Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 10th, 2018

To live means to finesse the processes to which one is subjugated.

Bertolt Brecht

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


I’m guessing many of my readers will be only slightly familiar with the concept of an intra-finesse.

Even straightforward finesses are not always easy. Intra-finesses can be quite complex, in that they are a combination of finessing followed by pinning a vulnerable doubleton, in a sense creating bricks with very little straw.

I’m sure today’s deal isn’t a record (maybe some reader with more time than me can find the minimum position for creating an extra trick), but the hand does feature an elegant example of the theme. It occurred in the Common Game, played all over North America.

The auction was revealing, in that declarer knew East had length in diamonds, so West had either a singleton or doubleton. Against three no-trump, West led a spade to the ace, and East returned his second spade. Declarer won in hand, tried the diamond five and let it run to East, who won cheaply with the nine to return a top club. Declarer won the club in hand and now tried a diamond to the jack, queen and ace.

When a top club came back, declarer ducked; now East could do no better than play a diamond, allowing declarer to finesse. That got declarer up to eight tricks; he cashed the top club to find the bad break, confirming that he needed to find the heart queen to make his game.

Since East had shown only 11 HCP outside the heart suit, it was clearly the percentage line to play East for the heart queen, and the game duly came home.

Your partner has shown 22-24 or so. Your choice is to let him stew in two no-trump, to transfer to spades or — my choice — to use Stayman and then show your major-suit pattern. You can do this if you use Smolen, which I recommend, by bidding three of your four-card major over a three-diamond response, showing 5-4 in the majors. This way, you transfer declarership if you locate a 5-3 fit.


♠ 8 6 5 4 3
 7 6 4 2
 J 2
♣ 3 2
South West North East
    2 ♣ Pass
2 Pass 2 NT 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A V Ramana RaoFebruary 24th, 2018 at 9:32 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
I think If east holds Q of hearts, south does not need the finesse. When he notes that the clubs are not breaking, he can cash the spade winner to see east squirm. East can let the losing diamond go which confirms his holding of heart Q . I feel if east does not discard diamond, the percentage play is for west to hold heart Q. East could have opened with eleven points. ( Meanwhile what did west discarded on the third club and diamond? He must have been judicious not to discard even a single heart. ) And if east discards a heart on the last spade despite holding Q of hearts and west too discards spades earlier , they deserve full credit for the defense.

A V Ramana RaoFebruary 24th, 2018 at 9:34 am

However the theme of intrafinesse is nicely elucidated in the column

bobbywolffFebruary 24th, 2018 at 4:15 pm


As always, you have well analyzed various options on today’s hand.

However, and on a consistent quite high level, it should be mentioned to our bridge audience that, similar to how a very experienced and competent declarer goes about locating cards (mostly bidding, but with a dash of up to then defense), good defenders will go to extremes, bordering on perfection, to discard in both correct fashion, but throwing thought to be key cards (such as East discarding the eight of hearts) early in order to make it more difficult for allowing a sound declarer to pick him clean.

Also, the throwing of the heart will not hurt the defense likely whatever happens, if West was dealt the jack, a far from impossible occurrence.

My emphasis is that, yes, declarer has the advantage of looking at all 26 of his assets, and the defense only 13 with another 13 of his opponent’s (dummy). However all worthwhile defenders soon are blessed with not only what to discard but when (mostly for deceptive purposes) but as often is the case, we are discussing the very high level game where the defense is ever alert, using the tools available (bidding, opening lead, the way declarer goes about the hand, and very simply what the defense needs to defeat the hand, including possible miss guesses at the death from declarer.

The above is what the aspiring player, without the yet experience, should be observing from kibitzing or reading about high level competition.

Always thanks for your significant contributions, which and, of course, are usually right on the mark.