Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 5th, 2014

What Englishman will give his mind to politics if he can afford to keep a motorcar?

George Bernard Shaw

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


In England the Houses of Lords and Commons have an annual bridge match scored on total points. Recently the closest finish in the series 34-year history saw the Lords winning by just 110 points.

This deal might have swung the balance, since the correct play was missed at every table. But would you have done better? Plan the play in three no-trump by South on the lead of the spade queen.

It looked natural to win the lead in hand and clear the diamonds. East could win the fourth diamond and continue the attack on spades. Declarer ducked, then won the spade continuation, and could now cash the long diamond and take a heart finesse.

That was the eighth trick, but since declarer could not take another heart finesse there was no way home. Can you see how declarer should have done better?

Declarer was correct to go after diamonds initially. However, when West shows out on the second round, declarer knows he cannot avoid a diamond loser and that entries to dummy for the heart finesse are at a premium.

Instead of allowing the diamond queen to win, South should flout convention and overtake it with dummy’s ace. After a successful heart finesse, declarer plays another diamond. As before, East wins and continues spades but now declarer wins, then cashes the master diamonds and repeats the heart finesse. When East’s heart king falls, declarer emerges with no fewer than 10 tricks.

This auction suggests a minimum or sub-minimum opener with either 5-4 or 5-5 pattern. Since the auction has suggested a possible bad break in hearts and clubs rates to play as well as hearts, even in a 4-3 fit, I would pass now and simply try to go plus here.


♠ A 6 3
 8 3
 A 10 9 6 4
♣ Q 7 5
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 Dbl.
Rdbl. 1♠ 2♣ 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


jim2December 19th, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Ironic that the key card was the Curse of Scotland.

bobby wolffDecember 19th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Hi Jim2,

Perhaps that red pointed infamous nine was making it up to an English politician by, because at the very least, offering him a valid chance for it to regain stature and become a hero, instead of confirming its villainous history.

Pity the recipients, no doubt many, who missed that glorious opportunity. Does that prove that playing bridge also, along with thinking about politics (all without motorcars), prevents concentrating on playing it well?

BryDecember 19th, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Without looking at E/W hands, I tried to see if I could get a plan that would work if both red suits misbehave. (West has K hearts in the above diagram example) –
best I could come up with was duck a spade, then either run a finesse or give up in a red suit. Win return, run suits and see if can tell what to do at end. (example if East held both AK of C, then running the hearts would eliminate the major exits and he would have to give me a diamond lead or I win a club –

My plan would of course fail on the actual cards.

Is there a plan that would cover both red suits messing up? Or is it take your chances and hope?

bobby wolffDecember 19th, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Hi Bry,

A short cut answer would be there wouldn’t be any since, when losing a diamond (bad break), a heart (losing finesse), at least the AK of clubs, and spade trick(s) already established by losing the lead so many times, would by force almost certainly concede one or more spade tricks to the defense, because of very likely an entry to whoever would have the long spades, probably either hand.

If there is some distribution, perhaps East having the guarded jack of diamonds, West having the heart king, one or the another having a singleton club honor leaving 6 spades in a hand whose entry was too late, I, (nor probably anyone else) has the time to figure out exactly the overall distribution and even if so, doesn’t really contribute anything worthwhile to future declarer play.

However, your comment proves that you are trying and that is all anyone of us can do. Thank you for that.

jim2December 19th, 2014 at 9:12 pm

The Mud Cup last year had an almost identical hand. I was North and could only watch helplessly.

Pard won the KS, cashed the KD, and then the QD. West played the JD on the second round and pard paused to think — always a dangerous sign.

Eventually, he overtook with the AD and finessed in hearts, winning, then went back over with a third diamond to repeat the finesse. West produced the KH and led a spade ….

bobby wolffDecember 20th, 2014 at 12:38 am

Hi Jim2,

Yes, that would have muddied the waters. Oh well, another matchpoint defeat, but who wouldn’t fall for it?

You not only have a severe TOCM tm affliction, when a suit splits (diamonds) something even more treacherous is waiting.

It should seem unfair to you when average players play their best and then, no doubt, later claim he pulled the wrong card in not winning the king of hearts earlier.