Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: All

A 10
A 9 8 5 3
5 4 2
K 7 5
West East
Q 9 8 4 3 6 5 2
K 10 6 J 4
A 9 6 K Q J 10 8 7 3
9 8 3
K J 7
Q 7 2
A Q J 10 6 4 2


South West North East
1 1 Dbl. 2
3 Pass 3 4
5 5 6 All Pass

Opening Lead:A

“A word to the wise is enough, and many words won’t fill a bushel.”

— Benjamin Franklin

One of the delights of VuGraph commentating is spotting a beautiful deal and watching it unfold before your eyes. However, seeing it reach the critical point and then watching declarer fail is frustrating.


Such a hand arose in round 16 of the Open Championships during the match between Germany and England. I was a little surprised that West elected to pass South’s opening bid. A one-spade overcall would have been reasonable — although it would not have been a good idea today.


Declarer and the audience spotted the problem in six clubs relatively quickly. How does South avoid two heart losers? A simple way is to lead up to the heart queen, but the auction made that relatively unattractive. An alternative approach is to take what Gabriel Chagas dubbed the intrafinesse: lead a heart to your seven to drive out the jack or 10, then advance the queen from your hand to pin the remaining intermediate honor on your right.


Both declarers had the chance to make this play, but the English declarer’s opening bid was not overcalled, so he had less information than the declarer in the closed room. Though he thought for a long time (indicating that he clearly understood his options for the intrafinesse), he eventually played up to the heart queen and went down.


In the other room the English West had made a one-spade overcall, giving declarer all the information he needed. Michael Gromoeller showed why Germany led their qualifying group — he played the hearts perfectly to make his slam.

ANSWER: A double from you now would show extras and ask your partner to describe his hand more fully. There is a case for assuming your side is unlikely to make game and that your best chance to go plus would be to defend three diamonds. But I’d still be looking to make game somewhere here.


South Holds:

A 10
A 9 8 5 3
5 4 2
K 7 5


South West North East
    1 2
2 3 Pass 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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


GalSeptember 13th, 2009 at 7:03 am

After the 1 spade overcall it’s perfectly reasonable to eliminate diamonds while taking the spade finesse. And then play the hearts either ace and another or playing the heart queen. Only the latter works this case. The former only works if the heart ace is cashed early and east fails to unblock.Another interesting variation is to discard a diamond on the spade king before the second trump is cashed (if spades is fairly sure to be 33) and then enter dummy with the club king for a heart to the seven combining intra finesse with elimination.

Cheers, Gal

Bobby WolffSeptember 14th, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Hi Gal,

Nice analysis. I choose your interesting variation to be the most likely successful line since West, rather than East, is morally bound to hold the heart King. However sometimes bridge players, like romantic rogues, do not live up to their moral obligations. We can then sue West for alienation of bridge affection for not finding room to house Mr. Heart King in her not so otherwise lovely bridge hand. Oh well, all’s fair in bridge, love and war!