Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 17th, 2014

Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.

Amelia Earhart

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


The Venice Cup is the world championships for women, and in Bali last year it was won by the Americans, who narrowly defeated the English in the final. Today's deal comes from England's victory in the semifinals against another of the world's powerhouse women's teams, the Chinese. In today's deal, though, the Chinese came off best, with Yan Li at the helm in a delicate no-trump game.

Susan Stockdale led the heart nine, to the two, 10 and queen. Things didn’t look that good for declarer, since a lot had to be done to be able to scramble nine tricks together.

At trick two Yan made the natural play of the diamond jack, which went to the king, ace and seven. Yan’s key play came at the next trick when she led a club to the nine and East’s jack.

Stockdale now shifted to a spade and Yan won the trick with her king. The club queen followed, and when that wasn’t covered and the 10 appeared from East, declarer was able to repeat the finesse in clubs. She ended up scoring one spade, two hearts and three tricks in each minor. This technique in the club suit is called an intra-finesse, and involves finessing against a doubleton honor, then pinning it on the next turn.

Incidentally, had West won the first club and returned the suit, declarer would have cashed her club and diamond winners, then endplayed West with the fourth diamond to lead spades for her.

Had you doubled one heart in direct seat, you would be minimum in high cards, even though your shape was attractive. Your decision bid on or pass would be a close one. But as a balancing hand, you should consider that you are in no way ashamed of your values. Your aces and singleton make you full value for a three-spade call — an aggressive player might simply bid game.


♠ J 9 5 3
 A Q 5 3
♣ A 8 5 4
South West North East
1 Pass Pass
Dbl. Pass 2♠ Pass

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David WarheitOctober 31st, 2014 at 9:40 am

Speaking of the impossible, it was announced yesterday that remains of an airplane that were found 23 years ago on some Pacific island that I never heard of have just been identified as belonging to Earhart’s airplane. Thank you, Bobby, for such a timely quote.

Bobby WolffOctober 31st, 2014 at 11:34 am

Hi David,

Thanks for the kudos, though obviously, fortune not vision, caused this timely coincidence.

Amelia’s quote certainly rings true in today’s troubled modern world. But until peace, selflessness, sharing and respect magically replace violence, selfishness, greed and jealousy, impossibility will stay the course.

Both women and men need to be role models in accomplishing this coup, without which we will never fulfill our obligation to make our contracts.

Indeed Amelia was truly a leader and a visionary. I, like you, am proud to remember her early contributions to aviation, a process which has helped to bring the world closer together. Let’s not let her efforts go for naught.

Iain ClimieOctober 31st, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Hi Bobby,

A nicer infra finesse but the spade suit raises an interesting point on today’s hand. If South had led the SK at an early stage (not that she should or would), west might well duck. So, imagine you are playing 3N, and dummy has CJ9xxx. A declarer with KQ10x will naturally bash out a top club, but the situation will soon be clear to the defence. If declarer has CKx though, the obvious line is to cross to table and lead low to the K.

If needs must, there may be a case for a bluff lead of the K from hand with the weak holding and crossing to table and leading to the strong one. A premature release of the Ace or a duck letting the 9th trick through could occur, although the first option may be real desperation stuff.

Any thoughts on how often these ploys may work against good or regular oppo?



bobby wolffOctober 31st, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Hi Iain,

At least to me, the answer to your question is involved with many intangibles.

1. The play of an unsupported king toward similar holdings of J9xx or sometimes even without the 9, are not unknown by a highly talented group.

2. Most every situation is different, thus the reasons for such plays may vary, but obviously the playing of the king is a highly aggressive attempt to score a trick. Should it be done? The answer needs to research who the players are, what the bidding was, and at what stage of the hand is the play made (the later the play the less likely it is to work, since by trick 5 or 6 both opponents (assuming they are very reasonable players) are likely to be better prepared to do whatever is best for them).

I apologize for not being clearer, but, since I wanted to be as truthful as possible, I cannot dissect any better.

Herreman RNovember 23rd, 2014 at 4:54 pm

what does 2spades show ?