Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 20th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: South


10 8 5 3 2

K 10

J 10 9

A J 2


Q 7 4

9 8 7 6 4

K 6 2

Q 6



J 5 3 2

8 7 5 4

10 7 5 3


A K J 9


A Q 3

K 9 8 4


South West North East
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 6 All pass

Opening Lead: Heart nine

“When you can’t have what you choose, you just choose what you have.”

— Owen Wister

An unusual example of a choice of endplays came up at Honors Bridge Club in New York. You play six spades on a heart lead, win in hand with the ace, and lay down the two top trumps. If both opponents follow, you take both minor-suit finesses in normal fashion, but either opponent may have the guarded trump queen. Your continuation will depend on which defender it is.

If West were to discard (so that East had trump length), you would cross to the heart king and try to run three rounds of diamonds. With the finesse in diamonds succeeding, you can next endplay East with the spade queen for a lead back into your club tenace.

The more challenging lie of the cards to overcome is the one shown here. Again you win the heart lead in hand with the ace, bash out the top spades, and now need to take a view as to what to do. Best is to take the club finesse, cash the heart king and club ace, and when the club queen appears, you have a guess about your next move.

Since East has a singleton spade, you should play him for club length, so finesse the club nine, cash the club king, and exit with a trump. This endplays West to lead a diamond or give you a ruff and discard. If West has false-carded in clubs on the second round of the suit from Q-10-6, maybe he deserves to beat you!


South holds:

10 8 5 3 2
K 10
J 10 9
A J 2


South West North East
1 1
1 2 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: You have shown five spades already, and your partner’s double suggests extras with no easy call. Your intermediates are so good that it looks logical to take a shot at three no-trump. Even if partner has no heart guard, the chance of running the minor suits cannot be that bad.


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 GibsonJune 3rd, 2011 at 2:14 pm

HBJ : Beautiful hand which as usual requires careful thought and play. With spades breaking badly, the good news is the 2-2 heart position. An end play looks to be the way home. Yet it is crucial to get a diamond discard in on clubs first before the spade thrown in.

Obviously a 3-3 club break will work out fine, but similarly if the clubs break 4-2 both the queen and 10 need to be right.

BUT do declarers need RAW COURAGE to take on the club finesse given the class defenders will always play the queen on the next round of clubs since ” it is what they known to possess “…….even more so, when they also hold the 10 !

How good are the odds that East is left with two clubs, given West has 6 vacant spaces, while East has 7, to account for the missing 5H, 6D ( assuming East has thrown one ) and 2 clubs ?

jim2June 3rd, 2011 at 2:43 pm

At the table, I would have won the AH, played AS, then crossed to the KH for a second trump lead. In the column layout, it transposes to the column line when East shows out.

If East had followed, I would have played the JS. If that won (West showing out) I would draw last trump and play on the minors along the lines suggested in the column if there had been no trump loser.

If West won (trump 2-2), then many holdings and continuations let me gain something from that endplay.

Not sure how that compares with the column line, probability-wise.

jim2June 3rd, 2011 at 2:45 pm

(I meant to add that my line transposes to the column line when trump are 2-2 with the Q onside. Thus, the question involves a comparison of Qx – xx versus x – Qxx lines and continuation probabilities, and my head already hurts!)

bobbywolffJune 4th, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Hi HBJ and Jim2,

Between the two of you, you have described what needs to be and then left up to the individual declarer to make his critical choices.

The combination featuring missing 6 to the Q10 in the two defender’s hands and having the declarer having AJx in dummy and K9xx in hand is, as described, a fairly common one, and at the death, after the jack is successfully finessed and the queen comes tumbling down on the 2nd lead, what to do?

Perhaps the longest time I have ever taken as declarer, occurred at the 1983 WC’s in Stockholm, Sweden and while Bob Hamman and I were playing against Garozzo-Belladonna in the finals when I needed to guess that exact holding to make my game contract when Georgio’s (my LHO) queen fell underneath my dummy’s ace on the 2nd round of the suit. All I could do then was mentally reconstruct both of the defender’s hands with what I knew up to then in the play (they were in the bidding) to decide which of the combined holdings (3-3 or 4-2) were more likely with the actual bidding and the defense up to then (which sadly, at least to me, was basically non-descript). Fifteen minutes later I played and if I was to be truthful, it was, my judgment then and still is, at least a 95% straight guess.

The only constructive thing to come out of that episode was my dozing 87 year old father’s (who taught me the game) remark while watching, sitting with my then wife, Debby, in the view-graph room, “Robert better guess this one right since he will have no excuse for not, after taking all this time”.

The excitement and unparalleled mind exercises which are ever present in legitimate bridge confrontations would probably be my number one thrill in describing our off the charts game and only wish that every bridge lover, winning or losing, could feel those challenges first hand.

Getting back to Jim2, his head hurting, merely reminded me of past experiences leaving my advice to him: after certain prolonged thought, if nothing emerges as clear-cut, follow your instincts, accept the result and move on. Anything different from that may be mind unhealthy.

And now for me, it is off to Detroit to play in the Senior Trials.