Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 3rd, 2019

My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.

Stephen Hawking

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

*Balanced slam try for spades


Today’s deal shows how a careful declarer can find an unlikely extra chance in a situation where the success or failure of his contract appears to depend on one thing only. Having been given that huge hint, be honest: How would you play six spades on a top heart lead from West?

I’m absolutely confident that a significant percentage of bridge players (hopefully not my readers!) would win the heart and draw trumps, then take an early diamond finesse of the jack. The good news is that the finesse will work; the bad news is that the 4-1 break will leave you helpless.

But what is the hurry to take that finesse? Win the heart lead and draw trumps in three rounds, then cash all the club winners and exit with the second heart. You aren’t giving up anything, but you force the defenders to give you a ruff-sluff or lead diamonds for you. Say West wins the heart and leads a low diamond. You capture East’s card, go to dummy with the diamond king, and have a marked finesse against East’s remaining diamonds. On any other defense, you can discard a diamond from one hand and ruff in the other. Then you can take the diamond finesse against the queen and claim 12 tricks.

This line of play never loses when the contract can be made, and it ensures you can always survive the 4-1 diamond breaks with the queen onside.

Unless playing with an extremely conservative partner, I would advocate passing here. When you doubled two hearts in direct seat, you showed a shape-suitable opening bid at the very least. Partner had ways to invite game and chose not to. With bad breaks on the horizon and the defenders’ high cards in the minors likely to be over your aces, is it really worth another try? I don’t think so.


♠ K 9 4 3
 A 7
 A J 8 2
♣ A 6 3
South West North East
Dbl. Pass 2 ♠ 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMay 17th, 2019 at 11:11 am

Hi Bobby,

The players you mention as taking a sub-optimal line can still rescue themselves, although I suspect they wouldn’t. Draw trumps and eliminate clubs ending on table then a small diamond to the J just in case East has DQ alone. When this wins, now exit with a heart. If diamonds are 3-2 it is easy. If west has a singleton, he has to give a ruff sluff while if he has D10xxx you’re laughing either way.

The bad news is if East plays the D10 (singleton, 10x, Q10 or even Q10x) on the first diamond. It would be a potentially lethal false card from Q10x and I suspect I’d take it at face value, playing West for DQ I’m not even sure I’ve seen that specific layout before.



bobbywolffMay 17th, 2019 at 11:30 am

Hi Iain,

Thanks, as usual, for taking up the column analysis, at a time when we had too little space left to simply explain what you, so accurately, did.

By doing your thoughtful deed, it, no doubt, cleared up the loose ends to achieve or not, the desired result, while at the same time, made this site special with the place to be.

I’d no doubt offer you a permanent job, if you would accept, plus even mention the possibility of paying you, unless, and of course, I ran out of space.

However, in any event, a profound, Thank You!