Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief.

William Shakespeare

S North
None ♠ J 10 9 5
 K 6
 K J 6
♣ Q J 10 4
West East
♠ A 4
 Q 9 3
 9 7 5 3 2
♣ A 8 5
♠ 7 6 3
 10 8 7 4 2
 Q 10
♣ 7 6 2
♠ K Q 8 2
 A J 5
 A 8 4
♣ K 9 3
South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


The origin of a bridge deal is often shrouded in mystery, but today’s has a curious pedigree. I had seen a variation of this theme as a puzzle, and sharpened it up into a more challenging problem.

Last year, I was amused to find that the puzzle I had enjoyed had been borrowed wholesale from George Coffin, one of the earliest of puzzle constructors. Coffin was not a competent player himself, which made his ability to identify and classify new bridge themes all the more remarkable. It does make me wonder how many of my articles have resurfaced elsewhere…

If the diamond three is led against three no-trump, declarer must not play the jack, but must play low from dummy and take the 10 with the ace. Since he has to let the defenders in twice with their two black aces, he must take insurance against the defenders being able both to set up and run the diamonds. By temporarily preserving the diamond jack, he will gain a critical tempo if it should be East who gets on lead first.

As it happens, West has both the critical aces. But when he gets in with one and leads a second diamond, now is the right moment to finesse. East can win the queen but is unable to continue the suit, so declarer gains his tempo after all. If East had a diamond left, the suit would divide 4-3, and declarer would still survive.

Curiously, should North declare three no-trump on a heart lead, he must refrain from putting in dummy’s jack, for exactly the same reason.

This doesn’t feel like a hand on which it is sensible to play for penalty. Your weak diamond spots may not stop declarer scoring all his trumps in hand. But you have to bid, and even if you don’t have a classical diamond control you do have enough length in the suit to make the practical call of one no-trump. That gets your values across nicely to partner.


♠ A 4
 Q 9 3
 9 7 5 3 2
♣ A 8 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 1

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


Iain ClimieOctober 10th, 2017 at 11:11 am

Hi Bobby,

Clearly there is no such thing as a free finesse.

With regard to yesterday’s comment about readers finding the column difficult, can I simply suggest getting out a pack of cards, setting up the deal and playing through it manually? I found it useful when I first started playing and it can help bring the description to life. Much bridge play is about pattern recognition, so actually seeing the cards themselves can be a useful trick, if you’ll excuse the awful pun.



bobby wolffOctober 10th, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for your suggestion about setting up the deal and playing through it manually.

Whether that physical work necessary will be done or even attempted, is a difficult guess, but more likely, borderline bridge players will not take the trouble to do it.

Instead, they probably want to be spoon fed, without exerting their capable, but sometimes under used, brain cells.

Unfortunately, like many things in life, in order to benefit, especially in learning to progress in bridge, mental effort needs to be exerted.

No doubt, as you and I can attest, the results of that exercise will have an overwhelming positive effect on many, but deciding to “risk” doing it, is another matter.

The love both you, I and so many of the loyal followers on the Aces on Bridge site should be proof enough of the upside, but has the world in general and the USA in particular (at least with my concern) dumb downed their intellectual pursuit to a practical nothingness.

No doubt, life has taught most of us, “you’ve got to give to get”, but as the hedonists grow in number, the necessary intense efforts seem to diminish.

However, “to each his own” and to you (and me) pattern recognition (your thought) is exciting, if only for its challenge, but in order for it to be to others, becomes very problematic.

Yes, it greatly helps to have at least, an adequate amount of numeracy (natural direction toward the use of numbers), but that attribute can be learned and therefore cultivated, but again, some effort is necessary,
without which, it simply will not happen.

Finally, I, for one, sincerely appreciate all you do to promote our off-the-charts bridge competition and continue to enjoy our many bridge friends (on the site and off) who feel and then act, likewise.

Michael BeyroutiOctober 10th, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Today’s quote is so appropriate!

bobby wolffOctober 10th, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Hi Michael,

Somehow and perhaps just bias on my part, amazing quotes and bridge seem to go (if you’ll excuse) hand in hand!.

Perhaps because the rules, logic, and arguments between either bridge competitors or buddies seem to find a cohesive similarity between the two enterprises.

Thanks for noticing.

Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage?
My website is in the very same niche as yours and my users would really benefit from some of the information you
present here. Please let me know if this alright with you.
Many thanks!

Immobilienmakler HeidelbergOctober 14th, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Der Artikel ist wirklich intressant. Das Thema hat mich schon immer interessiert und ich konnte hier noch einiges interessantes finden. Ich bin schon sehr gespannt, weitere Neuigkeiten zu lesen. Danke und Grüße aus Heidelberg Marco