Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.

Aldous Huxley

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


Knowing your opponents’ leading methods is often critical to finding the best line as declarer.

In today’s deal West leads the diamond seven against three no-trump, and as South you duck East’s diamond king and capture his six with your ace as West plays the eight. You have to find the best route to nine tricks.

Since your opponents play fourth-highest leads, the combination of West’s lead of the seven, plus East’s leading back the six, strongly suggests that West has five or more diamonds and has deviously concealed his small diamond. So if you knock out the spade ace the defenders will be in position to cash out the diamonds for down one. In other words, playing spades seems like a bad idea.

A different approach would be to find the club queen with West, as well as East holding both the heart king and jack. Not a good chance — in that you need three cards well placed for you, but it is not an entirely hopeless prospect. Yes you might expect the club queen to be to your right, but you do not have enough entries to dummy to take all the finesses you want against East.

So you play a club to the jack, and when it holds, next comes the crucial play of a heart to the 10. A second club finesse brings good news in that suit. Then, after a heart to the queen, all that remains is to claim nine tricks.

You could, I suppose, sell me on opening two no-trump, but this is not an especially attractive 19-count and bidding your long suit may get you to a more sensible partscore if your partner is weak. If he has enough to respond to one club you will surely be able to get to game as easily as if you had opened two no-trump.


♠ K Q 8
 A Q 10
 A J
♣ K 10 6 4 2
South West North East
    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


David WarheitMarch 25th, 2015 at 9:36 am

You say that S takes a second C finesse. No, there is no possibility of a second C finesse, S merely leads a small C towards dummy’s A & the opponents oblige by both following suit.

On another point, I don’t believe that W’s play of the D8 at trick 2 is anything other than a signal about where his entry lies (high D, high suit, i.e. S). There is a clue, however that W has 5 or 6 D, not just 4. Why did E play the DK at trick 1? Frankly, holding 3 D, it would not have occurred to me to play the DK at trick 1, but OK, he did do so. But what I cannot even imagine is that E would have played the DK at trick 1 holding precisely 4 D. So, therefore W has at least 5 maybe even 6D, and by playing the D8 at trick 2, he is either signaling possession of the SA or he is trying to confuse declarer. Since declarer should be confident that D are not 4-4 for the reasons cited,, it doesn’t matter who has the SA, S must adopt the line indicated in the column.

Bob KiblerMarch 25th, 2015 at 10:06 am

Surely South’s rebid was 2NT not 1NT, and the next two bids at the
3- not 2-level.

Mircea1March 25th, 2015 at 10:19 am


I may be ignorant, but why wouldn’t East play high from Kxxx and risk losing to Qx(x)?

I think the best clue of West’s ruse is his partner’s D6 at trick 2, which should show remainder count, meaning he started with one or at most two to the king.

Also, I think that once the club finesse holds, the correct continuation in the suit is to cash the king, just in case West started life with exactly Qxx in the suit.

Nice educational problem. Thank you, Bobby.

Mircea1March 25th, 2015 at 10:24 am

I’m pretty sure N-S were playing Precision for this auction to make sense. Both 1C and 1D are artificial if that is the case and 1NT shows 16-18 hcp. The rest is natural.

Iain ClimieMarch 25th, 2015 at 10:27 am

Hi Bobby,

If East had started with K64 in diamonds, and saw the D10 from South at T1, a small diamond back could hardly fool partner and west’s false card would have worked nicely.



jim2March 25th, 2015 at 1:25 pm

My, we are a querulous bunch today! Let me join!

I know that if I played as recommended in the column, the clubs would have been split 9873 – Q.

Is there any reason NOT to cash the KC at Trick 2, and THEN lead towards the Board, intending to finesse if West plays small?

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Hi David,

Yes, there was no 2nd club finesse, only a club to the ace downing the queen along the way.

Next, while being at the table there is usually some electricity which either corroborates the earlier play (very little emotion) or instead causes an alert declarer to suspect deception (not so). That possible defensive connivance usually becomes evident in almost every case, except against only the very top world players.

No real way to describe that lightening except to say that it may be similar to a tiger moving in for the kill, when a set of a game contract becomes likely. Should declarer believe the percentage table (probably play on spades and hope diamonds are 4-4) or fly to lesser percentages (around 10%) of hoping for the club queen to be with West (with no more than 3 of them) and 2 out of 2 heart finesses have to work?

You tell me, except that my guess is that, again referring to the very top players, they (no matter that there are very few of them) IMO will definitely follow their “gut” feel rather than be a slave to the percentage table.

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Hi Bob & Mircea1,

Yes, it is unexplainable that the bidding could have been as presented. Yes, possibly a forcing club wherein a rebid of 1NT shows a much better hand, but if so, we needed to mention it.

To my mind this hand left our offices differently than presented, but I will not be able to check on that until I return home next week.

However, my sincere apologies to all my readers (I hope there are some still left).

Jane AMarch 25th, 2015 at 1:43 pm

I don’t understand the bidding on this hand unless N/S is playing a strong club system. The narrative did not say that however. First of all, north would bid one heart if they are not playing a strong club, not one diamond, right? If this is a strong club system, then the bidding makes more sense. I assume playing the strong club that when north bids two clubs, that would be Stayman?

I would have the same luck Jim2 would have with his illness of card migration. Hearts would be to my left and the club queen would be to my right. Guess I better book a ticket to Lower Slobbovia.

I played against Bill Gates in a pairs game a few years ago when he attended a national here. We only played two boards so there was very little interaction, but he seems like a nice man. While we were at his table, another man approached and said that he sure looked like Bill Gates. Mr. Gates smiled at him and said that was a good thing because he was. To this day I am not sure the man believed him. He was not playing with Sharon however. I don’t know who she is but have been told she is a top flight player.

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, no question, a cooperative deceptive contrivance by the defense, without the accompanying electricity, wins the grand prize and also has the best opportunity to seduce pretty lady.

In bridge partnership defense, these situations do arise, and more often than one might suspect, but both partners, must, with silence, react to them in unison, without preparation. All of that helps contribute to high-level bridge and its continued majesty.

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, leading the king first would be superior to not, but all that would mean would be that then both heart finesses, plus the diamonds being an unlikely 4-4 or 6-2 without West having either heart honor nor the spade ace.

That could all happen, but sometimes we need to save some of our luck for when it really counts, like playing bingo. Besides first leading a club to the jack seems more graceful and those style points sometimes makes up for losing finesses which should strike a chord for some, especially, you know who.

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Hi Jane A,

It seems you, like moi, are an early riser. Yes Bill is a super, very plain guy who obviously knows how to act for all seasons.

Also Sharon has been among the top world women bridge players for years, and has, no doubt, contributed greatly to both Bill’s and Warren Buffett’s great love of the game and for their getting deeper and deeper into promoting it.

If so, one fine day we (or at least, those still around) should not underestimate what she has done to educate those two unbelievable US icons to the wonders of the game and for that she is owed the keys to the kingdom, not to mention any Nobel prizes awarded for the future of bridge.

Iain ClimieMarch 25th, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Hi Jim2,

Flippantly, “Whaddya mean calling us all querulous today?”. Sensibly, the extra 2.8% for 4-1 one way with stiff CQ over the Jack might still be worth having. If we cluutch at enough straws, can we build a raft? TOCM could still sink it, mind you.


Judy Kay-WolffMarch 25th, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Hi Jane A,

Your reference to Bill Gates brought back memories to an NABC in Pittsburgh about thirty years go. As the East-West pair arrived at my table, I got a weird feeling that I knew my LHO. Indeed, I did. It was Telly Savalas .. of Kojak fame. When I first started playing, I also recall another famed contestant I got to meet at a Washington tournament who was surrounded by the Secret Service. It was Dwight David Eisenower and if my memory served me correctly, he was partnered by Charlie Solomon.

I had never met Bill Gates until Bobby introduced me to him yesterday as he was bodyguarded my Sharon. He appeared warm and outgoing but most impressive was how unassuming he was. We got to play his team in the KO but he was at the other table. You never know whom you are going to bump into when you pay your entry fee.

jim2March 25th, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Iain Climie –

Heck, I wrote down “style points” for the next time I look to be on the losing end of a post mortem!

Iain ClimieMarch 25th, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Hi Jim2,

My partners are more results based, trampling beauty and elegance in the mire of winning ugly. That CK looks wrong, but partner is allowed not to watch and wince.


David WarheitMarch 26th, 2015 at 6:15 am

Mircea: You’re not ignorant! Somehow I misread the column and thought that W had led the DQ at trick 1. I don’t think that makes me ignorant, but I’m sure you can think of at least a few uncomplimentary words. Oh, well.

roffiMarch 26th, 2015 at 8:13 am


it is a polish club sequence :
one diamond shows 0-6 H and 1NT 18-20H
Two clubs is stayman