Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Samuel Smiles

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


West leads the diamond queen against your spade game and you must somehow avoid the loss of three hearts and one club. While East might hold the heart ace, what would be a 50 percent chance for anybody else is a far smaller chance for someone with your bad luck. What can you do about it?

You win the diamond lead with the ace and draw trump with the ace and king. You then lead the club queen from dummy. East plays low and the queen holds the trick. What now? At this point you could cross to dummy and take the heart finesse, but why not hope that West has both the club 10 and nine – in which case he can be endplayed?

If you continue with ace and another club, East will win the third round and a switch to the heart queen will sink you. But since you hope to throw West on lead with the third round of clubs, you should play the club jack next. East has to cover with the king and you win with the ace.

You cross to the diamond king and ruff a diamond in your hand, eliminating that suit. When you exit with the club eight, West has to win the trick. Now a minor-suit return will give you a ruff-and-discard and a heart return will allow you to make the heart king sooner or later. If East had won the club, you would still have been able to take the heart finesse.

With a ten-count packed with defense you are better off starting with a redouble than raising hearts, since your hand is not strong offensively. If you do opt for a heart raise many play a two-club call here as artificial, suggesting a balanced 7-10 with three trump. I find this a sensible treatment (effectively playing Drury after a double, even when you are an unpassed hand).


♠ K J 10 4
 9 6 3
 K 6 3
♣ Q J 5
South West North East
1 Dbl.

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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2January 16th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I would just add that the more “normal” situation might be East covering the QC. Declarer could have transposed to the column line by winning the AC, eliminating diamonds, and then playing JC, 8C and hoping West is endplayed as before.

East NOT covering the QC does seem to make the winning line harder to recognize. That is, the sequence in the column seems more subtle, and would have been easier to overlook. Very interesting.

bobbywolffJanuary 16th, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Hi Jim2,

You present an interesting slight variation of the defense. Most players, in this case, East, are taught not to cover the first of touching honors, but rather the second (or last) with the idea of declarer not being able to repeat a finesse going backward if the dummy (in full view) had the QJ9 or the equivalent (in this case declarer having A98 opposite QJ5).

When the queen of clubs holds, the declarer is right to suspect that East holds the king, so that the increased chance for the declarer, especially holding the 8 of clubs is that the 10 and 9 of clubs are both held by West (or only the 10 is held), but he carelessly (wrongly) keeps the 10 originally holding 10xx when the jack is then necessarily covered by the king, (perhaps in the exact column hand, West should have thrown both the 10 and the 9 away hoping for partner to hold the K8x(x), especially if he held only the 109x instead of 109xx, when he could wait and see if declarer had the 8 rather than the 7).

All the above is part of the cat and mouse games sometimes played by very good players, both trying to maximize their side’s chances. Their status as players is very much determined by their full realization of depicting the approximate holdings of both unseen hands (done by some percent of listening carefully to the bidding and to usually a much larger percent of closely following the good declarer’s choice and order of plays).

Thanks for attacking the subject. “Little by little we can do great things”.

Dave Memphis MOJOJanuary 16th, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Do you agree with North’s 3S bid? It looks pretty skimpy to me, just sayin’.

bobbywolffJanuary 16th, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Hi just sayin’ Dave,

I barely agree, with the 4th spade just shading in preference to a super strong raise to 2 spades.

Of course, in rubber bridge a loud 2 spades may suffice, or with bidding boxes in use, to move one’s chair a little farther away from the table and toss the 2 spade card toward the playing field may get the message across and perhaps not get past the last chance to make the final contract of 8 tricks.

Patrick CheuJanuary 17th, 2013 at 7:38 am

Hi Bobby, its funny the number of times that three no-trump seems easier to make and yet we dare not risk it for fear of lacking sufficent guard in side suit or due to the major fit.All said,if we were to make game in the major suit, we normally should get a better pairs score, though as the above hand shows it takes a bit more thought in the play.Best regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffJanuary 17th, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Hi Patrick,

By George, or instead, by Patrick, you have hit upon a live subject among the expert community, but it seems always to eventually hit a final shrug and eventual discard.

Reason of course, is that even though in retrospect, 3NT happens to make far more often than thought (while 4 of a major with 8 or 9 trumps) has four potential losers, the problem is, that during the bidding the cards which make the above a reality cannot be so determined. For example Qxx, opposite Jxx is always a stop, not so, without the jack, but how is it possible, much less probable that it can be so determined during the bidding.

Long ago, perhaps 40+ years (early 1970s), when computers were just coming into being, the Aces experimented with simulating hands and one conclusion became evident. That was when a strong NT opener had a side Qx, 3NT became the game contract of choice over an 8 card (often also 9 card) major suit fit, since the Qx (led up to) opposite the ace or king third or even Jxx(x) and adding that to one less trick needed, produced that unexpected analysis, particularly so when there was not an abundance of high cards (28+) between the hands.

However, applying that to bridge reality is still another thing and one which, as far as I know, has never been officially attempted.

Thanks for bringing up to all bridge lovers who are interested in scientific improvement, a possible caveat to be tantalized by, but still waiting to be convinced.