Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 8th, 2013

So here I’ll watch the night and wait
To see the morning shine,
When he will hear the stroke of eight
And not the stroke of nine.

A.E. Housman

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


Against four spades West led the club jack, which not only began to set up tricks for the defenders, but also threatened the entries to dummy. Declarer could see that he was in jeopardy of losing two tricks in each of the minors, with no particularly convenient way to establish a discard for himself.

At one table declarer decided to delay taking the club finesse leaving himself the option of playing for the doubleton club king on his right, rather than taking the club finesse immediately. He rose with the ace, drew trumps, cashed the heart ace, then played ace and another diamond. East won the diamond queen and exited with a low heart, letting declarer shake his second diamond loser. However, when the club king failed to behave, he was down a trick.

In the other room South decided to take the club finesse immediately. East did the right thing when he won the club king and returned the suit. Now declarer fell back on a finesse for his contract. Can you see which finesse? He unblocked the heart ace, then led a spade to the eight, trying to create an extra entry to dummy. When the spade eight held, he ran the heart queen to pitch his club loser.

West could win the heart ace and lead either minor, but nothing could stop South from crossing back to the spade ace and pitching one of his slow diamond losers on the heart jack for his 10th trick.

A response of three no-trump would show 13-15 points while denying a four-card major. There is some real temptation to make that call, but why shouldn't your partner have really short spades or hearts, in which case game or slam in either minor might be a far superior spot? So just bid one diamond and take it from there.


♠ A 8
 Q J 7
 10 8 7 5 2
♣ A Q 6
South West North East
1♣ 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2March 22nd, 2013 at 12:47 pm

The play is a lot easier if South notices that there are two entries to his suit (opening lead and re-entry after establishment) and raises to 3N.

bobbywolffMarch 22nd, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Hi Jim2,

No one can dispute how right you are, but in reality, at least the way I see it, my diamond holding, after partner has opened with 1 of that suit, leads me to prefer a rebid of 4 spades.

Obviously, the danger of NT lies in the heart suit, where partner might have only the queen third or less. The jack of hearts becomes a powerful card, although on this hand it is not even needed to guarantee game in NT.

If partner would have opened 1 heart instead of 1 diamond I, and probably many others, would agree with your choice, but not after partner opens a suit he had nothing in, although with the 9 of spades in the right hand, a clever declarer brought this contract home as well.

In no way am I implying that North should not have opened 1 diamond as that bid would be chosen by almost everyone who was not playing weak NT openings.

Bridge, not percentages, intuition, and/or genuine bridge expertise is in control and none of us should ever get careless and forget that.

Patrick CheuMarch 22nd, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Hi Bobby,the number of times when dummy or declarer has QJx or QJ10x opposite a singleton Ace or x which gives us the extra chance of discarding losers or ruffing out the other honour if queen is covered is worth spotting, rather than say here trying to set up the long suit in diamonds.It is worth looking for extra entry to dummy by finessing a low card as the case here with A8 by playing 8 when west plays low.If it loses we have try..Of interest might be if South has KQJ107 only and tries the seven and West has to play the 9 from 932 to stop this extra entry creation by south.If all else fails the Jc could be from KJ10x however unlikely.Regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffMarch 22nd, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, you cover several points of interest in your discussion. All of your thoughts would remind me of a declarer, when after the final contract has been determined and dummy is laying down his hand, turning his thoughts to how to play this contract in the best possible way, offering the best chance to make it.

As an incidental thought, and not intending to create a controversy, but when playing matchpoints and having to consider making an overtrick or two, it, at least to me, becomes both too speculative and downright difficult to adopt a line of play, which, usually, is kind of random, with the success hoped for being determined by luck rather than the relatively simple task of trying to secure what your partnership bid.

Is our game testing enough without adding these extra gambits? I vote yes and by a large margin, although the above thoughts as applied to playing matchpoints does contribute to excitement, although, at least to me, subtracting from the skill needed to excel.

John Howard GibsonMarch 22nd, 2013 at 2:51 pm

HBJ : Given that the club finesse seems doomed, the contract comes home 6S, 2H, and 2 minor suit Aces.
The finesse of the 8 spades seems obvious in order to get to dummy’s QJ of hearts for diamond discards, once the Ace is first unblocked. Losers are restricted to 2C and 1H.
What I would like to know are the odds for this line of play superior to any other? Not one for probabilities I go for gut instinct.

bobbywolffMarch 22nd, 2013 at 8:48 pm


Assuming the club finesse (or dropping the Kx of clubs offside) to be very unlikely, finessing the 8 of spades is far and away the proper play, if making our contract is the prime concern. To even think about playing East to have the singleton 9 is too remote to even consider.

At least on this hand, no other play should be considered, whether probabilities or instinct is the guiding light.