Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 4th, 2018

Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace.

James Baldwin

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


In today’s deal, sitting South, you should focus on making your contract if you can, while not worrying about overtricks. When West leads the spade four against your contract of three no-trump, how would you plan to make your nine tricks? At first glance, you can identify your eight top winners in the form of two hearts, two spades, three diamonds and a club. An extra trick could be made from either the diamonds or the clubs, but South should note that the diamonds are blocked, and dummy has only one entry, in spades, to help set up the diamonds.

One straightforward route to success would come if the diamond jack falls in two or three rounds. If that fails, you could resort to the club finesse. But is there a more reliable route to nine winners?

There is, and it comes from the intermediates in dummy. South should plan to cash the diamond ace, then overtake the diamond queen with the king before using the diamond 10 to force out the jack, in an attempt to ensure four diamond winners.

To guarantee a late entry to dummy, South should plan to win the first trick with the spade ace (even though you could score the spade jack, it would not generate an extra trick), then go after diamonds as described above. Diamonds will break 3-3 or 4-2 five times out of six. If worst comes to worst, you can still set up a third diamond trick and fall back on the club finesse.

On an auction of this sort, your partner will not have club length, so he surely has a balanced 12-14, and there is no reason that anyone but declarer will have a long suit. Since your side has half the deck, you might look for a lead that gives away the least. All things considered, a top heart seems less likely to do damage than either black suit, so I would lead the heart jack.


♠ K 9 5
 J 10 4
 J 9 2
♣ Q 10 8 2
South West North East
    1 ♣ 1 ♠
2 ♣ 2 ♠ 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 18th, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Hi Bobby,

there is an alternative line I might consider at pairs, especially fi I were really desperate for a result different to the rest of the field. Take SA, cash DAQ and play 3 rounds of hearts (unless someone showed out on the 2nd one). I’m making plenty of tricks if the Diamonds are 3-3 or the DJ drops but also have a chance of the hearts beings 3-3 if someone has DJxxx while the Club finesse is still there as a last ditch option.

It does show the hoops that pairs makes us jump through, though.



bobbywolffJune 18th, 2018 at 3:44 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes I agree with your exact line of play, if and when you are playing in a local duplicate in Everywhere, USA.

The only close percentage may be whether you play for the hearts to break 3-3 before going to dummy.

And, of course, your description was seriously flawed when you didn’t announce that if someone showed out on the first round of hearts that you wouldn’t still play for the heart break. SHAME!

The above idea is based on the varying factor of “guessing” the declarer play at a pretty much standard 3NT contract across a medium field.

Sadly, my guess of what percentage would the column line be taken is around no more than 25% across the field, making the theory of trying for averages when playing a normal correct contract a better strategy than making a correct, but still relatively not universally thought about superior play. (Who cares about that stinkin…diamond 9?)

Iain ClimieJune 18th, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Hi Bobby,

Just goes to show what perversions pairs leads to.