Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 1, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: None

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


South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead:Q

“To see what is front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

— George Orwell

As George Orwell nearly said in “Animal Farm,” “All finesses are equal but some are more equal than others.”


When you play three no-trump today after a Stayman inquiry, West leads from his heart sequence, and you hold up your ace for one round and win the next heart. Now your contract hinges on a diamond finesse or a club finesse; if one works and the other does not, your play will be critical to the success or failure of the contract.


You can either toss a coin or choose the suit that has been luckier for you in the past…. Only kidding!


The right way to play the hand is to take advantage of both suits if you can. Since you cannot take both finesses simultaneously, you need to fall back on the only way you can exploit both suits without giving up the lead. Instead of finessing in one suit, you play off your top cards in that suit, and if you have no joy there, you take the finesse in the other suit. So which is the correct suit with which to start? Diamonds, of course.


Since you have eight diamonds, the chance that the queen will drop in two rounds is almost one in three. If the diamonds disappoint you, you must play on clubs, running the nine, then the jack. But if, as here, the diamond queen falls, you can scamper home with your nine top tricks, since you no longer need the club finesse.

ANSWER: On slow auctions of this sort, there is a case for going passive — particularly if you think the cards are lying badly for declarer. But, while I would never lead a club on this auction, I would prefer a heart lead to a spade lead. For all you know, a spade lead may just as easily be playing into declarer’s suit as a heart. And the rewards of leading a long suit are more tangible.


South Holds:

8 7 2
Q 8 3 2
K 4 2
K Q 4


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


Paul BetheMarch 15th, 2010 at 6:13 pm

An interesting question that arises here:

Do you play a diamond to the Ace, then King, or King then to the Ace.

If low to the Ace, and LHO produces the T, do you now follow restricted choice, and run the 9?

Similarly, if you cash the King first and RHO produces the T, do you hook the 9?

The answer is no. Thanks to restricted choice, we know that the independent probability that the Ten was stiff is higher than the opponent holding QT doubleton, but only very slightly.

But the combined probability of finding one of: QT, or K of clubs onside is still higher than the Ten having been stiff (if your hook loses, you are down).

David WarheitMarch 16th, 2010 at 6:38 am

Good comment, Paul, but you omitted one possibility: south cashes the king and east plays the queen! Now what do you do? He could be falsecarding with queen-ten doubleton. Hmmm.

Bobby WolffMarch 16th, 2010 at 11:07 am

Hi Paul and David,

This conversation allows a summary, which in turn I think will dispel an important characteristic concerning restricted choice. Paul, when a player has a reason to choose a specific card, such as East would have, to play the 10 from Q10x, when and if declarer would opt to first lead the King from hand leaving Ace, nine of diamonds in dummy, restricted choice would never apply, since the accepted premise regarding restricted choice is that the player playing, usually defending, has his choice of equals, so that he is without motive by choosing one or the other. In this specific example East should definitely play the 10, just to create a possibility that declarer will fall for the ruse.

David, your example has more practical and media value, if only because it is more SHOCKING, but in reality, restricted choice still would not apply (because of the above caveat), but the declarer is more likely to fall for it with East holding Q10 or even Q10x (with, of course the club finesse working) if only because of the very quick witted and right to the point false card involved. Is bridge a great game, or what???????

It is times like this, when I really miss the special thrill of competing against the best. As to the most likely lifetime opponent who would be capable of falsecarding the Q without pause I would choose Benito Garozzo as the most likely with runner-ups Giorgio Belladonna (deceased), Tim Seres (deceased), Bob Hamman, Zia and present day Jeff Meckstroth in the mix. My sincere apologies to others who may belong in this group, but not identified by me.

Paul BetheMarch 16th, 2010 at 4:22 pm


Good point about QTx.

I was referring to QT versus stiff T (or stiff Q). If the defender believes that you are planning to play K then A, (especially if they do not hold the club K), from their perspective, the Q and T are equals. Therefore restricted choice can apply.

However you point out that some great players might falsecard from the above, to goad declarer into the losing option.