Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday July 21st, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: South


Q 9 8 7 4

A 9 2

10 4

K 8 2



K Q 10 6

K Q 7 2

J 7 5 4


K 10 5 3 2

J 7 5 4

J 9 3




8 3

A 8 6 5

A Q 10 9 6


South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 NT All pass

Opening Lead: Heart queen

“And none can read the text, not even I;

And none can read the comment but myself.”

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Try to familiarize yourself with your opponents’ carding methods. Nevena Senior did so to her advantage on this deal.

The popular contract was three no-trump declared by South, most commonly on the lead of a top heart and continuation. Most declarers correctly won the third heart, then took the spade finesse. Next, they played the club ace and a club to the king, but when it turned out that West had the guarded club jack, eight tricks was the limit.

Senior, too, ducked the first two hearts and won the third, reading the suit to be 4-4 when East encouraged at the first trick but had not produced the jack. She continued with the spade finesse, and next cashed the ace, in case East had started with the doubleton king. When West discarded a diamond on the second spade, declarer paused to regroup.

Had West held five diamonds, she felt that it was at least possible that he would have preferred that attack initially, so she placed him with four of these as well. That left four spaces in West’s hand, which had to be filled by clubs.

So, Senior cashed a top club in hand to cater for a singleton jack with East, then successfully finessed dummy’s club eight. After cashing the king, she returned to her hand with the diamond ace and ran the clubs for nine tricks and her contract, as well as most of the matchpoints.


South holds:

8 3
A 8 6 5
A Q 10 9 6


South West North East
1 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: Partner’s rebid does not guarantee six spades, but the more space he has to introduce a second suit at the two-level or bid two no-trump, the more likely it is that a rebid shows six, not a good five-carder. However, you do not really care either way. A simple forcing raise to three spades describes this hand well enough. If you play that sequence as nonforcing, bid three diamonds to create a force.


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


Bruce KarlsonAugust 5th, 2011 at 1:06 am

From the cheap seats: After taking the AK of hearts, I “know” that declarer started with 2 spades and 2 hearts. Given the auction, partner’s cards will probably not add up to an entry. Ergo, I lead the diamond K to set up the Q and then push out the heart A. that puts the setting trick in my hand, hopefully.

Sra. Senior beats it but I think I am no worse off. Is this line inferior to simply pushing out the heart A?

Bruce KarlsonAugust 5th, 2011 at 10:18 am

Obviously, I meant the KQ of hearts…

Bobby WolffAugust 5th, 2011 at 11:23 am

Hi Bruce,

Obviously, from a business point of view, the management needs to raise the cost of those heretofore “cheap seats”.

You are growing (by bounds and leaps) and doing so in the most difficult part of the game, defense.

To analyze your analysis you have decided that:

1. Your partner has 4 hearts to the Jack since declarer, by his play to trick 2, denied the Jack.

2. The bidding suggested that declarer also had only a doubleton spade, since with 3 and particularly with only 2 small hearts he would have opted to seek the safety of his 8 card spade fit and returned to 4 spades over partner’s rebid of 3NT.

3. Ergo, you are suggesting a winning switch to the King of Diamonds, which upon finding partner with the Jack might ward off the bogey man (declarer sleuthing out the 4-1 club break and, of course, acting on it, by boldly finessing the 10).

Not so elementary, my dear Bruce, and indeed brilliant…..however, what if, (from West’s perch) declarer had 5 diamonds to the AJ98 and to compensate, no Jack of spades, nor 109 of clubs.

None of the above takes even a smidgen away from your effort, despite this being an actual hand, guessed wrong (as pointed out by you), by the defense and right by the declarer, Sra. Senior.

Thanks for your contribution to bridge analysis. The bad news for you is that the cost of your season seats have risen, to keep up with your ever increasing knowledge.

Jeff SAugust 5th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I love that switch even knowing there is no way I would have arrived there on my own. Or, maybe, especially knowing I would not have. The sad part is that I am pretty sure it would never have occurred to me that South would work out the bad club split to begin with!

The good part is that my seat should remain cheap for the moment.

Bobby WolffAugust 5th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Sometimes we are victimized by illusions, visualized after the fact.

At the table, and on defense with only your hand and the dummy in view, it is close to impossible, as on this column hand, to visualize declarer’s actual exact hand (particularly the 10, 9 of clubs) which make a possible club finesse available.

The above fact is the principle reason that excellent “napkin players” (theoretical situations) usually do not succeed mightily in real action.

It is one thing for an art lover to be able to recognize genius, but quite another thing to accomplish it himself. The good news is that this advice is all part of the “expert” learning process and you, too, can still succeed, but it is necessary for you to understand the difference, making the moment to which you refer, likely fleeting.