Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

When I consider life, ‘tis all a cheat; Yet, fooled with hope, men favor the deceit.

John Dryden

E North
None ♠ Q 3
 K Q 9 4 3
 7 5 2
♣ Q 7 4
West East
♠ 9 6 4 2
 8 7 5
♣ K J 10 8 5
♠ A K 10 8 7 5
 J 10 2
 6 4
♣ 9 3
♠ J
 A 6
 A Q J 10 9 8 3
♣ A 6 2
South West North East
      2 ♠
3 ♠ * 4 ♠ Dbl. Pass
6 All pass    

*stopper asking


Today’s deal cropped up during the first session of the girls’ semifinals at the junior championships in Salsomaggiore last year.

Before I tell you what happened at our featured table, consider the play in five diamonds here. At every table where diamonds were trumps, the defenders led spades. East either tried to cash her top spades, or won the spade king to shift to a club.

After this start, it was easy for declarer to infer that, given East’s opening bid, West must hold the diamond king. This allowed declarer to drop the diamond king offside. In the semifinal between Australia and Indonesia, Renee Cooper followed this line in five diamonds, and could set up hearts to pitch the club loser, making 12 tricks.

At her counterpart’s table Kirstyn Fuller from Australia was East, but here the stakes were higher, since she was defending six diamonds. She deceptively won the opening lead with the spade ace and shifted to her club nine.

Now declarer assumed West had the spade king, so the diamond finesse rated to be working. She took the club ace, crossed to a heart, and finessed in trumps. When West won with her king, she could cash her club winner and give her partner a club ruff. That meant three down – but had Fuller not made the right play to trick one, the slam would surely have come home; so the false card generated a swing of 22 IMPs.

Australia went on to reach the final, where they lost to a strong Dutch team.

While you have limited values, you should nonetheless raise to three clubs, as a twoway shot. In one way you are competing to try for a possible game, in another you are trying to make sure the opponents do not have a cheap way into the auction at the two level.


♠ Q 3
 K Q 9 4 3
 7 5 2
♣ Q 7 4
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 2 ♣ 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


Patrick CheuSeptember 5th, 2017 at 8:14 pm

Hi Bobby,East’s deception on T1 and club switch on T2(could be from the KC)which clouds the issue for the end of the day with a ten card trump fit missing the king is it not just a 50/50 guess to play for the drop or finesse? Chocolate or vanilla? regards~Patrick.

Iain ClimieSeptember 5th, 2017 at 10:28 pm

Hi Patrick,

If memory serves me right, te odds are 78% for 2-1 and 22% for 3-0. If you lead towards the AQJ and next player follows small, itt may seem obvious tat it is now 50-50 as to whether the remaining 2 cards are 1-1 or 2-0 but it is a classic case of the rule of restricted choice as a player with xx could play either. See also Kelsey and Glauert “Bridge Odds for Practical Players” for more detailed explanations.

Having said that, with AJ109x opposite xxxx the odds say take 2 finesses. I prefer to just lead up to te AJ and play the Ace if the next player doesn’t flicker. I’ve lost to KQ alone too many times, and I suspect TOCM is after me here!



Bobby WolffSeptember 6th, 2017 at 1:32 am

Hi Patrick & Iain,

Yes I agree with Iain with both his referring to Restricted Choice and the reasons for it.

When missing three to the king, it is definitely percentage to take the 50% chance of finessing rather than playing for the singleton king offside. The only additional reason I might add is the possibility of all three missing may have originally started in RHO’s hand (of course if they are all in LHO’s hand there is nothing to be done to succeed).

Also, Iain’s odds of 78% to 22% are, at least in my opinion also correct, making the finesse clearly the percentage play. However in today’s column hand, the deception of East in winning the ace of spades on opening lead instead of the king, changed declarer’s mind in what he thought would be most likely. Also East had to risk the declarer having 2 losing spades, but how could South jump to slam with two losers in spades? And even if that was possible, wouldn’t West have led his top spade (the nine) after supporting them in the bidding?

As to Iain’s other example of AJ109x opposite xxxx, yes it is percentage to take two finesses, rather than play for 2-2, but that one is close, and Iain thinks that his table feel will win out over the strict percentage advantage.

More power to his confidence and I am a believer in lone wolfing it, when the odds, as here, are not anywhere near overwhelming.

Patrick CheuSeptember 6th, 2017 at 7:06 am

Hi Bobby and Iain,In the Official Encyclopedia of Bridge(Third Edition),a while back,page 458,If the defense has three points(the King) and declarer has ten cards citing AQJxxxx opposite xxx,7 max tricks required-Finesse the Q and %Chance of success 50 and Tricks per deal 6.50…which makes me think that playing the Ace is just as good as finessing..obviously with the hand above declarer has a chance to take a look at East card(as Iain so mentioned),before deciding.In any case 7-3 looks more dynamic shape than 5-5,6-4…if nothing else.Best Regards~Patrick.

Phillip TaylorSeptember 6th, 2017 at 9:17 am

I had the pleasure of partnering Kirstyn in the Portland Bowl (an inter-university competition in the UK) a few years ago – and what a partner she is! If only I could say the same about myself…

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