Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

It is a trick among the dishonest to offer sacrifices that are not needed, or not possible, to avoid making those that are required.

Ivan Goncharov

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




Today's deal, from the Nail Life Master Pairs in San Francisco, demonstrates that par in bridge terms and the result achieved at the table are often far removed from each other.

Wafik Abdou was in the hot seat as East, defending three hearts after a revealing auction. Abdou’s partner led a low diamond and Abdou won the ace and could infer that declarer rated to hold five hearts and a doubleton club, with a likely pattern of 5-3-3-2. The fact that his partner had not led a club was also a hint that the suit was likely to be distributed 7-2-2-2 around the table.

There is technically no defense to three hearts, but Abdou went for his best chance when he won the diamond lead and shifted to the spade king. Declarer won and took the club finesse, smoothly ducked by Abdou. Declarer now guessed well by playing the heart ace and heart king, dropping West’s queen. However, when declarer repeated the club finesse, Abdou won, cashed his spade queen, then reverted to diamonds. Declarer had to ruff in dummy and now was locked there with just clubs to lead. When he played a club, Abdou ruffed in. Declarer was able to overruff, but was still left with two diamond losers for down one. Plus 50 was good for 24 out of 38 matchpoints, whereas making 140 would have been close to a top for North-South.

Your partner has issued an invitational sequence, and although you have a minimum in high cards, you have a real fit, plus quick tricks. Imagine partner with six spades to the king-queen and with A-Q-third of clubs, for example. You would want to be in four spades — and game is likely to be no worse than relying on the heart finesse, whatever he has.


♠ A 10
 A K J 9 5
 9 8 6 3
♣ 8 7
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠ Pass
2 Pass 3♠ 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


Iain ClimieDecember 11th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Hi Bobby,

l sympathise with declarer as his line is fine if CK is right and trumps are 3-2. How would you have planned the play on a single-dummy basis?



Iain ClimieDecember 11th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Also, passing 3C does seem an easier way forward!

Bobby WolffDecember 11th, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Hi Iain,

Agree with you that the declarer basically took the right line of play, but was foiled by the correct defense.

Possibly a point worth considering is that, when the club was finessed, East should not win it, whether he had the king or he didn’t, so when the club finesse appeared to work, against very good players it is still almost 50-50 where the king of clubs is located. Add to that, by the time the opening diamond lead was made to the ace and the king of spades was switched to, East was known to have the AQ of diamonds, no diamond king lead, and probably the KQ of spades so that possibly the most deceptive action East took (Wafik Abdou) was not overcalling 2 diamonds when it was first his turn (I know I would have, if for no other reason than to get a diamond lead).

As far as the result is concerned EW may make 9 tricks in spades (if NS do not get a diamond ruff) but by not bidding, EW gained in non disclosure of where most of the defensive strength (namely the location of the club king) happened to be.

All in all an interesting hand with neither side at fault and East to be the star of the show.

Iain ClimieDecember 11th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Thanks Bobby, and a case where silence was golden from East’s position.


jim2December 12th, 2013 at 3:37 am

Was this about trying for over-tricks at MPs?

Count the tricks once the QH has dropped: 1S + 5H + 2C = 8 tricks. All declarer needs is one diamond ruff. The exact sequence at this point does risk West winning the post-ruff exit (spade, probably) and giving East a ruff (not on this layout though). However, once declarer chose to play hearts from the top, the hand was cold once QC held. That is, QC, heart to hand, ruff a diamond, and draw trump.

What would declarer have done if the QH had NOT dropped? There were still chances, I guess, like West holding Kxx clubs as well as Qxx of hearts.

So, did declarer try too hard for overtricks? Or, was this the best technical line? I am not sure, but I think +140 was always going to be good, as that would beat even 10 tricks in clubs so any try for +170 was shooting for a top.

Bobby WolffDecember 12th, 2013 at 9:07 am

Hi Jim2,

Yes, you are correct in that once the queen of hearts fell, greed seemed to take over declarer and he went for +230. However since most (probably 95%) of the players sitting his way would have opened his hand 1 heart so it is not at all unlikely that the eight card major suit fit would be chosen at this match point event. Some would get to game and with the king of clubs onside it is still possible to finesse the heart as well and be held to either 9 or 10 tricks depending on whether those declarer’s finessed the heart and then were subject to a club ruff in turn.

Not all the players playing are up to maximum strategy and consequently there will be a wide variance in tricks scored and contracts played, ranging from heart and club games to heart and club part scores and even competitive spade contracts.

All of the above is what I think is an overall minus in what match points represents, which is simply that game is just too difficult for most, even the very top players, since it is often almost impossible to calibrate just when greed should start and stop.

IMPs and rubber bridge caters to trying to make one’s contract with overtricks an afterthought, often cutting down on the speculative options and, at least to me, making the game played much more sensible.

However, to each his own.