Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 25th, 2014

The strongest and sweetest songs yet remain to be sung.

Walt Whitman

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


In 1974, BOLS Royal Distilleries, a Dutch company, first sponsored a competition in which the world's best players were asked to write articles promoting their favorite bridge tips. Inevitably, the first crop of tips was the best, and one of the best of those was called "The Intrafinesse," submitted by the Brazilian superstar, Gabriel Chagas.

Today’s deal is an extremely challenging example of the theme. North-South had done well to avoid four spades, which would have had to go down when East turns up with the heart jack, and there is a virtually inevitable diamond loser.

Against three no-trump West found the best lead of a club. In practice declarer broached diamonds by running dummy’s queen (hoping for West to have a singleton honor or two honors doubleton), but still could manage only two diamond tricks, bringing his total to eight.

Declarer could have succeeded if he had relied on an intrafinesse, which involves first finessing against a significant missing card, then pinning it on the next round. He should start with a diamond to dummy’s six, which would have lost to East’s eight. On the next round of the suit declarer leads dummy’s diamond queen covered by the king and ace, and West’s 10 falls. Now declarer’s J-7 are poised over East’s 9-2, Declarer cashes his spades ending in dummy, then plays a diamond to his seven, thus making the three diamond tricks he needed for his contract. This line works against a doubleton eight, nine or 10 in West.

You should respond two spades rather than two hearts because your plan is to compete to three hearts if East backs in with three diamonds. If you bid two hearts after North doubles, you will be unable to offer partner the choice of majors at the three-level.


♠ Q J 6 4
 Q 8 7 6
 Q 6 4
♣ 9 2
South West North East
Pass 2 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


David WarheitFebruary 8th, 2014 at 9:19 am

Declarer’s line can also work if W has doubleton 109, 108, or 98 of diamonds. If, however, W plays the diamond 10, 9 or 8 on the first round, S has to guess if W is falsecarding or does he really have one of the 3 aforementioned doubletons. So, a) W should play the 10 when S first leads diamonds, and b) what should declarer do on the second round of diamonds (after covering the 10 & E winning the K)?

Howard Bigot-JohnsonFebruary 8th, 2014 at 11:20 am

HBJ : The number of times I have had this suit holding but overlooked this concept of the intrafinesse ( a 2nd round finesse of the king with the pinning of the 10 or 9 ). Simple but brilliant.
What I would typically do in such circumstances is a first round finesse of the king , cash 4 spades, followed by the Ace of diamonds. If the king doesn’t fall, then I hoping the suit breaks 3-3, with defenders putting me back in with a club.
Obviously a hopelessly inferior line !
So many thanks for a most instructive lesson.

Iain ClimieFebruary 8th, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Hi Folks,

In response to David’s query, what can be read into the opening lead? With D109 west might well be tempted to lead one anyway.


bobby wolffFebruary 8th, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Hi David,

Yes, the intrafinesse often involves card reading but the author of the at the time (1970s), brand new concept, Gabriel Chagas from Rio de Janiero Brazil, would be considered even now, among the very best bridge players who ever played the game

His style was intuitive, as good as anybody, and was always, in spite of rarely having a world class team (although there were a few others, representing Brazil from time to time who could hold their own, especially his regular partner, Marcelo Branco) to compete with, is a fierce competitor and often has led his team to great heights (and finishes including overall WC wins). He was educated in the USA, speaks 7 languages, is a marvelous raconteur, complete with a competent singing voice, and is well known the world over for his spectacular and innovative play and aggressive bidding. He is still going strong, attending and playing in bridge World Championships. I, even now, hear from him, on the internet, at least on a weekly basis and over the years he has been nothing less than an off-the-charts great friend.

And, David, all I can answer your question with is, guess it right (but there are almost always significant clues).

bobby wolffFebruary 8th, 2014 at 3:42 pm


Thanks for always being modest, although your smarts being what they are (top-of-the-line) I cannot help but think that you are rarely wrong. And BTW, on the column hand above, East opened the bidding 1 diamond (the suit which was intrafinessed).

bobby wolffFebruary 8th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for briefly discussing ways of determining the evidence, sometimes necessary.