Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W

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


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 4 Pass
5 Pass 6 Pass
7 All Pass    

Opening Lead:7

“As for life, it is a battle and a sojourning in a strange land; but the fame that comes after is oblivion.”

— Marcus Aurelius

The Home International Series in Great Britain and Ireland used to be dominated by England. But these days Ireland has become the favorite. Today’s deal from a recent match between England and Scotland accounted for a 20-IMP swing in favor of the latter.


Both North-Souths reached the good seven hearts. The Scottish declarer received a diamond lead to his ace. He cashed the club ace, ruffed a club, ruffed a diamond, and ruffed another club. When clubs did not break, he chose to ruff three clubs in the dummy, playing either for trumps to break 2-2 or for the 10 to fall singleton — a successful line.


The English declarer received a trump lead. Now, although the prospect of a trump loser shrank considerably, he could no longer ruff three clubs in the dummy. In the event, he won in hand, played the club ace, ruffed a club, came back to hand with the diamond ace, and ruffed a club. Now he knew that clubs were not breaking, but the spade blockage meant that he could not take advantage of the favorable position of the spade king.


A better line would have been to cash both the ace and king of clubs at tricks two and three. Now ruff a club, discovering the bad news. Ruff a diamond back to hand and play the spade queen. When it holds, ruff another club, cash the spade ace while discarding a club, and the grand slam is made.

ANSWER: I’m not sure a call of three hearts does justice to this hand. If the hand opposite has the missing major-suit honors, you are cold for game in either major. I would jump to four hearts, assuming that partner will know to go back to spades if he has four-card support.


South Holds:

A J 6 4 2
K J 3
7 6 5 2


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


David WarheitApril 13th, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Seems to me the best line is: win the opening lead cheaply, cash aces of clubs and diamonds & ruff a club. Then ruff a diamond & ruff a club. If clubs break, ruff a diamond (or spade ace and spade ruff), draw trump and claim. If they don’t, ruff a diamond & run trumps, succeeding if west has king of spades and 5 diamonds or if either opponent has king of spades with long clubs. This line of play works (west has spade king & 5 diamonds).

Bobby WolffApril 14th, 2010 at 12:49 am

Hi David,

You are probably correct in spite of the lesser than 50% chance that the king of spades will be with the long diamonds or clubs. 7 adverse cards are split 5-2 or worse over 37% of the time and if so, the king of spades being with the 5 card or longer adverse hand is probably less than 40% since the short minor suit hand has more room in it (ratio about 11 to 8) to hold the king of spades. Therefore a straight spade finesse after finding the bad break probably figures out to be about 50%. (add that to the normal 4-3 club break and odds for success probably reach slightly over 80%. Please, somebody else do the math, but my gut feel suggests that it is close. Even though one doesn’t immediately jump to being a great player by knowing high level bridge tested arithmetic, possibly the real litmus test is rather the enjoyment of theoretically or actually determining at least close to the right odds. In other words, show me a person who enjoys this kind of exercise and I’ll show you one who has the potential to be very good. One then has to add a large dose of common sense and by George we might have it or at least be on the way.

Thanks David for your always useful input.

David WarheitApril 14th, 2010 at 6:07 am

Either line of play works if clubs break, so in comparing the two lines we can simply assume that they do not. The suggested line works if the spade finesse works, which is, of course, 50%, since we don’t know going in which player will be long in clubs. My line of play will work a) if either player has club length & the king of spades, which as you state is about 8/19 or a little over 40%, or b) if west has king of spades and long clubs. Well, half of the remaining time (1/2 of 60% or 30%) west will have the length in clubs, and about 8/19 or 40% of that time he will also have the king of spades. 40% of 30% is 12%; add this to the 40% and you get about 52%, which is better than the straight finesse (50%). Not by much, but every little bit helps.

Bobby WolffApril 14th, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Hi David,

First, thanks for doing the math. It is real positive human nature to enjoy doing something one is talented in doing. Since you fit the mold and if my hypothesis is correct, you have potential to be very good and I, for one, have no reason to think that you are not well on your way, if not already there.

If you then add bridge common sense, either acquired or already developed, all that remains necessary is for you to be dealt the time and wearwithall to take full advantage of a love for the greatest game ever invented, to be quite simply enjoyed by you for the rest of your life. Welcome to a worthwhile challenge to be forever cherished.

Also, since you always add so much to all who read what you say, DO NOT STOP BLOGGING!