Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 27th, 2017

Chances in future are just like sunlight, open the windows to see them.

Ali Zayeri

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


In today’s deal, North bids spades, then raises his partner’s jump rebid of two no-trump to game. The opening lead of the club six goes to the eight, three and declarer’s four.

East’s card to the first trick is likely count, so South deduces he must take nine tricks without giving up the lead, or the defenders will cash out the clubs. A successful finesse in hearts will suffice, but if West has the heart king, it will not move to East’s hand later on in the deal. So South can afford to try every other chance that does not involve giving up the lead first.

To begin with, South cashes the top diamonds. The fall of the queen sets up dummy’s jack; good news, but still not quite enough, since South still has only eight top winners if the heart finesse is offside. South needs one additional trick.

So South cashes the top spades, taking care to end up in hand. If spades fail to break, South will be in position to lead the heart queen from his hand for a finesse.

However, when the spades break, South no longer needs to take the finesse. He leads the heart queen from his hand — just in case — then when West plays low, he takes North’s ace and cashes the good spade for his ninth trick

Incidentally, this line is sound at both teams and rubber bridge. But at pairs, the simple heart finesse is probably better, to avoid setting up unnecessary additional winners for the defenders if the cards do not cooperate.

This feels like a lead-directing double to me. Your partner isn’t doubling on high cards alone; he almost certainly has a spade stack. Since you have no reason to doubt his judgment, lead the spade queen and try and set up his tricks for him.


♠ Q 2
 J 8 7 4 3
 J 8
♣ 10 6 5 2
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT Dbl. All 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


Michael BeyroutiDecember 11th, 2017 at 2:01 pm

“… but if West has the heart king, it will not move to East’s hand later on in the deal.”
Yes it will. Just ask Jim2!

bobbywolffDecember 11th, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Hi Michael,

Yes, we all know about Jim2’s malady of Theory Of Card Migration (TOCM).

However, even this disadvantage becomes an advantage for him when he would (should) lead a club right back at them at trick two (after believing East’s count card at trick one). If West then didn’t switch to hearts right away (at trick 3) but instead took his now 3 good club tricks, poor East his partner (probably not after this session) would get squeezed to death, allowing declarer a make with many distributions, since East could have 4 spades, does have 4 diamonds and of course, the king of hearts, likely to be held by East, since West did not make a non-vulnerable 2 club overcall while holding AK fifth (not that everyone would).

“Seek and thou shall find” sometimes allows hands to be made when all else looks bleak.
However, West would have a chance to shine if he switched to a heart while holding the king, conning declarer to go down, even when others might make 3NT with multiple overtricks.

The good news then became, after the dummy North, ditched his partner after this session, South then got to permanently play with West, the hero, since he respected South going up with the ace of hearts and everyone, like this fairy tale, lived happily ever after.

Iain ClimieDecember 11th, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Hi Bobby,

If you really need a swing (or a non-standard result at pairs) another approach is to hope East has any 4 diamonds and the HK with spades 3-3 (clutch at enough straws and you can build a raft….). Take the CQ, cash 4 rounds of spades shedding a heart and exit with a club. Of course West should put his brain in gear before squeezing East in the red suits, switching to a heart when in but you know what players are like.

The hand could be Mollo-esque – West being SB, East HH and South RR. The rabbit took 3S ending in hand and led the HQ – or tried to. The small club fell out and SB (despite HH’s protests) insisted it be played, cashed his clubs while dummy came down to a bare HA opposite declarer’s now Qx. SB played a heart, RR cashed the 13th spade and HH who had started with DQ109x and HKxx said something not rrally in accordance with British reserve at his partner.



bobbywolffDecember 11th, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Hi Iain,

Bravo, and a very detailed, accurate, and practical suggestion of how bridge should be played by excellent players who take pride in their order of choice.

However, in some games, not enough for most to worry about, West, when in with the gratuitous club play by declarer (in truth, not just unethically falling out of his grubby hand) West would have a heart on the table immediately (even while possessing less than bridge expert knowledge, with or without the king in his hand) since he could assume that if declarer wants him to run the defensive club tricks, it then seems judicious to not co-operate, with the only problem left to re-construct declarer’s hand likely making his intention ultimately clear.

He must either be missing the heart king or wanting West to enable a squeeze ending against his own partner, or both so since the playing of the game usually precludes declarer from doing favors for his opponents, firmly believe that caveat and react accordingly.

Yes, and as the late and great Victor Mollo use to tantalize, eureka, his club played was feigned to be accidental, but having been there before, will not bite again.

BTW, the above story is very realistic, and possibly like the great game of Chess, when a worthy adversary makes what appears to be a careless play, always delve deeper before reacting.

jim2December 11th, 2017 at 6:18 pm


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