Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 22nd, 2019

I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

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


Sometimes, Destiny seems to produce a deal straight from the textbooks, albeit a very advanced manual in this case. In the North American Swiss Teams, this deal was played around the room and had the smell of a contrived hand about it, with the opponents’ cards cooperating completely.

After a light weak-two opening by West, Steve Levy of Las Vegas was virtually stampeded into bidding four spades on the South cards — not too unwillingly, until he saw the virtually useless dummy come down. Even though the North hand was one card away from a genuine Yarborough, Levy did his best to exploit such meager assets.

The defense led two rounds of hearts. Levy ruffed and played the spade jack out of his hand! That put East in a dilemma. If he ducked, it would allow declarer to play diamonds from his hand (retaining the diamond two) to establish the suit. If he took his queen, then whether he played another heart (which would be ruffed in dummy) or a plain suit, declarer would have just enough spades left to draw trumps and cross to dummy with his diamond two, to eventually play a club toward his king.

Instead, East took his spade queen and exited in trumps. Levy won in dummy, finessed in diamonds and drew trumps. Dummy’s diamond eight provided an entry to play up to the club king.

As North proudly pointed out, his hand had been good for two tricks, “but not quite enough to redouble, partner!”

Bid two hearts. This type of hand, weak with a fair six-card suit, is perfect to act with. As you have shown, you cannot double to show values, which would start at around a 9-count, so this is non-forcing. You might prefer another high card or some more shape, but you cannot have everything.


♠ 8 4 2
 K 10 8 7 5 3
 6 4
♣ J 7
South West North East
    1 ♣ 1 NT

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


David WarheitDecember 6th, 2019 at 10:03 am

S is so lucky that N had such a powerful hand. (I’m talking about the S10, of course.) Just change the S10 to the S8 and he goes down at least 2. However, even then, as the cards lie, 5D comes sailing home. Any chance of NS reaching this wonderful (I’d say, ignoring the bidding, about 4%) contract?

Iain ClimieDecember 6th, 2019 at 10:26 am

Hi David,

South doubles, North bids 4N (playable in both minors), South bids 5D?


Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Hi David & Iain,

Yes, Iain has provided perhaps the only way to sneak into a five diamond contract. However anyone with that good of a 5 card spade suit, and not then bidding them, could segue into how and if, South prematurely got hold of the hand records, but if so, perhaps the EW hands were then blanked out.

A possible interesting side light entry conversation could focus on, if necessary, needing to get to dummy to finesse diamonds and then eventually back in diamonds to finesse for the club ace would be to lead the three of spades to the seven, forcing East to allow future entry.

However, if either of you were West, you would surely have followed suit on the first spade with the eight, denying South his master plan.

However as it turned out, since declarer led the spade jack, West was not given that brilliant opportunity. Seemingly, entry producing card combinations might warrant several pages in any high-level bridge book with, of course, often the opportunity for 2nd hand to foil the attempt, by playing high.

Bruce karlsonDecember 6th, 2019 at 3:48 pm

How cannot South expect dyummy to have anything in that auction? I would double for penalties and, in this case, be rewarded…justified or not. Does the classic 4nt fir takeout, double for penalties fly in this weather?/

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2019 at 4:15 pm

Hi Bruce,

Although the unfavorable vulnerability might suggest that the opponents are pressuring your side with only distribution as an asset (note West’s very light weak two bid), it is practically difficult to impossible in determining the difference for South to make a choice.

While I sympathize with your opinion, I would still bid 4 spades, based on my 5-5 distribution rather than double and likely have my partner stand for it.

Even on this hand, while 4 hearts doubled would go down 3 tricks (500), 4 spades can make (620) with almost no help from partner, but, of course, an extremely fortunate lie of the cards.

No bridge book nor anything less than a supernatural bridge god can predict what partner will possess and thus bid or pass, opposite whatever you do, but based on nothing more or less than many years of experience allows me to suggest bidding out when holding a 5-5 distribution works better (in the long run) and save double (in this case) for a more balanced hand 4-2(hearts)-4-3 or only one five card suit, better off not being spades). Of course with 4-1-4-4 specifically it is the classic double, but one shouldn’t require exactness since the bridge gods are usually not that cooperative.

The extra bonus for your choice is that if partner does the wrong thing after you double (bids or passes) you can blame him. (only kidding).

However on this hand, when you double and partner passes, instead of bidding 4 spades with his doubleton, he might challenge your condemnation.

Iain ClimieDecember 6th, 2019 at 5:05 pm

HI Bobby, Bruce,

In the absence of agreement how should 2H P 4H be taken, apart from “values” – not exactly helpful. I’m happy to treat 4N as TO after the OPPO bid 2S 4S or 1S 4S but bypassing 4S only seems best with both minors.

Any thoughts?


Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2019 at 7:15 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, when opponents have quickly bid up to 4 heart (not 4 spades) 4NT should strongly emphasize the minors as a takeout.

And, but according to partnership method, when 4 spades is quickly arrived at (of course, other suits not also having been bid, including beginning 1 club strong or 2 clubs strong) then double should be primarily interchangeable values (offensive but also defensive tricks) and asks partner to look at his hand before bidding any long suit or, of course, the real possibility of just defending, which normally will be chosen with almost any balanced hand.

Yes, I would always like to possess 4 hearts when I double, but that is too much of a distortion to have to promise such a thing since with. s. Ax, h, KQ, d. AJxx, c. A10xxx I think double stands out over a quick 4 hearts or 4 spades.

What do you think? That question would also apply to any of our group (or even a well versed and somewhat experienced newcomer) to answer.

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Hi again Iain and possibly others,

Since I suffer from a disease which tends to allow my mind to precede my fingers and type before I have the right words chosen. I need to emphasize what I believe is close to the most important aspect of moving up notches in effectiveness while playing our great game:


At least to me, winners need to and do, take more chances, when they judge (usually often) it is just too dangerous to pass.

My experience indicates that the bridge gods favor the bold.