Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 27th, 2015

Personally I think that competition should be encouraged in war and sport and business, but that it makes no sense in the arts. If an artist is good, nobody else can do what he or she does and therefore all comparisons are incoherent.

Edward St. Aubyn

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


In today's deal declarer plays four hearts, after having created a game-forcing auction at the second turn. Maybe South should bid three no-trump at his third turn, but the defenders could take four spades and a club against that game.

Still, four hearts is no picnic. Declarer has to choose which minor suit to go after, once the defenders lead three rounds of spades against four hearts. South ruffs, and could draw trumps and play ace and another diamond, planning to finesse. This requires finding queen-third of diamonds onside, or finding the diamond queen favorably placed, and the doubleton club queen with East. The combined chances for this line is less than one in four.

Playing on clubs first offers a much better chance, since it works most of the time that the club queen is favorably located (though the defenders will sometimes be able to defeat you by ducking the club ace, then taking a ruff).

Best is to ruff the spade high at trick three, then to play the heart nine to the 10 and run the club eight. You can now ruff the fourth spade in dummy rather than in hand, to preserve control of the trump suit. And by running the club eight, hopefully losing to the ace, you plan to regain the lead, draw trumps, then cross back to the diamond king and run the club 10. This retains the lead in dummy to repeat the club finesse as many times as necessary.

Painful as it may be to sell out here, it seems to me that your best chance to go plus here is to pass. You showed an extremely good hand and could not get your partner interested in bidding on. Surely he would have acted with any weak hand with heart support, so your best chance here may be to pass and hope to beat three diamonds.


♠ 4 2
 A K Q J 9
 A 8
♣ K J 9 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 1
Dbl. 1♠ Pass Pass
2 3 Pass 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


slarMarch 13th, 2015 at 1:44 pm

I need to read this twice, maybe three times, and work through in my head how I could get to the right conclusion at the table. There’s no partial credit in this game as I was reminded last night.

Declaring 6NT, I had Kxx/KQx/KQTx/ATx opposite AQJx/xx/AJx/KJxx. Okay, make a plan. I come up with 10 off the top, establish a heart, and guess the CQ. Can I do better than 50/50 on the Q? Yes. I meticulously work out the count and conclude that LHO is 5=3=3=2. Naturally he shows up with Q-x and the contract goes down in flames.

What did I miss? The heart finesse. It turns out the HA is onside and had I played for it, I would not have needed a third club trick. It turns out the only risk of that play is if the HA is offside and LHO ducks smoothly the first time I try the finesse. How likely is that against flight A opponents? I don’t know. Maybe I was just unlucky. At least we weren’t threatening to win this time.

jim2March 13th, 2015 at 2:15 pm

As for you eschewing clubs and playing a second heart towards your remaining honor, have you ever heard of TOCM ™ ??

Iain ClimieMarch 13th, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Hi Jim2,

On today’s column hand Bobby, you and I would all have taken the suggested line, I assume. At your table, west could have CAxxx and DQx, though, not as shown in the full hand.

Commiserations to SLAR as the disease may be spreading.



Iain ClimieMarch 13th, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Sorry, DQxx. Also slar still has a problem if the first heart is taken, not ducked.

jim2March 13th, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Qxx, yes.

If the first heart is taken then slar might mis-guess, but would not have missed an opportunity not to guess.

All my guesses fail due to TOCM ™ but slar may actually succeed some times.

Bobby WolffMarch 13th, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Hi Slar,

The good news is that all disclosing their interest, not only realize the specific problem, but IMO know everything psychological pertaining.

For example there have been slams bid and made (including 6NT) with only eleven tricks present and xx opposite QJx in the key 4th suit. When a low one is led to the Q, psychologically relatively early in the play, the ace (and even the king has been known), as you suggest, to be smoothly ducked by the 4th seat defender.

The above is a prelude to my answer, since against most opponents, but perhaps not inexperienced ones when the king should, no doubt, be played under the guise of your LHO will much more likely to gobble up the king (if he has the ace) than take the queen which other guileless declarers might likely play.

Going a small step further, while holding only the unsupported king, it is usually wise, if that trick is either #12 in a slam, number #9 in 3NT or #10 in a major suit game (I know I am being a racist against the minor suit clan) to lead it early, before too much information has already been disclosed, therefore helping to lionize the defense.

Summing up, I have no magic potion to suggest, only psychological gambits to help you through the night. No doubt the declarers demeanor at the table may make a difference, but never forget that this declarer has the advantage of surprise to when he leads this mysterious suit and I am not discussing histrionics when playing the K or Q, only the timing of when he (or she) chooses to do it, keeping in mind that this key timing may differ from defender to defender. We are all actors in a play and the greatest ones, like comedians, are often judged by their timing, not necessarily their delivery.

Bobby WolffMarch 13th, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

Thanks to both of you for not adding anything worth while other than your special (could mean many things) personalities.

And Iain, I am sure you (and probably Slar) will agree with me that Jim2 has indeed benefited and though for him impossible to make a slam on a finesse or even a 90% contract which would only fail with a 4-0 break, he himself, will never experience the horrible downside of doing the wrong thing as declarer, since there is never any right side available to him within millions of miles.

Jim2, consider yourself blessed and obviously lucky in love.

jim2March 13th, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Yep! That was where all my luck went, and well spent it was!