Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

Anyone who thinks there's safety in numbers hasn't looked at the stock market pages.

Irene Peter

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


If you bid them up, you have to play them up, and today's deal strongly emphasizes this point. Peter Rank and Alex Kolesnik played in the Ventura Halloween Regional before coming to the San Francisco nationals. The following deal, from a knockout match, demonstrates that it pays to have confidence in your partner.

After Rank’s jump to five spades, Kolesnik decided that he had four useful cards for a partner who rated to have 6-5 distribution, so he went to the grand slam directly.

Against the grand slam, West led the heart king, taken by Rank in dummy (as he discarded a diamond from hand). He drew trump in three rounds, noting that West had started with two. He then worked on clubs, hoping to get a count if something revealing came to light. The club king was followed by a club to the ace, West showing out. Rank ruffed a club back to hand and stopped to assess the situation.

West was marked with two spades and one club and was likely to have begun with six hearts (since he might have overcalled three hearts with seven of them). That left him with four diamonds, so Rank played with the odds and took the first-round finesse by running the diamond 10 through West. When it held, he could claim 13 tricks for an 11-IMP gain since the opponents were in six spades at the other table.

Had East simply raised to two diamonds, you would of course have bid two hearts, an action that suggests a balanced opening bid with no real extras, but promises four hearts. Here, though, you cannot compete to three hearts on a hand where in a noncompetitive auction you would have been content with a call of one heart. You can let your opponents force you to bid one level higher than you want — but not two.


♠ Q 8 7
 A 10 3 2
 Q 5
♣ A 8 6 4
South West North East
1♣ 1 Dbl. 3

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


ArunDecember 10th, 2013 at 11:03 am

What is nice about this line of play (trying out clubs) is that it could also help declarer to discover diamond shortness with West and enable him to take a second round finesse for the D J – sometimes the picture may not be so clear (whether W has singleton or doubleton) in which case a finese may still be a percentage play.

Iain ClimieDecember 10th, 2013 at 11:05 am

Hi Bobby,

Two quick thoughts on today’s hand. Firstly North could have used 5NT as a safer route to 7S. Secondly the chosen line appears better in theory as well as practice than cashing 2 trumps then 2 diamonds getting the extra chance of the same hand holding 4 diamonds and 3 trumps. If clubs were more even, then a minor suit squeeze on east could still be thee if diamonds were 4 -1.



Bobby WolffDecember 10th, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Hi Arun,

You are, of course correct in your opinion about a finesse in diamonds through East may be percentage, if it is about 50-50 that East has either 3 or 4 diamonds. If four it has to be taken and even with 3 the odds are that East will have the jack, making the percentage play clearly in favor of the finesse, overall roughly IMO about 3+ to 1.

Thanks for your expert suggestion.

Bobby WolffDecember 10th, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, well analyzed as to the play.

The problem with 5NT immediately, it may start out as, I want to bid a small slam but am undecided as to what suit between diamonds and spades holding 2-3 in those two suits.

This, in turn could lead South into conservatively choosing 6 diamonds or 6 spades, or throwing the ball back to North by making an impossible bid (6 clubs with intent to play it there) which asks North to get more involved in selecting the number of tricks to be contracted for (if selected, I would only bid 6 in one of the two suits since I do not have the ace or king of either).

Summing up, I would definitely bid 7 with the South hand, but I am not sure what suit I would choose, but since I could be 5-7 and am not, so I likely would settle on spades.

As always, thanks for your input on the squeeze chances

Alex AlonDecember 10th, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Hi Bobby’
What would you do on the bidding question if partner doubles again ?
I would leave the double as south hand is look like defense oriented. would the Vol’ matter ?

tan you for the answer.
Alex Alon

Bobby WolffDecember 10th, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Hi Alex,

No, I would definitely not leave in partner’s second double. He is only competing and asking for help from you to determine the trump suit.

Since I have only a minimum plus probably a worthless queen of diamonds I would only bid 3 hearts, although I like the fact that I do have 4 of them.

All of the above, especially the now choice of only bidding 3 rather than 4 hearts speaks about judgment, which, in turn, can only be learned at the table playing against better than average players.

Good luck, but remember that partner is only trying to intelligently compete and not sell out to the opponents when the apparent lion’s share of the cards belongs to your side. Cooperate with him by bidding and taking out what was meant by him as only showing a little more than he needed to double the first time.

That to me is applying relatively simple bridge logic and then executing it intelligently. I hope that you agree with me.

Iain ClimieDecember 10th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I’m asleep again! If east has 4-4 minors the squeeze fails but with 5D and 4C drawing trumps then 3 rounds of clubs and the last trump works.


David WarheitDecember 10th, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Let’s assume that EW did no bidding. Win the HA, discarding a D, and draw 2 rounds of trump (AQ). Now we are at the crossroads. A) West has 4S. Finish drawing trumps, cash the DQ and lead the 9 and either finesse or not. Assuming DJ isn’t singleton, finesse wins about 4/7; don’t finesse wins about 68%. Even allowing for adjustments because of EW not bidding and W obviously having HQ, I think you don’t finesse. B) East has 4S, Finish drawing trumps. Now don’t finesse is about the same. C) Trumps are 3-2. Now you have 2 choices, finish drawing trumps, play CKA and ruff a third, hoping to learn something, or take the line Iain rejects and play on D, succeeding if D are 3-2, 4-1 with singleton J, or same opponent holds 4D & 3S. I think under these circumstances (no opponents bidding), playing on D is best.

Do you think I have this right, or have I made a mistake or missed something?

Bobby WolffDecember 10th, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Hi David,

As you probably have already guessed, the various possibilities (assuming no adverse bidding) with your two scenarios (together with adding Iain’s club diamond squeeze possiblity) are obviously close, but without even beginning to do the math (complicated and possibly beyond my ability on probabilities, especially so when the squeeze line takes additional risk).

My guess is that playing the diamonds to be 3-2 is, at the very least, slightly better. Possibly Deep Finesse can figure it out, that is if it can include the risks inherent in adopting Iain’s squeeze line.

Finally, I do not think you have missed anything, at least, in what is being mentioned up to now, but only a bridge mathematician or at least someone who understands all the ramifications of bridge math can supply to you an accurate final solution.

Sorry for the non answer, but this type of puzzle becomes just too tedious for me to have the patience to stay with it.

If someone out there has the facility to find the answer please let us all know, especially David.

Herreman RJanuary 17th, 2014 at 9:44 am

our double promesses both majors…. (is that a good treatment ?)
in that case, isn’t 3hearts justified ?