Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: Neither


A Q 10 8 6

9 8

Q J 8

Q 4 2


7 3

A J 6 5 3 2

6 3

10 7 3


K J 5

Q 4

K 4 2

J 9 8 6 5


9 4 2

K 10 7

A 10 9 7 5



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

Opening Lead: Heart Five

“There are occasions when it is undoubtedly better to incur loss than to make gain.”

— Plautus

Let’s see how imaginative you are. Look at all four hands in the diagrammed deal and try to figure out how South went down in three no-trump. Bear in mind that South was an expert player and was unlikely to do anything absurd.


On West’s low heart lead against three no-trump, East played the queen and South had to win the king. South decided to live or die by the diamond finesse and not mess with the spades. Going for five tricks in spades, necessary if hearts were not 4-4, would require West to have both spade honors.


Accordingly, South cashed the two top clubs, then crossed to the spade ace to take the diamond finesse. But a funny thing happened on the way to that finesse, East dropped the spade king under the ace!


Now who can blame South for thinking that it would be safer to play West for the spade jack than East for the diamond king? After all, if South can score five spade tricks, he doesn’t need the diamond finesse. South crossed to the diamond ace and ran the spade nine. Shock! East won the jack, returned a heart, and six tricks later (the opponents were able to cash five more hearts and the diamond king, plus the spade jack), South wound up down three!


East had visualized declarer’s problem and gave him a losing option. South swallowed the bait.


South Holds:

A Q 10 8 6
9 8
Q J 8
Q 4 2


South West North East
ANSWER: Although South’s hand is a normal overcall of one diamond, you should pass over a pre-empt in direct seat (though you might act in balancing seat). The drawbacks to acting with marginal values when relatively long in your opponent’s suit are obvious — and not just that you might run into a penalty. Your partner will certainly expect you to be stronger or more offensively suitable than this.


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