Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

If you never get a second chance at something you didn't take a first chance at? That's true failure.

C. Joybell C.

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


When West leads a low trump against six spades what should your plan be, as East follows to the first round of trump?

Rather than focusing on the deficiencies of dummy when it comes to high cards, you should concentrate on the deal, and realize that you have an inevitable diamond loser but can ruff two of your diamonds in dummy. You can make your slam by relying on either one of the club or heart finesses (each one in principle being a 50% chance).

However if you can, you should seek to find a way to combine those two chances. Your secondary chance here is to ruff out the heart king in three rounds; you will combine this with the club finesse.

So you win the trump lead, cash the heart ace and ruff a heart high. You then cross to the spade jack (drawing the last trump) and ruff another heart. Next you give up a diamond, preparing for two diamond ruffs in the dummy. If the heart king fell from either defender, you will discard the club queen on the established heart winner after taking a diamond ruff. Otherwise you will finesse the club queen, taking your second chance. Just for the record, your additional chance improves your original 50 percent odds to 60 percent — not to be sneezed at.

This problem comes from a bridge book for beginners (this being one of the tougher hands), Planning the Play of a Bridge Hand, by Barbara Seagram & David Bird.

The simple route here is to double — which is a balanced penalty-oriented action. Your partner will almost never remove the double. But if you want to find a major-suit fit and do not want to risk defending when dummy puts down long running clubs, then cuebid two clubs. This is take-out suggesting the majors, and implicitly limited by your failure to double, and would be my choice.


♠ Q J 6 4
 A Q 4 2
 6 4
♣ 9 7 5
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 1 NT

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


Shantanu RastogiAugust 13th, 2014 at 9:48 am

Dear Mr Wolff

What would be the correct play if North has diamond queen instead of heart queen – a simple finesse or small towards Queen ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Bobby WolffAugust 13th, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Wonderful question, since it zeros in on what I think separates the good from the very good.

My answer attempts to decide on who the opening leader is, his experience and a guess at where he stands with his high level bridge training, while playing in the A game.

Here, he has led a singleton trump, not a choice which has great appeal (because it could easily chop up Qxx or J10xx plus other combinations with his partner). Also, when I leaped to 6 spades, I confirmed control of the diamond suit, leaving a king holder in that suit to fear the queen in our combined hands.

Since a winning finesse either way will insure making, the evidence (as I see it) is to play West, the opening leader for the king of diamonds.

As a sidelight and against certain top players, if I was on opening lead, I likely would lead away from my king of clubs, since many clever players would tend not to cue bid 4 clubs while holding the queen (along with the ace), if not for any reason other than not wanting to stop a club lead.

In other words, if I could maneuver the auction so that I wouldn’t ward off a club lead, but still glean enough information to bid or not bid the slam, I, like many players, would prefer that approach, but who wouldn’t?

For teaching purposes, our problems tend to be pristine, emphasizing honest efforts to best bid and play. In real life and against the best world players, there is always a deeper desire to be tough opponents and sometimes score up results which beat par.

Thanks for your question and good luck at the table.