Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Pleasure is labor too, and tires as much.

William Cowper

North North
Neither ♠ A Q 3
 K Q 8 5
 A 9 8 5
♣ 4 3
West East
♠ J 8 5 2
 9 7 6 3 2
 4 2
♣ 8 5
♠ K 10 9 6
 J 4
 K Q 6 3
♣ J 9 2
♠ 7 4
 A 10
 J 10 7
♣ A K Q 10 7 6
South West North East
1 NT Pass
4♣ Pass 4♠ Pass
6♣ All pass    


This excellent card-play problem arose during the second round of the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams from Louisville last spring. It's a two-parter: Consider it first in six clubs by North and then the actual problem of six clubs by South.

In six clubs by North on a trump lead, you draw trump, pitching a spade from hand. Now perhaps the best thing to do is strip off four rounds of hearts, then run the diamond jack to endplay East, unless he began with five hearts. Almost as good at trick four is to run the diamond jack to East’s queen. Even if East could exit with a heart and avoid setting up the suit for you, you can cash the ace and ruff a diamond in dummy. If the remaining high diamond does not appear, you fall back on the spade finesse.

At the table, in six clubs by South, you get the lead of the diamond four; you duck, and East wins the king. Back comes a trump, and you draw three rounds, then cash the three top hearts. If the heart J-9 fall, it’s all over. When East shows out on the third heart, you pitch the diamond 10 on the third heart and play the diamond ace, West following with the two, East with the eight. When you lead the diamond nine from dummy, East follows with the six. Who has the queen? Surely East. If West has led the diamond four from Q-4-2, he deserves to beat you!

Your partner has four hearts in a balanced minimum. (If he has extra shape, he will be at the bottom end of this range), so though your side appears to have a decent double fit and the spade finesse rates to be working if necessary, slam is a long way off. Just bid four hearts; even if partner has the club ace and the missing red high honors, you'll probably need a decent break in at least one red suit.


♠ A Q 3
 K Q 8 5
 A 9 8 5
♣ 4 3
South West North East
1 1♠
Dbl. Pass 2 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


David WarheitApril 6th, 2012 at 9:40 pm

There is another line of play. After drawing trump, run the ace of diamonds and 3 hearts, discarding a spade. Then ruff the last heart and play your remaining clubs. At the end you have the diamond jack and one spade, dummy has ace-queen of spades & east is squeezed between king of spades and queen of diamonds. If dummy does not have the 9 of diamonds, this is the only line that works. On the actual hand, I believe your line is better, but I would like your comments.

bobby wolffApril 6th, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Hi David,

Wiith your line East will discard down to the singleton king of spades and declarer will have no way to determine whether or not to take the spade finesse for the contract. The other line is better than a straight 50-50 finesse or not. Also since East did not double the artificial 4 spades on his right declarer may be reluctant to play him for the king, although he obviously held at least one diamond honor.

Feel of the table, which is patently not there against top-level players, can sometimes help the declarer decide, but not so against very good opposition.

I’m not positive I understand what you mean when you say, “run the ace of diamonds” but I assume you mean, cash it.

David WarheitApril 9th, 2012 at 9:16 pm

I don’t think you have covered all the bases. After all, in my line, the queen of diamonds just might drop after 3 leads, eliminating all guesses. Otherwise my line and yours both involve guesses. Also, when I said that only my line works if the 9 of diamonds is missing, I should have said if the 8, 9, 10 or jack is missing.

bobby wolffApril 10th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Hi David,

A key in determining the best line is directly concerned with the opening lead of the four of diamonds. When West then follows with the deuce, normally the jig is up, since it is off the charts that the opening leader did not lead the four of diamonds from Q42 (it is mentioned in the column). Sure top level players false card, but rarely (if ever) on a random lead simply because it is much more likely to cause partner to go wrong than it is declarer.

Can the above be figured into the percentages? Not really because very rare exceptions are possible, but very difficult to ascertain when they might happen.

You are obviously a very good bridge technician with a bent for perfection. However, it makes bridge difficult to reach conclusions when we have to then discuss what ifs (like in this case the specific diamond spots being different).

I appreciate your involvement.