Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 7th, 2019

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Winston Churchill

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


This week we are looking at deals in which we must maximize our tricks in a suit where we have length facing a singleton. In each case, the question of which finesse to take, if any, is paramount.

In today’s deal, we reach three no-trump on a club lead and put up the queen so as to remain in dummy and go after diamonds. Should we plan to lead to the nine, jack or king? Our target is to play the suit for two losers if possible.

When the suit is 3-3, we have a blind guess as to which finesse to take. There are roughly equal numbers of winning positions where it is right to play the king, jack or nine, so let’s not expend any mental energy on these positions, but simply hope that fortune favors the prepared mind.

If the suit is 4-2, the one combination we can be sure to pick up is the doubleton 10. We will lead to either the king or jack and follow with the higher honor, squashing the 10. So, our first play must be to an honor – and note that the doubleton ace or queen to our left is a position that we cannot exploit even if we guess well.

Since we can deal with a doubleton 10 in either hand, we must look for other doubleton honors we can exploit. And the answer is that the only holding where our play matters is when East holds the doubleton queen. In that case, we must lead to the jack, then follow with the king if we want to play the suit for two losers. Low to the jack is the right play.

This hand is not worth an invitation to game. It seems logical to bid two spades — this sounds a bit more like a real suit than a call of two hearts, and it allows me to introduce hearts at my next turn if the auction doesn’t die immediately.


♠ K 9 6 3
 Q 10 8 6
 Q 3
♣ 10 9 4
South West North East
  2 Dbl. Pass

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Harry HvFebruary 23rd, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Tricky analysis and not at all intuitive – is there a case for leading up to the K ? What’s the chance of a singleton Q offside and/or Ace with E, compared with Qx with E? Or, maybe you can spot the smirk as E ducks from Ax ?

bobbywolffFebruary 24th, 2019 at 5:14 pm

Hi Harry,

You answered your question correctly, the singleton queen to which the percentage is infinitesimally small. And ace small with East is not an advantage, since West will duck the next round allowing three, instead of the limited two tricks in that suit, to the defense.

Of course, when declarer has another adequate source of tricks, likely only in dummy the king may be the winning play if only one fast trick is possibly needed for the contract

Likely a large part of that tricky analysis concerns itself with only having 7 cards between you instead of 8 with the same honor structure to which entirely different strategies may be needed.

The above only confirms the necessity to be comfortable with numbers which, in turn, allows the intuition to kick in. While it is much easier to be born with, methinks it can be also learned, at least
by giving a significant effort at first, which magically may, in time, allow a natural feel to develop.

BTW, welcome to our site and don’t be a stranger.