Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 25th, 2015

The bad end happily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means.

Tom Stoppard

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


In today’s deal from a pairs game I know that South’s three diamond opening would not get the approval of purists – it is arguable that the hand is not really good enough vulnerable, and holding two three-card majors is dangerous because a possible major-suit game in a 5-3 fit may well be missed. But as the opponents were vulnerable, South had hopes of talking them out of a game, or perhaps prompting them into an indiscretion. Also, the weak majors with all the values in diamonds argued for taking the risk of missing a higher scoring contract. In response, North’s five diamond bid was well judged (a call of three no-trump would have received the fate it deserved).

West found the attacking lead of the heart three. It seemed right to finesse and the queen held, and now South played the club king, covered by the ace, and ruffed. How would you take it from there?

Curiously, the winning line just involves taking the diamond finesse! At trick three play a diamond to the ace, cash the club queen and ruff a club. Now play a heart to the ace, ruff a club, then another spade to the ace and ruff a club. That is where the diamond finesse comes in: with West unable to overruff, you have scored the first nine tricks. You are left with the diamond K-J and all you need to do now is exit with a major-suit card, and wait for the last two tricks.

Responder’s jump should be played as a splinter – a singleton in support of the last bid suit. So here responder should have short spades and heart support. You are never going to give up short of slam, so it looks simple enough to ask for aces (using keycard to check out the trump king if you play that). It is a good rule that almost all unnecessary jumps are assumed to be shortness, agreeing the last-bid suit.


♠ A 8 5
 A Q 8 6
♣ K Q 8 7 4
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 3 ♠ 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


angelo romanoOctober 9th, 2015 at 11:06 am

Hi Bobby, you say “At trick three play a diamond to the ace, cash the club queen and ruff a club. Now play a heart to the ace” Now your line is to ruff a club.
I suggest instead to ruff a heart (I don’t think W started with Kx and anyway if he has the DQ your line loses too): if they are 4-2 then follow your line. If they are 3-3, as here, you play the DK, winning with diamonds 3-2 OR as here if the DQ has no more clubs: he must lead a spade and if he has (at least) a spade honor you lose just one spade

bobby wolffOctober 9th, 2015 at 11:47 am

Hi Angelo,

While your alternate lines TBD, are indeed compelling, isn’t it possible that an adverse spade distribution may lead to the defense (East) being able to trump a good spade and still allow the queen of diamonds to score, either naturally or as an overruff?

Whether the above is true or not, thanks for the bridge brain work you provided and by the way, since the column line was possibly dependent on the queen of diamonds being with East, how could your line not be at least considered?

But as Jim2 might explain, my head hurts just trying to compare what to do.

angelo romanoOctober 9th, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Hi Bobby, if East is short in spades he has 4 clubs (2-3-4-4) so he can simply force South with the winning 4th club.
My line wins with all diamonds 3-2; if East has the DQ 4th, it wins only with 3-3-4-3

bobby wolffOctober 9th, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Hi Angelo,

Yes, your line needs hearts to be 3-3, but, as you say, will still succeed with diamonds 4-1 but only if East is 3-3-4-3.

All correct, and worth pursuing, but still not keeping my head from hurting. However I appreciate and admire your determination and, not to mention, your high level analysis.