Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 6th, 2019

Nothing puzzles me more than time and space; and yet nothing troubles me less, as I never think about them.

Charles Lamb

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

♣ K

After East’s pre-emptive raise in clubs, South followed a somewhat illogical sequence. He passed initially because he did not feel like he had enough to compete, but then after North’s second takeout double, he re-evaluated and decided his hand was worth the leap to game in spades.

West led the club king, here asking for count in the suit. When East indicated an even number of cards in clubs, West cashed another round before exiting with a heart. Declarer won in hand to lead the spade queen, running it when West played low. Declarer continued with the spade jack, which was covered by West’s king and dummy’s ace. The 4-1 break presented an additional challenge because the contract now needed more than the favorable diamond break. It also needed West to have at least three hearts plus two or three diamonds.

Declarer carefully cashed both top hearts, a Dentist’s Coup to ensure dummy could not be thrown on lead, then played the diamond ace and king and another diamond. West won the trick and found himself endplayed, with only two trumps and a club remaining in his hand. As a trump exit would have been hopeless, West tried his club. Declarer ruffed in hand and took the marked trump finesse to score up his game.

Note that if it had been East who won the third round of diamonds, West discarding a club, declarer would again have been able to ruff the forced club exit in hand. This would again neutralize West’s trump holding.

Respond one spade. With a weak hand in response to one club, it is best to bypass diamonds in favor of finding a major-suit fit. This is especially true with such poor diamonds. If the pointed suits were reversed, there would be a case for ignoring the spades and responding one diamond, but I think I’d still bid the major.


♠ Q J 6 3
 A 5 2
 8 7 4 3
♣ 6 4
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieDecember 20th, 2019 at 9:52 am

HI Bobby,

West can cancel South’s brilliance by pointing out that he only had 12 cards, the CA having done a runner. I agree with you that South’s bidding made little sense though – why not double 3C?

ON the subject of being fixed (as per yesterday), spare a thought for my partner last night. He held xx AQJ9x 9xxx Ax and bid 2H over RHO’s 1S. LHO bid 2N (11-12), I passed, RHO bid 3S and LHO bid 4S. Well, he knew where the HK was so thought HA, then Q would be relatively safe, as the HK would make anyway and maybe I could ruf. Declarer had HKx and dummy xx 8xxx (!) AQ10x KQx. Absurdly declarer has 6 solid spades as well as HKx so why she didn’t bid 3N is a mustery, and the H10 lead sinks it straight away.



Bobby WolffDecember 20th, 2019 at 1:38 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I wish I could say without forked tongue, that we were testing this hand to find out just how many readers noticed the absence of the exalted club ace with West, but in truth it was nothing but a horribly confusing hand for many, brought about by our carelessness, likely mine.

And speaking of your hand from last night, all will agree with your lament, and if it would have happened between an Anglo-Saxon country and China, a current hot bed for well educated not many moons away from ascending to among the top of the world class players: “In this hand’s case, the bidding is an example of a hand bid, where two Wongs made a White.

I do apologize for such corn, but when a 12 card hand dares to show up in our column, I need to change the subject and quickly.

Thanks for giving me the chance with the perfect lead-in, although nothing should be able to change my vulnerability.

Bobby WolffDecember 20th, 2019 at 2:09 pm

Hi again Iain,

Yes, a TO responsive double (originally conceived by Dr. Fielding Reid of Iowa, perhaps about 60+ years ago) and originally promoted by the “Bridge World” magazine, suggested that when an overcaller has bid a suit and after partner has responded positively (by either a bid or a negative double), followed by a raise in that suit by the partner of the overcaller, then a double by the partner of the TO doubler is a general TO, but usually less than a 5 card suit (but occasionally a weak minor) and asks the doubler to help out in determining what might become the best trump suit, when it is next his turn to bid.

Having defined the above I agree with Iain that South might have used that bid, his first time at bat, and then corrected 3 diamonds or 3 hearts to 3 spades if in fact he could still do so, otherwise to pass if the bidding has now progressed higher. He barely has enough to do so, but to not do so puts more pressure on the original TO doubler to have a very good hand to repeat his double, not knowing partner has a competitive hand worth trying to win what usually becomes a part score battle.

The above convention is played by virtually all of the higher class bridge partnerships around the world, if anyone is interested, in how that long ago bid is now thought about.

Yes, before that intervention, a double by the partner of the original TO doubler was regarded as penalty, but since that type hand hardly ever appeared, Dr. Reid’s great suggestion has been adopted.