit over hearts, but your partner might easily be three-suited with more clubs than diamonds. It would therefore be more prudent to bid two no-trump as take-out for the minors.


♠ 9 7
 Q 3
 Q J 9 3
♣ Q 10 7 6 3
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ Dbl. 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 13th, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
South should thank partner for that wonderful nine of clubs ( apart from all important ten and nine of hearts) without which south would have gone down as east could have returned club when in with heart Q

Iain ClimieMarch 13th, 2019 at 4:00 pm


Does it, though (ALTHOUGH the hearts do, obviously)? Suppose East has Q109xx and plays the club 10 after taking the HQ. South plays small as presumably does West, takes the CA, plays a trump to hand, H to 10, another trump, then HA and leads a club. If West has dumped the CK at any stage, South has a 2nd club trick; if West keeps the CK he is thrown in to give a ruff & discard.



bobbywolffMarch 13th, 2019 at 4:07 pm


For one, I respect your always ability to spot the incredibly necessary card combinations (totally unpredictable before every card is shown) which ultimately determine the success or failure of both sides scoring up the ultimate number of tricks for their side.

However and beforehand no side, (declarer nor the defense) can plan their order of
play. Of course, this not being a “real” hand allows the author to be the master of bridge fate, which in this case allows the declarer to be sure (barring strange bidding decisions around the table) of the final ending to score up his part score.

Keen students of the game will learn early those features you mention which are of ultra importance, and by doing so all readers will realize that the declarer, not the defense is in better position to have an easier task by having his entire 26 assets visible from the get-go rather than usually, at least some amount of guesswork necessary for the defense.

All that means is that offense is easier than defense, making bidding more aggressive more sensible than facing the prospect of having to defend.

Of course, the goal is to be right, but the above, exemplified by your detailed analysis, is the key to getting there from whereever, when faced with a relatively close choice, during the bidding.

bobbywolffMarch 13th, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt your also always keen analysis allows the offense (declarer) to find yet another way to overcome the disadvantage of North not possessing his intermediate club holding of the 10 and 9 accompanying his ace. Therein allowing the less experienced, but still talented, relative newbie to understand how to overcome lesser holdings by bridge problem solving.

What stands out to me, but not mentioned yet by any of us, is the counting by declarer, therein because of the inferences disclosed by the bidding of EW almost exactly what to find, long before they are seen for sure.

The above represents the difference between just the fun experience of the competition, but in actuality, the necessary problem solving available to the serious player, who wants to compete against the best.

Thanks to both Iain here and AVRR before for their right-on discussion.

bobbywolffMarch 13th, 2019 at 4:40 pm

Hi everyone,

And BTW, by my not mentioning what Iain disclosed, proves the authenticity of TS Eliot’s poignant, but no doubt in this case, embarrassing quote.

A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 16th, 2019 at 9:22 am

Hi lain
Good one. It only proves that complacece does not pay and sorry for the belated post as I did not see your post in time

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