Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: East-West


J 8 2

K Q 3

K Q J 2

8 5 3


6 4 3

A 10 7 5

9 6 4

K 9 6


Q 10

J 8 6 2

A 10 8 7

J 7 4


A K 9 7 5

9 4

5 3

A Q 10 2


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

Opening Lead: Heart Ace

“Opinion is ultimately determined by the feelings, and not by the intellect.”

— Herbert Spencer

Sometimes you just have a feeling, as Fredrik Nystrom did on this deal from the second qualifying session of the Nail Life Master Open Pairs from Orlando last fall. But it is hard to avoid following the percentages.


Before we start to analyze the deal, what do you think would happen to North-South in their game contract here? The room was split between the North-South pairs playing three no-trump and those playing four spades. At no-trump North rates to take nine or 10 tricks on the likely defense of repeated heart leads. In the major-suit game, the defenders should collect one trick in each side suit. Can they do better?


Although they are not really entitled to more than three tricks, the defenders can give themselves a fighting chance of more if East works out to follow with the spade queen on the first round of the suit! Could you blame South for then leading a spade to dummy’s eight, expecting the queen to be singleton?


Ron Smith of San Francisco found this play against Nystrom and, despite declarer’s suspicions, followed the percentage play of finessing on the grounds, perhaps, that if he was wrong, at least he would make the newspaper, albeit as the victim, not the hero!


For the record, David Caprera and Brian Glubok made the same play with the same result at another table. The play is not entirely without risk, but then again, you can’t make an omelet without breaking the odd egg or two.


South Holds:

J 8 2
K Q 3
K Q J 2
8 5 3


South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: You could cuebid and force to game, a slight overbid, but there is no need to complicate matters. With your balanced pattern you do not have enough to force to game; best is to jump to three diamonds to show an invitational hand. Your partner can bid on with extra shape or high cards, and if he has neither, you will surely be high enough already.


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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 8th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

HBj ; It does makes sense to make declare guess. Playing the ten will force declarer to play off AK of spades. Playing the queen creates a half a chance declarer taking West to hold the 10. Sometimes I miss these opportunities in play by making the automatic reflex plays, only to kick myself afterwards. Othertimes I hate give up queens quietly to be thrown to the lions…it’s a case of protecting queens at all costs BUT FORGETTING TO PROTECT 10’s in the process.
Great lesson for us all…..

Bobby WolffDecember 8th, 2011 at 3:16 pm


As always a correct and accurate summary. Falsecarding the queen will probably only lose (in the absence of some exotic play not heretofore thought of), if partner, West started with Kxx of spades which is barely possible if declarer held:
s. Axxxx
h. xx
d. x
c. AKxxx
but even then, declarer might develop enough discards for his losing club.

Thanks for your comments which always serves to finish the portrait which bridge is so adept at creating.

Bobby WolffDecember 8th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Hi again HBJ,

I should have said, that depending on the declarer’s distribution and the specific defense, (it was not mentioned), it still may not be possible for declarer to make the hand even if declarer only had Axxxx in spades, but even if it was favorable for declarer he might, depending on the spade spots not guess spades correctly, playing East for KQ doubleton (assuming our great partner, West, ducks the second spade, while holding the 98 or 97).

I apologize for my two tiered response, but even I, with all my experience, fall victim to impatience (not to mention specious reasoning), while trying to figure out various card combinations which may lurk.