Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All

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


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
6 All Pass    

Opening Lead:5

“Beware of desp’rate steps! The darkest day

(Live till tomorrow) will have passed away.”

— William Cowper

Today’s deal is from a recent major invitational teams event. If you reach six spades and the defenders do not lead hearts, then you will surely play on clubs after drawing trumps and will probably regret you did not play the grand slam.


On a heart lead things are more complex. After two top spades show the 4-1 split, you discard any thoughts of an endplay. You simply draw trumps, duck a heart, ruff the return, then cash a couple of top diamonds from hand.


The fall of the diamond 10 on your right gives you a real problem — you are now faced with a choice of approaches. Should you cash the diamond king, planning to fall back on the club finesse if diamonds do not break? This gives you about a two-thirds chance of success (basically 3-3 diamonds plus half the balance). Or should you rely on finessing the diamond nine? The chance that East has a doubleton honor compared to J-10-x is also about two to one. That is because there are twice as many doubleton-honor holdings as there are three-card holdings to the J-10. A third approach would be to cash the club A-K and then fall back on diamonds — the problem here being that a truly devious East might have false-carded in diamonds from J-10-8-7.


My gut reaction is that the first line is best. Opinions differ here, but since at least two world-class players disagreed (and went down), I’d better not say that too loud.

ANSWER: I can see a case, of sorts, being made for a minimum action in spades, no-trump or clubs. With better spades and worse hearts, one spade with the three-card suit might easily be right; a two-club call suggests, strongly, holding 5-4 in the minors, so is unattractive. That leaves a call of one no-trump, which at least limits the hand — never a bad thing.


South Holds:

10 8 4
K 9 5 2
K J 8 6


South West North East
1 1 Dbl. 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