Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: Both

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


South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: 3

“Love sounds the alarm, and Fear is a-flying.”

— John Gay

How should you play three no-trump on the lead of a low heart? This is a difficult card to parse. It could be from four hearts or five, so you really have no indication how to tackle the diamonds. At matchpoints your approach would be very different from that at teams since your target is not the same. At matchpoints, although you want to make your contract, your real desire is to take more tricks than the other Souths. If one time in 10 you go down, and nine times in 10 you get your overtrick, that is a fair return on your investment.


By contrast, at teams (and especially at rubber bridge) you would rather follow as safe a line as possible to make your contract; the overtricks rarely matter over the course of a long match.


So at pairs you win the heart lead, play a diamond to the ace, and cash the diamond king. If the queen falls doubleton (as it will about a quarter of the time), you take five diamond tricks instead of four.


Conversely, at teams you cash the diamond ace, noting the fall of the nine on your right, and you drop the eight. You now lead a diamond toward your jack. This protects you against a 4-1 break on either your left or right. As the cards lie, your jack will lose to the queen, but when you regain the lead, you can finesse in diamonds against West and run the suit.

ANSWER: Did you look for some heroic action to catch up in the auction? That is unnecessary; simply respond one diamond. If your partner passes, you will not have missed a game. If your partner bids on, you will get a chance to describe your hand, knowing quite a lot more than you do at the moment.


South Holds:

10 5 3
9 6
A K 7 6 5
K J 5


South West North East
Pass Pass 1 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


Jim PriebeApril 20th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Wolff is today’s most lucid writer on bridge matters.

Paul BetheApril 20th, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Of course, if South had AKx of clubs, and north xxx, without an entry to dummy the best play in diamonds for 5 tricks is to run the Jack to pin stiff T or 9.

Bobby WolffApril 21st, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Hi Jim,

Thank you for your very kind remark. Since there are some extraordinarily talented bridge writers out there, my staff and I are very appreciative of your judgment.

We hope to maintain the lofty position you choose for us, continue to sing about the wonders of the game itself, and try to improve the active ethics required to play it honorably. Even with all the moving parts involved, we will fight hard to keep the stealthy gremlins away from invading and therefore confusing our efforts.

It is actively involved people like you, as well as all others who daily enjoy our column, that we want to write for and give our best.

Much thanks and God bless!

Bobby WolffApril 21st, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Hi Paul,

I agree with your suggestion about running the Jack of diamonds and then after getting it covered and downing the 10 or the 9 from East repeating the finesse, playing for East to have started with a singleton. If that fails, with East having falsecarded with 10, 9, and another or merely just 10, 9 doubleton, we could still play for the ace of spades to be on side.

All of the above to cater to dummy not having entries to dummy other than diamonds. Certainly playing it your way is more likely than East originally holding 10, 9 doubleton, if only because of the law of restricted choice, which simply stated is that when a player plays a certain card when there are equals possibly available, it is more likely that he did not have the card he could have played in his hand to start with.

Thanks for the extra tidbit to consider and, of course, the learning experience.