Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: N-S

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


South West North East
    Pass Pass
1 NT 2 * Dbl.** Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass
* Hearts and a minor    

Opening Lead: King

“Anger is never without an argument, but seldom with a good one.”

— Marquis of Halifax

Any contract that will make if a finesse succeeds cannot be considered hopeless. Sometimes, though, the auction will tell you that there has to be something better. Put yourself in South’s shoes and see if you can spot the improvement.


At the world championships held in Bermuda in 2000 when Denmark played Canada in the qualifying round of the Venice Cup, both declarers reached three no-trump and knew from the auction that the heart finesse would fail. They ducked the first two clubs, and worked out that West had the long club from the defenders’ signals.


They won the third club and decided against trying to find a doubleton J-10 or the heart king onside. Instead, they cashed the ace and king of diamonds, took two top spades, and exited with the fourth club. At this point West, with nothing but hearts left, had to lead into declarer’s A-Q, conceding the ninth trick.


As you can see, the natural play might be for declarer to win an early club and cash all the spade winners, but then there would be no way back to hand to endplay West in clubs. To succeed, declarer must find West with relatively short spades and diamonds. The auction has made that a virtual certainty since with nine cards in hearts and clubs, West could not have much room for length in either of the other suits.

ANSWER: If the opponents had not tipped you off to a likely bad break in hearts, you might have made a cue-bid of two diamonds to show a good raise in hearts. But the auction has suggested your hand will not be pulling its full weight, so maybe a simple if somewhat heavy raise to two hearts might now be more discreet.


South Holds:

Q J 5 4
9 8 6 5
A K 7
4 2


South West North East
  1 1 1 NT


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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitMay 1st, 2010 at 1:43 pm

You make a slight misstatement: South can win the first club, then run all the spades and diamonds, then lead dummy’s remaining club for the exact same endplay. I say “can” because, although true, this line of play works only because it is impossible for East to win a club trick. Give him as little as the club ten & this line doesn’t work.

Bobby WolffMay 2nd, 2010 at 1:17 am

Hi David,

At least to me, sometimes you might represent a consensus group of readers, who collectively would be asking the same question and wanting for me to be responsive. If the above is true, and for the type of setup we have here, you will be serving an important function for a large number of players.

As I am sure you know, and with the current hand as it is, you are correct, but as you say, ducking two clubs is not necessary, but it is the right technique to use when playing this hand. From my writer’s viewpoint I, of course can and will docter the hands so that usually the proper play is rewarded. Keeping that in mind and with your active imagination, you constantly serve as a poster child for making the right bid or play, and at the same time do not over burden anyone with too much science.

It is my hope that after some period of time, the players who not only read the daily column, but actually put some of themselves into the sometimes difficult learning process, will gradually (and it will never be fast) begin to better their overall game.

Assuming I am either right or close to right, I do appreciate your instructive role.