Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 9th, 2017

Everybody knows if you are too careful you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something.

Gertrude Stein

S North
N-S ♠ 6 3
 K J 7
 A 8 6 5
♣ Q 7 6 3
West East
♠ Q J 9 8 5
 5 2
 K Q J 10 2
♣ 2
♠ 10 7 4 2
 10 8 4
 7 4
♣ K 8 5 4
♠ A K
 A Q 9 6 3
 9 3
♣ A J 10 9
South West North East
1 2 * 2 ♠** Pass
3 ♣ Pass 4 Pass
6 All pass    

*Michaels **Limit or better in spades


When your partner shows a limit raise at his first turn to speak, then optimistically jumps to game rather than signing off in three hearts (over what is initially nothing more than a gametry of three clubs), you would be entitled to assume he will contribute just a little more than the uninspiring 10-count he puts down in dummy in your contract of six hearts. If it offends you to bid slam without using Blackwood, pretend you asked for aces or keycards before driving to six hearts.

At trick one you realize that with a sure diamond loser, the contract appears to hinge on the club finesse; assuming that it works, what can possibly go wrong?

If you work through the play in your mind before playing a card, perhaps you will spot the snag. Win the diamond ace, draw trump in three rounds, then lead the club queen, which holds, followed by a club to your hand. When this wins the trick with West showing out, you are stuck in hand with no way back to dummy to repeat the proven club finesse. And if you lose a club trick, down goes the contract.

Once you have identified the question, as Gertrude Stein would say, you have your answer. At trick two, take the club finesse by leading low from dummy to your hand. When it holds, draw trump in three rounds ending in dummy and lead the club queen from the board. Now whether East covers or not, the club suit runs for four tricks.

Although you have a great hand, you cannot really drive to game, since you need to find partner with a trick to be able to make game. If you jump to three hearts, partner should be able to work out that he needs little more than a king to bid on to game. Even a simple raise to two hearts here is a real game try, by the way.


♠ A K
 A Q 9 6 3
 9 3
♣ A J 10 9
South West North East
  1 Pass Pass
Dbl. Pass 1 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJune 23rd, 2017 at 9:25 am

At trick 2, cash the HA. Then cash the HJ and lead a low C and finesse. Now cross to HK and lead CQ. This line is superior to the one suggested, but only in the rare event that W is 6-5 or 5-6 in D & S and has a doubleton H and therefore a void in C. Interestingly, although the opponents’ bidding helps to find the winning line of play, it is irrelevant. This is the best way to play the hand.

But there is another problem. Suppose H are 5-0. Nothing to be done if W has the 5, but if it be E, now it is best to play low C and finesse at trick 2. Then cross to HJ at trick 3. When W shows out, lead CQ and if necessary a third round of C. Now cash HK and take H finesse. This line is superior to my first suggested line only if E has 5 hearts and K fourth of clubs, so I am sticking with my line.

jim2June 23rd, 2017 at 3:02 pm

David Warheit –

Your line (cash AH) gains over the column when West is 6-2-5-0. It loses to the column when West is 6-0-5-2, but it also loses to 5-0-5-3.

(If East has five hearts and four clubs, the West must be 6-0-6-1 or 7-0-5-1 and took no second bid NV against V.)

(If we are trying to protect against exotic distributions, then cashing one high heart in dummy first would seem to protect against 6-1-6-0 or 7-1-5-0)

Bobby WolffJune 23rd, 2017 at 10:45 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

David offered a superior line, but then Jim2 expanded the thought and tried to cover all four bases on the baseball diamond.

However, sometimes in bridge, players take imperfect but, more or less correct lines, which emphasizes the right technique, but fails to allow for what happen when pigs learn to fly.

The above is not intended to be critical of any thing said by anyone, only for others, who are just getting their feet wet with higher level bridge, not to lose focus on what they need to know in order to get to third base, while touching second, on the way to third. Getting home from there then becomes the easy part, once the early going becomes routine.

Bobby WolffJune 23rd, 2017 at 11:06 pm

Hi everyone,

And who am I to talk when the bidding diagram explains 2 spades as a limit or better in spades when it should mean hearts? And the Bible stands firm against throwing the first stone when being a sinner himself.

Yes, when writing about bridge the mention of a wrong suit, is (at least to me) at least somewhat of a sin.