Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own instead of someone else’s.

Billy Wilder

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


This deal from the first final session of the Wernher Open Pairs in Atlanta last summer gave declarers with a good nose the chance to come very close to bringing home four spades, even if not doubled.

The journalist reporting this deal recounted that at his table the heart eight lead ran to the ten jack and queen. He took a club finesse, and East won the queen to play back the heart two. This looked like suit preference to South, who put in the nine; when it held the trick, he fell from grace by playing the spade queen. The contract could now no longer be made.

A better line would have been to play a club to the ace at trick four and ruff a club. Then declarer could cash the two top diamonds and lead the fourth club. When East discards, South can pitch his last diamond.

After eight tricks, declarer has seven winners in the bag and West is down to his five trumps. A spade to the queen might see West slip up by winning this trick. If he does, then whether he plays a high or low trump, he scores only one more trump trick. He must return a low trump, then he is endplayed again at the next trick.

Curiously, though, if West ducks his trump ace, he can then ruff the heart ace with the spade 10 and exit with a low trump to ensure his extra trump winner for down one. For the record, going one down in four spades was only a skosh below average.

With a minimum opening bid and no club stopper, you cannot rebid two no-trump. So the choice is to rebid spades or raise diamonds. My preference would be to rebid spades at pairs. But at teams, you might consider raising diamonds, since that will guarantee to get you to a sensible fit, even if not necessarily the highest-scoring part-score.


♠ K Q 8 7 6
 A Q 9
 10 8 5
♣ J 9
South West North East
1 ♠ 2 ♣ 2 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


Iain ClimieAugust 7th, 2019 at 2:27 pm

Hi Bobby,

Interesting choice of opening bid by East, although it takes away the most space and nobody plays penalty doubles these days, not that there would be rich pickings here. If 1H West will definitely double 4S, if a weak 2 maybe not. What would you have picked here, and would you have succumbed to temptation as West on the given auction?



bobbywolffAugust 7th, 2019 at 5:35 pm

Hi Iain,

Extraordinarily pertinent questions and hoping my answers are worthy.

I would also open 3 hearts. Third seat NV is perhaps the loosest position for any bridge player, and against all types of competition.

Three good things happen: 1, the potential distributional quality of your hand, 2, the suggestion of what to lead, if applicable, added 3, to the preemptive value of raising the level, therein reducing one’s worthy opponents of sometimes valuable bidding room are all individually and collectively worthwhile in becoming a tough competitor.

Yes, if one’s 3rd seat partner opened with one of a suit (unless they played mandatory third seat NV openings, becoming popular nowadays) it would be a bit too much not to double 4 spades. However with either an original pass by partner or while actually playing against a very worthy declarer, it is almost sure that a penalty double by you will cost at least one trick, by causing his talent to rise to those heights, which he carries around with him.

Furthermore that (at least one trick) could be the fulfilling one, in cases where a good declarer will accomplish magic by the “heads up” you offer.

Of course, while playing matchpoints, where frequency of gain over shadows amount of gain, and, of course, defending against an inexperienced declarer (euphemistic for poor) your double will likely further intimidate him or her, allowing you to just relax and watch a certain top in the making.

All of the above concerns itself directly with winning or losing the duplicate, but in reality does not in any way make one a better bridge player (or not) so if pride of self-respect is an issue, my advice is, do what your personal spirit suggests and leave out the fallout.

No, I would not double a good player, unless partner has opened a one bid (in other words no if partner has opened a weak two) and we do not have any demand to open at all costs.

Finally, keep in mind the magic a good declarer can produce when he has 1. the hand to do it with, and 2. the loose lips sink ships, to which a penalty double will suggest.

Finally, suppose South was dealt s. KQ9876, h. Ax, d. AKJxx and North: s. void, h. x, d. 10xxxxx, c. Jxxxxx and after your penalty double either North then exits to 4NT (asking for a minor suit preference) or instead South just runs to 5 diamonds, feeling your spade holding.

Then, instead of a plus score you wind up scoring NS with making either a diamond game or worse a slam (perhaps grand) bid and made and even doubled (out of spite)!

Granted, a bit sadistic of me, but indeed possible (or please forgive, even likely). Not that you favor the original double, but some may.

Finally, if there was such a thing as basic training before early bridge teaching was over, perhaps a hand like this might gather some influence with a keen student of the game, without his having to go through experiencing it, later in life.