Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

William Shakespeare

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


The intrafinesse is one of the more obscure bridge plays and comes in all shapes and sizes. Often the problem is simply determining whether to go for the play, or to rely on something else.

Here, at matchpoints, Kit Woolsey as South reached four no-trump. On a heart lead declarer required the clubs to lie in a very specific fashion in order for them to produce three tricks. He needed the doubleton 10 sitting over him or to for East to hold a doubleton king-queen or bare honor.

However, the key to the hand is to avoid committing yourself at once, but to win the heart ace, and take two top diamonds, at which point you find East with shortage. On that basis you should play West for short clubs, namely the club Q-10 or K-10. What you do is lead up to the club jack, varying your play according to what West does. If (as happened at the table) he puts up his honor and clears the hearts, go to dummy in diamonds and play the club jack to squash the 10. When the cards lay exactly as Woolsey required them to do, he racked up plus 430 for a fine result, since the heart sacrifice costs only 300.

West could have left declarer with work to do had he put in the club 10 on the first round of the suit. Then Woolsey would have had to decide whether West had a singleton10, a doubleton 10, or his actual holding.

Over your partner's fourth-suit-forcing bid, you have to choose the least misdescriptive call available. You could rebid diamonds, raise hearts, or introduce no-trump. The last option is least attractive, and raising hearts sounds like three-card support, so maybe you have to repeat your diamonds and hope for the best.


♠ 10 3
 K 3
 A Q 10 7 4
♣ A 6 5 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2♣ 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


Michael BeyroutiNovember 17th, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Very interesting hand… and full of instructive tidbits. That 4NT call by North is a rare beast. I have a tendency to double 4H on auto-pilot. Maybe I don’t play often enough to realize the need for it. And that 4H bid was bold. He can’t be sure from the auction that they are going to go down 2 not 3. 10 trumps… LTT strikes again. And finally, declarer played it so well. After determining West’s shape to be 5332, he played him for specifically Q10 or K10. Wasn’t that a blotting or a smothering play rather than an intrafinesse? If Jim2 were declarer, the TCM would surely have moved the C10 to the East side…

John Howard GibsonNovember 17th, 2012 at 1:02 pm

HBJ : Such a horrible contract with only 7 sure tricks on view. Even with the spade Ace on side, the contract depends on harvesting 3 clubs from such a patchy holding.
Nevertheless the prayer mat often comes to one’s aid by wishing West to have any doubleton which includes the 10. Now on leading low to the jack, it matters not a jot what West plays : the 10 will be pinned by the jack on the finesse coming back through East.
This hand is so instructive in three ways : how bold bidding can pay rich dividends, precise reading the opponents’ hands,and maximizing the trick potential of a suit by devising a plan based on the specific location of a critical card ( which in this case was the 10 of clubs ).
A lesson I shall remember for future reference.

Bobby WolffNovember 17th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Hi Michael,

Yes it was a blotting or a smothering play, but made possible with an original intra-finesse.

The eventual execution of an intra-finesse start may be called whatever one wants, whether blotting, smothering or maybe even smashing, but the complete play will forever be thought of as an intra-finesse, I believe originally thought of by Gabriel Chagas of Brazil as a Bols Tip 35+ years ago.

Bobby WolffNovember 17th, 2012 at 1:28 pm


For those numerate players who are ruled by numbers (counting) rather than which opponent has what high cards, I will offer the following:

1. The priority goes first to how many of the key suit each of the two opponents have. In today’s hand, when West showed up with the length in diamonds together with the other bidding clues, it should be determined that West would be more likely to have in clubs, the 2 and East, therefore, to have 3.

Consequently the intra-finesse is called for since either Q10 doubleton or K10 doubleton is more likely than is KQ doubleton, so presto-magico the intra-finesse first and then the squashing of the ten comes at the death.

2. Percentage plays, based on either actual or more likely, inferential counts of the two opponents hands are guides, but not guarantees and then add in the probability that the special combination of cards is not available on the particular hand is very commonplace, but that reality does not detract from a player using his bridge brain in order to choose the most likely chance for success.

You, my dear friend, always accept what is suggested in the most positive terms and that is only one reason I always enjoy hearing your take on the subject.

jim2November 17th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Michael Beyrouti – Preach!


John Howard GibsonNovember 17th, 2012 at 8:56 pm

HBJ : My point is that even if West has 10x in clubs, leading low towards the jack works.
West will play low , declarer sticks in the 9 from dummy, East taking the trick with the queen.
Then back in dummy with a diamond…….now the jack of clubs smother play comes into its own.

Bobby WolffNovember 18th, 2012 at 1:36 am

But what if the rascal West played the ten from honor ten, might you misguess this holding and finesse into his blank honor. or for that matter are you willing once West plays a low card, you then lose to an honor when you intrafinesse the eight, but what if East was dealt the doubleton KQ you now need to not lead the jack from dummy.

Is it interesting?, yes, is it clear?, no, is it worth discussing?, I think so. Does restricted choice come into play? Probably since when East wins with one honor, restricted choice would say that it is 2 to 1 that he does not have both, therefore suggesting playing the ace from hand if the ten is played by west with
any doubleton holding including the ten.