Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: E-W



Q 7 2

J 7 4 2

K Q 9 6 3


10 8 6 3


A K 9 5 3

10 4 2


9 7 5 2

A J 9

Q 10 8 6



A Q J 4

K 10 8 6 4 3

8 7 5


South West North East
1 Pass 3 Pass
4 All Pass

Opening Lead: King

“There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else.”

— James Thurber

Terence Reese is generally considered to have been the master of bridge writing. It is not just that he wrote so beautifully, but that he was the clearest expositor of what had hitherto been uncovered territory. In his book “Master Play,” which was published over 50 years ago, he brought many new ideas to the attention of the general public, including the following deal.


When a declarer has to choose between taking a finesse and playing for the drop, his decision is often determined by tactical considerations, rather than by his estimate of how the cards lie. This often happens in the trump suit, when declarer does not mind losing a finesse so long as the trumps are breaking evenly.


Playing in four hearts, South ruffed the diamond lead and led a low heart to dummy’s heart queen. East won with the heart ace and returned a diamond. South ruffed, played a spade to the dummy’s king and returned a heart, going up with the king. A club was led to dummy; East won and cashed the good heart jack. Another club had to be lost and South was one down.


The safety play was to finesse the heart 10 on the second round of trumps. If it lost to the jack, then three clubs in dummy could be thrown on spades and the losing club could be ruffed. South was defeated because he allowed East to draw the third trump.


South Holds:

K 7 4
K 9 7 5 2
Q 5
J 9 5


South West North East
1 2 Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT All Pass
ANSWER: Although hearts are your best suit, partner had the chance to raise them, but did not do so. That makes it relatively unlikely that you can set up and establish the suit. A better bet must be to find your partner with a decent spade suit, so lead a low spade and hope for the best.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John Howard GibsonFebruary 2nd, 2011 at 11:41 am

HBJ : Why not after diamond ruff, play to spade King, back across to hand with second diamond ruff, cash top spades pitching 3 clubs. THEN PLAY A CLUB. Once in dummy with a club…… a heart return to hand restricts heart losers to two. Contract made. …………………..surely ?

bobbywolffFebruary 2nd, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Hi Howard,

As Henry (or was it Enry) Higgins once said to Liza Doolittle, “You’ve got it, by George you’ve got it”.

Although this column was created to suggest to the reader that sometimes percentages become unimportant to decision making, since, as in this case, the declarer will finesse the 2d trump, not caring whether it wins or loses.

Your line would work, but it might be possible that an opponent (East) might win the ace of clubs and then shoot back a club, causing a sticky situation, regarding a spade break and the ability to get back to hand before dummy’s clubs can get discarded.

The many faceted game which we play causes not only the players, but also the columnists, to be short (word limit) and hoped for sweet, in our execution.

Thanks for writing and whether it is the rain in Spain staying mainly on the plain or making 10 tricks in hearts, without innovators like you, all eager to learn bridge players would not fare as well.

Wink AndresFebruary 2nd, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Re:Feb 2nd column – 6D N/S

I believe you can make 6NT on a club/heart squeeze against west as long as you duck a spade early to rectify the count.

jim2February 3rd, 2011 at 2:04 pm

The Reese line seems best, but declarer might decide that West’s lead shows a diamond suit headed by the AK(Q) and thus both other aces must be with East. If so, declarer could cross to the spade king at Trick 2, lead a low trump (through East’s ace) to the king, and then simply abandon trumps.

This line would concede tricks to the trump ace and jack, and to the club ace, but there is no fourth trick available for the defense. For example, East cannot win the club ace and play trump without giving up the second trump trick in return for preventing the club ruff.

Reese’s line is better, though, since it protects against an improbably timid West. 😉

bobbywolffFebruary 4th, 2011 at 1:37 pm

To Wink and Jim2,

Gremlins, in the form of the two week delay from the actual 2/2/11 column to the one up on the internet dated 2/2/11, have wrecked havoc on our back and forth discussions. Since my information is based on what I see before me on the internet, I must choose to wait until 2/16/11 for two reasons:

1. It would require me to keep better records and to be more thoroughly organized than I am, but even more importantly,

2. Our discussion would deprive our (hoped for) rather large world wide internet group, which enjoys listening to the hand back and forth possibilities, the personal involvement they deserve.

I apologize to the in the know group (the ones who are looking at their newspaper’s print-out) for not carrying on, but I hope you understand.

jim2February 4th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

My comment was directed at your blog hand above.

bobbywolffFebruary 4th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, of course you were discussing the Reese hand from “Master Play”.

Sorry for my jumping to the wrong conclusion, without first counting the hand or at least considering the evidence.

I’ll be more careful in the future.