Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Think nothing done while anything remained to be done.


South North
Both ♠ 8 7 6
 9 2
 A K 10 6
♣ K Q 9 5
West East
♠ K 9 5
 K 10 8 4
 8 5 2
♣ 7 6 3
♠ J 4 3 2
 J 7 6 5 3
 9 4 3
♣ 8
♠ A Q 10
 A Q
 Q J 7
♣ A J 10 4 2
South West North East
2 NT Pass 6 NT All pass


The three little pigs have been branching out successfully into duplicate bridge at their local club. Typically, after the game they go through the deals together, comparing their results. Here is one such analysis.

All three sat South, and they had all played in the no-trump slam. Against the little pig who made his house out of straw, West led a diamond and South decided to play for split major-suit kings. He won the diamond lead in hand, entered dummy in clubs, and led a spade to his queen and West’s king. Declarer took the diamond return in dummy and finessed the heart queen unsuccessfully.

The little pig who made his house out of wood started out well. He too won the diamond lead in hand, played three rounds of clubs, then eliminated diamonds, discarding the spade 10 on the fourth. Next came the finesse of the spade queen. On winning with the king, West, appreciating that South’s spade ace was now bare, returned a spade. After entering dummy in clubs, declarer’s last chance was the heart finesse.

The little pig who made his house out of bricks won the diamond lead in hand. Three rounds of clubs were followed by just three rounds of diamonds — as declarer did not yet know which black card to throw from hand. South now knew he had removed all of West’s exit cards.

Then came a spade to the queen. West won, but whichever major suit he returned, declarer had his contract.

Your partner's sequence shows a very strong hand, since a simple overcall of three spades would have suggested something rather better than a minimum opening bid. Your trump length coupled with the singleton club looks like just enough to raise your partner to game, though passing could not be criticized.


♠ J 4 3 2
 J 7 6 5 3
 9 4 3
♣ 8
South West North East
3♣ Dbl. Pass
3 Pass 3♠ Pass

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


Michael BeyroutiDecember 20th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,
why a spade to the queen rather than a spade to the ten? Maybe today it makes no difference but, in general, is there a technically superior play?
Thanks for your answer.

jim2December 20th, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I found it very unusual that the hand was cold because West had no more than three diamonds, but not because the suit would not run otherwise.

That is, if West had four (or more) diamonds, the column line would not be available, as declarer could not play the fourth round of diamonds to remove West’s last exit card in that suit without squeezing the closed hand.

DarinTDecember 20th, 2011 at 5:23 pm

@Micheal: Probably because if the KS is onside one could safely try for an overtrick by crossing to dummy in clubs, throwing the TS on the fourth diamond, and finessing in hearts. Playing low to the TS only gives one the chance for an overtrick if both spade honors are onside.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 20th, 2011 at 6:54 pm

HBJ : As I see it….after the early and necessary elimination play, declarer can’t commit himself to running off all minor suit winners, since he would only squeeze hiimself. Infact, he can afford to play off 4 rounds of diamonds so long as he retains communication between the hands in clubs. Therefore, he needs only one finesse in the majors to see the contract home.
By selecting spades first ( and more than happy to lose it ) declarer knows that a finesse in either major is going to be immediately gifted back to him.
As Johnny Supremo would say….it’s just simple logic.

jim2December 20th, 2011 at 9:34 pm


Not sure I understood what you said, but declarer cannot cash the fourth round of diamonds until AFTER the spade finesse/endplay.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 20th, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Hi Jim : Yes, you’re right….. he can’t afford to cash the 4th diamond straightaway, because that has to be done after the first spade finesse. Now declarer is in a position to get across to dummy’s established club entry of the 9, so as to pitch on the 4th diamond the right major suit loser still left in his hand.
I should have explained myself better.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 20th, 2011 at 10:18 pm

HBJ : Just another thought. What if all 9 tricks in the minors are played off, leaving declarer with AQ in both majors. If he suspects West to hold both Kx in these suits, he can end play West by playing the Ace of hearts say and throwing him in with the queen. The opening lead of a passive club does suggest a honour holding in one or both of the majors ?

jim2December 20th, 2011 at 10:32 pm


I thought initially that as well, but jack-high holdings are also dangerous to lead from unless one has a sequence like J109(x). Thus, holding K-empty and J-empty (or even J-empty and J-empty) would be ample reason to select a minor suit top-of-nothing lead.

David WarheitDecember 21st, 2011 at 8:11 am

Response to Beyrouti: The play you suggest is exactly as good as the one taken. The one taken requires east to have king-jack of spades, i.e. 2 particular cards. Your line requires east to have the kings of spades and hearts, i.e. 2 particular cards. Of course, this analysis ignores whatever clues one might have from west’s choice of opening lead. If west had nothing in spades, there is a good chance he would have led a spade. On the other hand, if east had both major kings but not the jack of spades, west probably wouldn’t have led a spade (away from the jack), but he might not have led a heart either if he also had the heart jack This analysis makes it more likely that east had both kings rather than king-jack of spades.

Bobby WolffDecember 21st, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Hi Michael, Jim2, DarinT, HBJ, and David,

I’m late to the party, but between you five you have little need for me. Yes, Michael, in a vacuum it is usually a better play, in the absence of other circumstances, to first lead a spade to the ten, since by doing so the declarer has a possibility to sweep up both finesses in case both the KJ are onside.

Here, after the fortunate defensive distribution has been determined, and has already been pointed out and discussed, it well might me right (in order to go for the usual matchpoint overtrick) to first finesse the queen rather than the ten, to possibly effect a squeeze, or make it more difficult (in their discarding) for especially only average defenders, while at the same time not be taking an inferior line of play.

As HBJ might explain, Johnny Supremo would say, “Now that my slam is secure and I am now playing with house money I’ll add to the fun, by torturing the opponents so that by the time the next board is played I’ll have them in my pocket”.

Finally, of course, David is right in his technical analysis about needing 2 out of 2 is the same with the KJ of spades as with both of the major suit kings.

Discussions like all the above, with so many participating, sometimes lend understanding to previous mysteries of the game and while none of our minds are exactly the same, this hand may present various thoughts for at least some of us to ponder.