Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Showing up every day isn’t enough. There are a lot of guys who show up every day who shouldn’t have showed up at all.

James Caan

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

*Three controls, counting two for an ace, one for a king


Often the application of good declarer technique produces no positive result, because the lie of the cards means that there is no advantage to be gained from superior play. However, that was not the case with today’s deal. Take your place in the South seat and plan the play in your grand slam.

Superficially, it looks as if the contract depends on either the diamond finesse or a 3-3 heart split. If declarer simply plays out his top two hearts from hand then crosses to the heart ace, he can pitch his losing heart on the spade king and take the diamond finesse. That line combines your chances; but can you do better?

Better technique would be to cash all the black-suit winners followed by the heart king and queen before crossing to dummy with the heart ace at trick 10. As before, if the 13th heart is good, then the diamond queen is discarded on the spade ace, otherwise the heart can be discarded and the diamond finesse taken.

However, consider what happens when it is East who holds the long hearts. In the two-card end position, declarer leads a diamond from the dummy, holding the ace and queen in his hand. When East plays low, declarer knows that his last card is a heart; therefore West must hold the diamond king. There is no point in finessing, so declarer rises with the ace — and down comes the king.

Thus the show-up squeeze also lets you make the slam whenever West started with the bare diamond king and short hearts.

Without the overcall of one no-trump you would surely have jumped instinctively to four spades as a sort of two-way shot. Here there is a warning that spades are not breaking; but I would still bid four spades now, albeit a little less happily, and let the opponents sort out what to do next.


♠ K 6 5 3
 A 4 2
 8 7 6 5 4 2
♣ —
South West North East
  1 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitAugust 25th, 2015 at 4:14 pm

There is another line of play which works: Win the SA, 6 club tricks, the HK, and then cash DA. The DK drops, of course, so you are home, but if it doesn’t, cross to the HA, cash the SK and discard the DQ, making if a) H are 3-3, b) either opponent has 4H & 4D, c) E has 4H and DK, d) remote chances, such as someone having 6S & 4H, or making a wrong discard. Note that this line of play works on the given hand, even if you switch the DK with one of E’s D. Which line do you think is better, or are they the same (my head hurts too much to answer my question)?

bobby wolffAugust 25th, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Hi David,

Bravo again for the tedious work you always engage, in order to be able to call yourself and assuredly are, a very accurate analyst.

I’ll let you, some stranger, or someone of your choice do the math, but my contribution (if you call it that) is to narrow the two choices down to which is more likely once the hearts do not break 3-3: a. the diamond finesse being onside or b. West not East having the four+ hearts c. and of course, factoring in the possibility of the singleton K of diamonds being offside (about 3.2%). My offhand vote is for the column line, but even though I HAVE NOT DONE THE MATH, why does my head also hurt?

Your move.

F. B. AllenAugust 26th, 2015 at 2:02 am

Please Please get a good proof reader. These kind of things happen all the time and confuse everyone:

“As before, if the 13th heart is good, then the diamond queen is discarded on the spade ace”

It is the spade King.

slarAugust 26th, 2015 at 2:50 am

This hand is a lot better than what I was subjected to last week during a particularly horrible side game. My partner made a 2-suited overcall and the opponents bid on to game. No big deal. But when it was time to draw trump, declarer managed to apply the Rabbi’s Rule and drop my partner’s stiff king. No one else in the room managed to do this. We never did figure out why declarer thought this was the right play. Did I not duck smoothly enough? Was there another tell somewhere? Did declarer just make an anti-percentage swing? When that happens it just isn’t your day.

Lee McGovernAugust 26th, 2015 at 4:04 am

I think you have answered your own question slar with the 2-suited overcall

A little unappreciative don’t you think FB Allen?

slarAugust 26th, 2015 at 1:23 pm

But why? Even if partner announces to the table that she has a singleton, it was still 1 in 4 that it was the king. That was the only missing honor so there were ample opportunities to finesse me if I had it.

bobby wolffAugust 26th, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Hi Slar,

There could be a variety of reasons an opponent could make what appears to be a ridiculously lucky guess:

1. Losing an entry to the percentage hand to finesse, but apparently not so on this one, but then include a careless oversight when not doing it when in the right hand.

2. Seeing an opponents hand whether peeking intentionally or just by accident.

3. Miss applying bridge percentages or rules.

4. Someone or something informing him of its location.

5. Sheer sloth.

6. Even perhaps justified, by that king could not be in the other hand due to the other hands actual bidding or passing.

Finally, since further attempted sleuthing will
only increase frustration move on, since no other happier conclusion will be forthcoming.

bobby wolffAugust 26th, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Hi F.B.,

Sorry and I apologize for the poor proof reading.

bobby wolffAugust 26th, 2015 at 3:54 pm

Hi Lee,

Thanks and much appreciation for your sincere protection.

Yes, reporting bridge does lend itself to seemingly proof reading dangers at every street corner, but not to be up to the task is similar to missing opportunities to get better bridge results at the table. No excuses allowed.