Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 30, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: N/S

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


South West North East
1 Pass 4* Pass
4 NT Pass 5 Pass
6 All Pass    
*Splinter; short diamonds, setting hearts as trumps

Opening Lead:Q

“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.”

— James Allen

When South (playing a weak no-trump) opened one heart, North responded four diamonds, showing a singleton or void in diamonds, plus primary heart support in a game-going hand. South optimistically bid Roman Key-Card Blackwood. The five-club reply showed one key card — in this case either the ace or king of hearts.


South subsided in six hearts and West led the diamond queen. Declarer won this with the ace, then advanced the heart jack. East took his ace and returned a diamond, ruffed in dummy. A heart to the queen pulled the last trump, then South ruffed his last diamond.


Declarer could count 11 tricks, so it appeared that a black-suit finesse would be needed for the 12th. But which? The flimsy basis was that West had one fewer heart than East, and so was likely to have spade length if they broke 4-2. Since the queen was likelier to be with the longer holding, that was the finesse South took and went one down. Was this unlucky, or did declarer miss something? The answer is: a little of both.


Declarer has seven cards in spades and only five in clubs and wants to combine his black-suit chances by playing for the drop in one suit, then finessing in the other. If a queen is singleton or doubleton, it is more likely to be in spades. So, take the spade ace and king first, and if the queen fails to appear, the club finesse is the last resort.

ANSWER: It is perfectly acceptable to open one notrump with a balanced hand and a five-card major in the range of 15-16. With a 17-count you normally have discretion as to whether to open the suit or one notrump. The point is that if you do not open one notrump, you will never be able to describe your shape and these values.


South Holds:

A 7 6
Q J 9 7 6
A 10 6
A 8


South West North East


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