Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Elected Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorled ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

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


South was puzzled why his result of down one in four hearts had cost his team 10 IMPs. When prompted, North, who had stoically watched the play as dummy, took pains to explain.

Against four hearts West had led a top spade, and declarer won this in dummy, then took the heart finesse. It lost to the king and back came another spade, won in hand by South. Declarer drew trump in one further round then exited with the spade nine. His hope was that West held both minor-suit kings and would be endplayed. But West could exit safely in diamonds, and did so. Declarer ended one down, having lost a trick in each suit.

As North pointed out, if the trump finesse was right at trick two, it would still be right later on in the deal. But you may not want to take the finesse at all if other factors make it irrelevant.

The best play is to win the initial spade lead in hand, not in dummy, and play a club toward the queen. West must take the king or lose it, and will presumably return another spade. You can win this in dummy and cash the club queen.

Now you don’t take any chances. You play a trump to your ace, then cash the club ace and discard dummy’s losing spade. After that, you can draw the outstanding trumps and will have 10 tricks on top. Your only losers are one club, one diamond and one trump.

One of the aspects of the modern game that bears repeating is that when you hold a 16-count and approximately balanced shape, as here, it is hard to find a way to describe the hand unless you open one no-trump. It is not perfect, but it is better than opening one heart and guessing how to upgrade or downgrade the hand at your next turn.


♠ K 9 4
 A J 7 6 5
 A 8
♣ A 6 5
South West North East

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


Iain ClimieMarch 12th, 2013 at 11:47 am

Hi Bobby,

A stray concern here would be if West had 6 spades and either didn’t play WJO’s (although these are ever more common now) or decided for whatever reason just to bid 1S e.g. if too strong as he holds all the missing points. Then the SA is ruffed away and east just switches to a minor where he hasn’t got the King. Things then collapse.

I think that the layout of the cards (spadeS 5-2 not 6-1) is much more likely but can declarer find a reasonable way (single dummy) to address this concern as well? Also, if East found a false card of the S2 at trick 1 (not necessarily a good idea) should South play differently?



bobbywolffMarch 12th, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Hi Iain,

Your comments are all valid concerns, but what’s a fellow to do?

West does figure to hold two of the three missing kings (perhaps all three) and declarer needs to make a decision (winning the first spade in dummy or not) before he sees East’s spade signal.

Summing up, it is somewhat safer for declarer to play for the club king, rather than the diamond king onside since even if the diamond king is the one onside, there is a bigger risk that the diamonds are 2-5, rather than the clubs 2-6 complicating things for declarer for then he would have a tougher heart guess if West ruffed away the queen of diamonds while declarer was shedding his losing spade.

Probably at least the side lesson needed to be indelibly impressed on all who are vitally interested in playing our game well are the continual numeracy thoughts which occupy playing our game well. Like the aspiring musician who stopped a friend of his on the streets of New York City and asked, “How do I get to Carnagie Hall” and received the following reply, “Practice, practice, practice”!. The answer to that question should bridge, not music be involved would be, “Learn to think in terms of numbers, numbers, and still more numbers”.

Iain ClimieMarch 12th, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this and you might enjoy a failed musician joke I once heard. For every classical musician who practices until their arms ache, their head hurts and their fingers go numb, but who eventually makes a living playing their instrument, there are dozens who don’t make it. For them, the question is “why is a double base better than a violin?”. Answer “because it burns for longer.”

A bit bleak and dark, perhaps, as it also applies to sports, acting, other arts and even games. Even Kipling’s famous quote on 2 imposters may not help here.


Iain ClimieMarch 12th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Sorry, double bass – my brain is going!

bobbywolffMarch 12th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Hi again,

Do not worry about your considerable in tact brain since I am going to treat those two imposters, double base and double bass just the same, especially since too many losers, winners and also musicians wind up just fiddling around.