Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 16th, 2014

I try not to be too optimistic or pessimistic. If you're a pessimist, then that's depressing all the time; if you're an optimist and things don't work out, then that's depressing, too.

Nicholas Hoult

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


Against three no-trump West naturally leads his fourth-highest club. South must win the first trick, of course. But how should he advance from there?

It looks as if you have nine top winners, but there is many a chance for a slip-up. True, there are indeed nine winners if diamonds split, and you do have a 90 percent chance of finding diamonds breaking 3-1 or 2-2. But just because the suit rates to behave, there is no reason for it to do so. If East has all four diamonds, you are in deep trouble. But what if it is West who has four diamonds?

You cannot afford to do anything but lead to a top diamond at trick two — if you make any other play in the suit, you risk looking incredibly foolish if East wins the jack. But what you must do is to start to unblock the diamonds by leading the diamond eight or 10 from your hand, winning with a high honor in dummy.

If you discover that West has all four of the missing diamonds, you can still recover with the aid of two finesses, but only if you have cleared the eight or 10 out of the way on the first round. When East shows out, you can use your two aces as entries to take two finesses against West by leading your remaining high spot-card from hand and forcing a cover, then crossing back to your hand for a second finesse.

The first question to answer is whether you have enough to force to game; the answer is an emphatic yes. That said, since two diamonds by you now would merely invite game, start with a cue-bid, then bid diamonds, and let the chips fall where they may.


♠ Q 3 2
 9 7 5
 A K Q 7 5 4
♣ 2
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 30th, 2014 at 9:51 am

Hi Bobby,

This is interesting as it is both a safety play and an extra chance so is relevant to pairs too. Another example is declarer holding Axx opposite KQxxx in dummy with no outside entry in NT. Playing ace first then small towards KQ allows a duck if LHO shows out, gaining in half the 4/1 breaks. The seemingly obvious line of small to the K then back to the ace falls down in such cases.



bobby wolffJanuary 30th, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Hi Iain,

As ever, you have a dame fortune talent for including accurate bridge knowledge in your posts.

Playing bridge requires at least some attention to detail, and in order to play it well, also demands, from time to time (more often than one probably thinks), special handling in various techniques, especially when normal play takes a dangerous and jeopardizing turn (4-1 break, although in the right hand for declarer).

Thanks for your alertness, which always positively adds to the description.

Iain ClimieJanuary 31st, 2014 at 11:20 am

Thanks Bobby. Today’s column (31 Jan) is a bit late – I hope this is just a computer glitch and nothing serious. Iain

bobby wolffJanuary 31st, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for the information. We are doing our best to contact the person who is responsible for getting it up.


Iain ClimieJanuary 31st, 2014 at 6:24 pm

No worries, my concern was with you more than the column being late!

jim2January 31st, 2014 at 9:39 pm

What he said!

Iain ClimieJanuary 31st, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Hi Jim2,

Have you seen “Hot Fuzz”? Very bad language but very funny and uses your phrase to good effect. Worryingly I live somewhere very like the fictional English small town (Sandford) even down to the high numbers (for the UK) of legally held guns.


jim2February 1st, 2014 at 2:47 am

Sorry, have not seen it.

Iain ClimieFebruary 1st, 2014 at 10:34 am

Worth a look and wrecks the illusion that cute and picturesque English small towns and villages are quite so lovely beneath the surface!