Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Chance is the pseudonym of God when he did not want to sign his name.

Theophile Gautier

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

*5-5 or more in the majors


After West showed the majors and North doubled, suggesting a defensive hand, South’s first thought was to try to reach no-trump. But when North suggested diamond support and extras, South took a shot at the slam.

He captured the lead of the spade king and was almost ready to claim his contract, but he was jolted back to reality when West failed to follow to the diamond ace.

It now seemed that he might need West to hold the club queen, or for the heart queen to fall from East. But before committing himself in hearts, declarer saw that he might achieve an endplay, as long as East’s major-suit holdings could be eliminated.

East was marked with no more than one heart, but if he also held just three spades, which would be consistent with the action, the position of the club queen might turn out to be irrelevant.

A trump to dummy’s king allowed declarer to trump a spade in hand. Then a heart to the king was followed by the ruff of dummy’s third spade. South now took the last necessary precaution of cashing his club king, then took the heart ace — just in case. Whether East ruffed with his master trump now or waited until he was endplayed with that card at the next trick, he would eventually have to play a club around to North. Either way, South’s losing heart could be discarded.

Note that if South doesn’t cash the club king before playing the third diamond, East can exit with a club, after which the clubs are blocked.

Redoubling used to be mandatory, since all bids denied invitational values or better. Nowadays, new suits at the one-level by unpassed hands are played as forcing. Redouble is still acceptable here — though if the opponents bid spades or clubs, we may not be able to define our heart length precisely. Thus, the choice is a close one; I’d certainly redouble if my spades and diamonds were switched.


♠ 8 7 6
 K 9 7 4
 K 5 3
♣ A J 5
South West North East
    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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 14th, 2019 at 1:45 pm

Hi Bobby, Folks,

An interesting hand form last night on which I’d appreciate views. 1st in hand at adverse you hold 10xx Jxxx x J10xxx so you naturally pass and it starts (1D) form LHO playing 4 card majors X (2D) P (3D) X again from partner.

a) Do you bid 3H or 4C?
b) If you bid 3H (I did) LHO bids 4D and partner doubles again. Now what?



Michael BeyroutiMarch 14th, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Hi Iain,
to me, bidding means WE are going down for sure. This may constitute a good save against their contract but I prefer to pass hoping that partner can set 4D on his own. After all, he showed a big hand and he could have bid his own suit or 4H but didn’t. I don’t think he’s asking anything from me now.

Michael BeyroutiMarch 14th, 2019 at 2:48 pm

The last sentence in today’s article is crucial. That final step is often missed and that will ruin a well played hand.

bobbywolffMarch 14th, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Although trying to guess anywhere near exact hands from partner, we might come closer by determining distribution or at least down to either or instead of either or, either or, either or and either or:

My effort would start out with 4-3-2-4 with at least 5 honor count: s. AKxx, h. AKx, d. xx, c. Axxx and throw in a pointed suit jack for good measure and since no lady has yet been spied or mentioned perhaps also a queen.

If so, since almost any combination of that balanced hand of partner plus no original major suit bid early by the original responder, aka RHO, I, in a last chance to get a plus score would take my likely +300 and live to fight another day. No doubt partner may have the ace of diamonds instead of one of the stated above, but in any event no game is likely and I will settle for a relatively small plus (I hope).

However, sometimes the dream of guessing the whole table’s distribution vanishes with the morning sun, but what is a fella to do but use his experience to correctly judge?

BTW, the thought of bidding 5 clubs will definitely occur to some, but, for the life of me, will not, opposite my ducats, appear to have any reasonable chance to score up eleven tricks unless he has started with:
s. AKxx, h. AK d. xxx c. AQxx with the club finesse on or s. AKQx, h. AKx, d. xx, AQxx where either 4 spades or 5 clubs is possible, although, if so our penalty for 4 diamonds doubled, may be considerable.

bobbywolffMarch 14th, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Hi Michal,

Of course, I was answering Iain before your post became available, but happily I think our thoughts are compatible.

Also I appreciate your comment about today’s column hand and where and why that last sentence you mention is, as you say, crucial.

Iain ClimieMarch 14th, 2019 at 3:22 pm

Hi Michael, Bobby,

The hand is something of a death trap. Once they’re in 4D X the cheapest escape is to bite the bullet and take -510 on the chin. Partner has Axx AKxx KQx Qxx but RHO found a very imaginative 2D bid on Jxx Q109xx (!) Jxxx x while his partner wasn’t troubled to start hitting anything that moved with KQ9x None A109xx AKxx. We actually wound up in 5H (5C X would have been marginally cheaper) for a very grim 1100. In one of the other rooms (Teams of 8), the auction started 1D 1N 2D Passed out for a rather boring +130. Passing 4D X loses you 9 IMPs, as it went, we lost 14 when I decided not to leave 4D, being worried that partner might have CAKxx or similar and that one of his expected winners would vanish. Passing would have been more sensible.

One of our other pairs managed a clever bail out when they defended 2D X for “only” -380. NOT a successful night, but difficult to blame partner with that lot not thinking he had at least 4 tricks



bobbywolffMarch 14th, 2019 at 6:48 pm

Hi Iain,

Since I do not know who your partner was, I cannot be picking on him (at least in my mind).

He should not make that final double of 4 diamonds for several reasons.

1. His RHO could have relative length (5 or more diamonds and expect his partner to have his meagre values in high diamond(s).
2. He had his length (such as it might be) in your bid suit (not in spades) which, although subtle, makes for much more likelihood that RHO’s side length and strength is in spades (not defensively cohesive for defensive tricks).

3. They might make it (please move reason 3 to 1) with little to gain (100 vs 50) but a lot to lose.

Yes, all of us have the right to have fun when he or she plays bridge, but seeking joy, at least in a higher than average level bridge mind, should mean matching your skills with your opponents, not one’s ego.

And, if you inform your partner of my opinion, unless he or she is either slight of build or cowardly like me, (2nd, not the 1st), please do not speak my name.

Iain ClimieMarch 15th, 2019 at 12:06 am

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for that but remember Oscar Wilde’s classic comment ” I can resist anything except tempation! Too much pairs as well, I suspect. He was a non-regular partner but I’ve played with him before, and we get on well. We had the sort of session where a more volatile pairing would have traded blows.