Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 30th, 2014

A good deal of tyranny goes by the name of protection.

Crystal Eastman

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

*Pick a slam


The best sort of finesse that declarer can take is one that falls under the heading "Heads I win, Tails I don't lose" because something equally good will come declarer's way in return when the defenders are on play.

In today’s deal from the Dyspeptics Club, when North jumped to five no-trump to offer a choice of slams after transferring to spades, South selected spades of course.

On West’s passive trump lead, South jauntily exclaimed that they might have missed seven. His bonhomie did not continue through the hand. After drawing trump, he cashed the top diamonds without success, then played a club to the king and finessed. On a club return he had no option but to take the losing heart finesse, and so went down.

As South was about to expound on his remarkable bad luck, North cut him short by telling him that he had rejected a near 100 percent line for the hand once trumps split. Can you see it?

After drawing trumps, play the diamond king and queen, then lead a third diamond. When East follows suit, put in the 10, not the ace. If West wins, he will have to open up clubs or hearts and give you your 12th trick. If the finesse wins, you have your choice of finesses for the overtrick. And if West has four diamonds to the jack, simply throw him in with the fourth diamond to develop an extra trick in clubs or hearts for you.

Despite your limited high cards, you should bid five hearts. Your partner has shown a singleton or void in spades and a raise to at least four hearts. You have no defense to their suits and a clear double-fit, so bid on (and if they compete to five spades and partner passes, you should think about bidding six hearts).


♠ 5 2
 K J 10 4 2
 5 2
♣ Q 9 5 3
South West North East
Pass 1♣ Pass
1 1♠ 3♠ 4♠

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


bobby wolffFebruary 13th, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Hi everyone,

FWIW, it is probably safe to say that today’s hand represents a very good play, which will work 100% of the time once East follows to the third diamond since losing a diamond trick to West makes the contract foolproof (because of the bridge dilemma it causes the defense). Eventually losing that diamond trick to East hardly helps since avoidance is always about positional advantages and in this case it is obvious, as least it should be, to what that will be.

Like many other bridge plays, it will be tough for some and duck soup for others so let’s examine why. It is has little to do with overall intelligence, but everything to do with the language of bridge, plus a sense of the entire hand (certainly the avoidance principle and its advantages).

How then should our thinking go? Not unlike learning how to ride a bicycle, first the balance needs to be overcome (in bridge the goal of the hand, usually making one’s contract), second with bicycles, the idea of keep pedaling to maintain the motion which separates moving from having to stand still and, if so, losing one’s balance (understanding that when one either plays for a 3-3 break and gets a 4-2 one instead or finesses and loses it is the same trick which is lost, instead of the fallacious illusion of, feeling better about not getting a 3-3 break but not losing a trick which, in reality is the same thing, but not always felt that way, particularly with inexperience with bridge). Next, gets into the magic of the game we love, positioning the hand so that the opponents will have to help us if, and only if, we can insure losing a trick (therefore putting that person on lead) who will have to compromise his best interests by having his side play 1st and 3rd to the next trick instead of 2nd and 4th when you, the declarer have to play first to that same trick.

The above is a rudimentary way of explaining what so many people do not learn their entire bridge career (that type of reasoning is difficult to comprehend for more people than one might think). Obviously it is a must for optimistic players who want to become as good as they can and in the shortest time period, but understanding this principle and then forcing oneself to count every hand are, at least to me, necessary to quickly move up the bridge ladder.

Please ponder the above and then comment on what should also be included and what might be subtracted, with as many personal experiences which will indeed, be interesting to many, if only to compare similarities and/or differences.

Thank you for reading and additional thanks for then further participating.

David WarheitFebruary 13th, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Just to make explicit what Bobby means when he says “a near 100% line”. After drawing trump, cash the DK. If the J drops or W shows out, there’s your 12th trick. If not and everyone follows, cash the DQ. If the J drops or W shows out, there’s your 12th trick. If not, but everyone follows, the play goes as Bobby says. If E shows out on the first D, cash the CK. If the Q drops or W shows out, there’s your 12th trick. If not, finesse the Q. If the finesse wins or if W had the doubleton Q, there’s your 12th trick. If not, finesse the HQ. If E shows out on the 2d D, immediately finesse the CJ If that wins or if W has the singleton Q, there’s your 12th trick. If not, finesse the HQ.

So you lose only if W has J fifth or sixth of D and both the CQ and HK (and not J sixth of D and Q singleton or doubleton of C or not J fifth of D & singleton CQ). So now you know, by the length of this post, why Bobby didn’t explain what he meant by “near 100%”!

Patrick CheuFebruary 13th, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Hi Bobby,Finesse is the last resort!Diamonds are girls’ best friend.regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffFebruary 13th, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Hi David & Patrick,

Thanks David!

I can almost hear Carol Channing singing that song and wonder if it is true that “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”.