Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 18th, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: East-West


A Q 3

J 10

A Q 8 5

Q 9 7 6


8 7 5 4 2

A 7 6 5

10 5 3 2


K 9 6

K 9 8 4 3 2

10 9



J 10


K J 7 6 4 3 2

A 8 4


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

Opening Lead: Ace

“And now (as oft in some distempered state),

On one nice trick depends the gen’ral fate.

An ace of hearts steps forth ….”

— Alexander Pope

One exciting round in the finals of the NEC tournament last year in Yokohama pitted two of the top Italians against four of their regular teammates on the national team. 

Both tables played five diamonds. For the Zimmermann squad, Fulvio Fantoni unerringly put his fingers on a spade lead. Nunes won the king and shifted to hearts, and the deal was over; down one. 

In the other room for the Lavazza team, Norberto Bocchi led the heart ace, knowing South had no major-suit stops. Agustin Madala encouraged the lead; but was that the right thing to do? Perhaps he should have seen that a spade shift might be necessary. Bocchi continued hearts and Pierre Zimmermann ruffed, knowing that if the spade finesse worked, he would have no problem making the hand. To increase his chances, Zimmermann correctly decided to play on clubs before taking the spade finesse. 

The extra chance of giving up a club after drawing trumps was the hope that either defender had a doubleton club king or that East would be awkwardly placed on winning the trick. Accordingly, he ducked a club to Madala. Then he could win the spade return before crossing to the club ace at trick nine. Had the club king not fallen, declarer would have played off his trumps and taken the spade finesse. When the king popped up, declarer could claim without needing the spade finesse. Very nicely done.


South Holds:

8 7 5 4 2
A 7 6 5
10 5 3 2


South West North East
1 2 Pass
3 3 Pass Pass
ANSWER: You may have only a four-count, but you appear to have a useful hand on offense. You need to weigh the chances that the opponents can make five diamonds against your chances of competing in clubs. With a side-ace and a trump void, take your chances they can’t make game, so compete to four clubs.


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 GibsonMarch 4th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

HBJ : a lovely example of having both a plan A and a plan B to see the contract home.

I love to see examples like this where the finesse option is put onto the back burner, and although the play for a doubleton king in clubs may be poor odds, trying plan A first does give you that extra chance. But does it work if West has kx ? Say the duck goes to East’s 10 , now setting up the Ace to fell the king and dummy’s queen as a winner….. but not the remaining club in dummy.

On the actual layout it really did pay big dividends. Mind you declarer still needed a finesse on clubs through West’s remaining 105 to set up a spade discard. Contract making on 7 diamonds ( including ruff) 1S and 3C.

jim2March 4th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

You said that Nunes won the spade king and returned a heart, but you did not specify what card was played from dummy. If it was the queen (with declarer following with the 10), then Nunes’ play looks even better. If it was the trey, the declarer did not give himself much of a chance.

When I attempted this hand as declarer with a spade lead, I decided the king had to be wrong and played the ace, pitching the jack, and led small towards my hand as though to ruff (perhaps to try a trump finesse). If Nunes had found the king then, it would have been a better play yet!

bobbywolffMarch 7th, 2011 at 1:39 pm


As always, thanks for going beyond the original analysis and discussing other alternatives.

Since the playing and defending of many bridge hands allows for different thoughts, you have a panoramic view, which make all of us pause.

Keem ’em coming.

bobbywolffMarch 7th, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

First pardon the interruption as I have been out of town for a few days.

Your attempted deception (up with the ace of spades, dropping the jack from hand, and then continuing a low spade), might work, but if partner led his 4th best lead, assuming their partnership is leading 4th best, should tell his partner, Nunes, since it was the four which was led, with the three visible in dummy that partner could not have more than 5 spades, meaning that declarer has at least 2, making a non-finesse suspicious. This does not mean that many 3rd seat defenders might not fall for the ruse, but also how can declarer just assume that the king was not being led from?

All the above suggest that bridge is, at the very least, greatly thought provoking and worth considering.

We always appreciate your comments.