Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 26, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: All

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


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

Opening Lead: 2

“Thou whom chance may hither lead

Be thou clad in russet weed,

Be thou decked in silken stole,

Grave these counsels on thy soul.”

— Robert Burns

To mark the Summer Nationals now taking place in New Orleans, all the deals this week come from last summer’s championships.


After East’s reasonable but ill-timed overcall, North-South were warned against playing three no-trump. Indeed, declarer, Eric Leong, had already assured himself a reasonable result simply by playing five clubs.


East-West were using third-and-fifth leads. On the lead of the heart two, East won the jack and played a top heart. Leong ruffed, then guessed very well to play trumps from the top. West won the club queen — dummy pitching the heart queen and East the heart ace — and exited with a heart.


Leong ruffed, advanced the diamond jack to dummy’s king, cashed the diamond ace (noting the fall of the nine), then ran the diamond 10, pitching a spade, and claimed 11 tricks when it held.


In retrospect, East should have found the spade switch at trick two. While this might have picked up a vulnerable queen in partner’s hand, declarer was surely marked with only four spades — so dummy’s threatening diamond spots required a spade shift at trick two to dislodge that entry from dummy.


If East shifts to a spade, then either declarer will give up dummy’s spade entry at once, or West will dislodge it later.


Finally, might West have considered a devious shift to the spade jack at trick six? If declarer gets that right and works out how to play diamonds from there, good luck to him!

ANSWER: I’m not convinced that a club lead is right with such a weak suit. The auction suggests partner has four decent hearts, so maybe it is right to lead the heart 10, hoping to get on lead again in spades for a second heart play, if necessary.


South Holds:

Q 9
10 9 5
J 7 5 3
10 7 5 2


South West North East
  1 Dbl. 1
Pass 2 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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


bruce karlsonAugust 9th, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Doctor Wolff-

I think there is a slight probability advantage to Leong’s very nice play in trumps and diamonds:

33% the diamonds split 3/3, 66%/2 (33%) the queen is with East. Roughly 66% chance that his approach will prove correct.

The decision as to who holds the trump Q appears to me to be a complete guess. Ergo there is a 40% chance that the trump Q falls in two rounds as opposed to a 50% chance that the finesse is on.

I hesitate to write a probability number as I barely got through “B” school due to poor quantitative skills. It does appear, however, that Leong may have based his decision on a probability advantage.

Please be kind if this is totally dopey…

bobbywolffAugust 9th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Hi Bruce,

Rather than this hand being about percentages, Eric’s crucial diamond guess was about reconstruction.

Since both East and West chose to be barking dogs rather than quiet “pussy cats” let us examine closely. Would West, by his lead of the deuce of hearts (almost certainly playing 3d and 5th, but, no doubt, disclosed on their convention card) choose to jump to 3 hearts vulnerable with either (1) ??xx, xxx, Qxx, Qxx or with (2) ??, xxxxx, Qxx, Qxx, leaving his partner East with either (1) ??, AKJxxx, xxx, xx or (2) ??xx, AKJx, xxx, xx.

Next consider would West then lead a small heart from 3 small if hand #1 existed rather than his top heart holding only 3 small and jump raising? “No”, so let’s eliminate hand #1 from consideration. Hand # 2, in order to have occurred, would suggest that both East and West had become kamikaze in spirit with neither hand measuring up to its vulnerable bidding, especially the iniitial overcaller, East, by his having 3 small in his RHO’s’ opening bid. “Almost never done”, could be the words mentioned by an astute South in his measured judgment.

Therefore in the possible words of Sherlock to his trusted partner, “Watson, when one eliminates the impossible from consideration, whatever is left, however improbable, is the answer”.

No, even if you were part of Snow White’s entourage you would not be “Dopey”, but instead possibly be “Sleepy” if you mis-guessed (although, yes, that is a slightly euphemistic appraisal).

As always, “Thanks, Bruce”, without your industry we would never have anything of bridge substance to talk about.