Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 6th, 2012

It's them as take advantage that get advantage i' this world.

George Eliot

West North
East-West ♠ Q 6
 A K J 9 6
 K 6 4
♣ A 7 2
West East
♠ A 9 5 2
 8 7 5 2
 Q 3
♣ 10 6 3
♠ K 10 7 4 3
 Q 4
 9 8 7
♣ K 9 5
♠ J 8
 10 3
 A J 10 5 2
♣ Q J 8 4
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2 NT Pass
3 NT All pass    


Sitting South, plan the play in three no-trump. West leads the spade two and East plays the 10!

Having been favored by a friendly defense at trick one, don’t waste it. This hand is about combining your chances. You could play for nine tricks by simply taking the diamond finesse or the heart finesse, but whichever you do, you are consigning your fate to a play that is no better than a 50 percent shot. Clearly taking the diamond finesse by leading the king, then low to the jack, is the best finesse to take (since a 5-1 heart break may prevent you from taking five tricks even when the finesse works, while running the diamond jack may not give you enough tricks against 4-1 diamonds). But can you do better?

First, try safely for five diamond tricks by cashing the diamond king and ace. Your chances of dropping the queen missing five are quite robust — in fact that will happen about 30 percent of the time. But if the diamond queen doesn’t drop, you should run the heart 10, hoping the queen is right and you can make five hearts. Your combined chances come to about two chances in three — quite an improvement on the simple finesse.

Finally, let’s revisit the defense. East erred by playing the spade 10 at trick one. If West had led from jack-fourth of spades, declarer would have had the doubleton ace and would surely have played the queen from dummy.

To pass out your negative double, North rates either to be balanced without a four-card major or to have a club-diamond two-suiter. It might be right to lead a spade to try to cash winners before spade losers go on dummy's hearts, but that is a very long shot. It looks logical to choose between the minors, and my vote goes to clubs — which rates to do nothing for declarer he cannot do himself.


♠ K J 2
 Q 10 8 5 2
 7 4
♣ K 8 4
South West North East
1♣ 3
Dbl. All 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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2February 20th, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Pass outs of takeout doubles generally call for trump leads, or so I was taught. Are pass outs of negative doubles so differnt?

If one chooses to lead a club, which one? A low to hint at an honor? The king to hold the lead? The 8 to encourage a spade shift?

Bobby WolffFebruary 20th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Hi Jim2,

As in many cases in bridge bidding, there are different normal rules with changing circumstances.

If one makes a TO double at the one level and partner passes for penalties, the rule you mention of leading trump will apply, e.g. s. AJxx
h. K
d. KQxx
c. Q10xx

If upon RHO opening 1 heart and after your hand doubles, it goes all pass, in effect your side is contracting to take 7 tricks to the opponents 6 (in order to set them). Start out by leading the heart king with the intention of trying to keep the opponents from making many of their small hearts. Your partner will surely have at least 5 hearts and presumably very good spot cards, capable of drawing the opponents trumps.

However, in today’s hand the circumstances are quite different with East announcing long diamonds, but, in spite of that, North wants to defend. Sure he should have a nice diamond holding, but he will not be in a position of drawing East’s small trumps, so it will be business as usual and, IMO a small club, the four, (no unreadable suit preferences on opening lead but partner’s suit should be led).

Remember also all we need do is to take 5 tricks instead of 7 and partner’s hand, in order to pass your TO double should have good trumps with the dummy (West) undoubtedly very short.

Different initial strokes for different type bidding sequences should rule the day.

jim2February 20th, 2012 at 5:08 pm

On the play of the column hand, once the QD drops declarer has 9 tricks and cashes out, only to discover that 12 is the actual count when the other red Q also drops doubleton.

At rubber bridge, that would be the end of it. At duplicate, declarer may consider how to maximize overtrick chances. The friendly play at Trick 1 has assured 9 tricks and a great score, but there may be some more matchpoints out there to be had. (Declarer does not yet know the QH will drop)

Should declarer cash the top hearts immediately after the QD drops? If so, the QH drop would allow declarer to be in hand at Trick 12 with the AC still on the Board. Or, should declarer run the diamonds, or maybe cash one top heart? (Thus threatening the defenders with later finesses in both round suits)

Bobby WolffFebruary 21st, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

You present an interesting matchpoint dilemma with, after the queen of diamonds has met her maker, has offered the declarer a choice of ways to be as greedy as possible.

Why not try for as many tricks as possible in both matchpoints and IMPs since many an IMP match has had a victor by the smallest of margins, 1 IMP?