Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Now is not the hour that requires such help, nor such defenders.


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


Today’s deal presents a problem in both the auction and play. As South you show your two suits at your first two turns, and receive tepid preference to spades from your partner. Should you pass, or try for game? In my opinion your intermediates make you just worth a call of three diamonds, which shows real extras and suggests a fragment (three-card suit) in diamonds. When partner raises to four diamonds, it might be most discreet to pass. However, you decide to take a shot at four spades, and when dummy comes down you realize that neither you nor your partner has exactly underbid the hand.

Against four spades West leads the heart four to East’s queen, and that player switches to the club four. Plan the play.

It looks as if you need spades to break 3-3 (which is probably the case or East might have continued hearts at trick two). If you rise with the club ace and try to ruff clubs in the dummy, you run the risk of losing a diamond ruff or a trump promotion. Better is to take the finesse of the club queen. First of all, the finesse might win. If it doesn’t then West won’t be able to continue the suit, so does best to revert to hearts. You ruff the heart, ruff a club in dummy, and start on trumps.

Since trumps break 3-3, the defenders are helpless. They can force you again, but you draw trump, and take four spades, two clubs and four diamonds, to emerge with 10 tricks.

For all those fans of quality over quantity, I just threw this problem in to see if you had been paying attention. There are few people keener on raising with three trump than me – but not with a 4-3-3-3 pattern. This is a one no-trump rebid; let partner look for three-card heart support if he wants.


♠ A 10 7
 A K Q
 8 4 2
♣ 8 4 3 2
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 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


jim2November 18th, 2015 at 12:46 pm

I suspect the sequence of play in column line contains unexplained subtleties, probably due to column length restrictions.

That is, once one stakes everything on spades being 3 – 3 as the column states, simply beginning trump from hand instead of ruffing the club to lead the first trump from the board also produces ten tricks: four spades, one club, and five diamonds.

Ruffing the club does seem to add some small extra chances, however. For example, the JD might be a singleton, limiting declarer to four diamond tricks (suit blocks). Or, East might rise with the AS holding Ax and the defense might be unable to prevail (e.g., East might have KQ hearts doubleton). Potentially, the club ruff might drop the JC tripleton, which might help on some layouts.

Patrick CheuNovember 18th, 2015 at 2:35 pm

Hi Jim,Maybe by ruffing the second club declarer caters for Jxxx break in diamonds,and the extra chance of JC coming down in three rounds as you so rightly mentioned..the 10C has a role to play,so you have 4S,3D,3C doubt I stand to be corrected by our host..regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffNovember 18th, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Hi Jim2 & Patrick,

I think the club finesse might help in several variations. One, which I would suspect if and when the initial club finesse loses, I would expect a club to come flying back so that with spades 3-3 the defense can duck the first spade, setting the stage, for taking defensive club trick(s) after the next round of trumps.

Of course, the club 10 with declarer will deny that miss adventure, but if East leads a low club back (anyone but the 8) West should get his hopes up. By his leading the four East seemed to understand his responsibility, but, at least to me, I would put my faith in the eight, not the four.

Also please remember, that these hands are both played and defended by mere human beings, not being walking bridge computers (who is?) and without taking ten minutes or more before every play, when problems arise, all defensive possibilities are not often seen clearly.

Because of that above fact, many hands are only somewhat guessed, albeit by different types of analytical talent with that range varying greatly.

The only state of wonder, at least to me, is why West upon winning the king of clubs did not lead one back, playing partner for the ten.

However, I may, like others, may be missing something critical, but at some point plays need to be made, even if all the huge number of possibilities have not all been uncovered.

Thanks for pursuing this analysis, but then I may add to that, I think!

jim2November 18th, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Patrick –

The chance of Jxxx of diamonds and J-third of clubs was one of the layouts to which my last sentence referred.

I agree the initial club finesse must be taken, else a later club through the closed hand would be fatal when the board is out of trump.

slarNovember 18th, 2015 at 6:26 pm

#jim2 yes. I would have gotten this wrong. I would have taken the CA and slapped the SK down. As long as East holds up for a round, I’m dead.

This is a great hand for Frank Stewart’s “Society of Finessers” – the winning play is actually to take a practice finesse!

Patrick CheuNovember 18th, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Hi Jim,If the diamonds are Jxxx,cos of the blockage,you will not know until its too late,therefore I merely say its always better to ruff a club first after club you have only three diamond tricks not four..otherwise we agree!

bobby wolffNovember 18th, 2015 at 7:16 pm

To Jim2 & Slar,

From a teacher’s viewpoint my inexperience in not even coming close to becoming proficient at it, makes me often wonder, especially pertaining to strictly bridge, how much learned knowledge is processed and to what degree, from only just a specific card combination, or rather to including the whole hand analysis and what first it will take to succeed, and then, of course, the best way to make sure that happens.

My guess to that solution would then just emphasize how important everyday numeracy becomes, first on declarer play how many of each suit may be held by either opponent and then on defense since numbers culminating with 13 should emphasize to each defender just how many of each suit both partner and thus declarer started with (again ending with 13) and then, of course, how to proceed to give each other the best chance to take the hoped for number (with matchpoints, considering, with even overtricks so vitally important, its bastardization, only increasing the degree of difficulty to what I consider an unreal and too often toss-up finalization).

And finally directly to Slar, a practice finesse is only named that because the definition suggests that the only reason to take that finesse has nothing to do with gaining a trick, but only to see if one’s finesses are working, and as we now all agree, this one is indeed vital and in some respects because of its specificity, it becomes a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

No pun intended, but I lie a lot.

bobby wolffNovember 18th, 2015 at 7:38 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, your analysis could be described as proceeding from the good to the very good when you refer to ruffing a club first, just in case the diamonds are 4-1 without the singleton jack, but the club jack comes tumbling down, third.

When I was a teenager, but already well into bridge, I used to dream playing against the redoubtable Terence Reese (a hero back then and until Buenos Aires, 1965) in the finals of the bridge World Championship and winning because of such plays.

Unfortunately someone awakened me, to face the real world, but with the recent uncovering of all the horrible cheating going on worldwide, please, anyone, another sleeping pill!

Goodbye Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and hello Dracula and the Wolfman.

Patrick CheuNovember 18th, 2015 at 7:49 pm

Hi Bobby,In life as in bridge one needs heroes,YOU are one that we could all aspired every which way.Best regards~Patrick.:)

jim2November 18th, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Patrick –

I believe that is still covered in my posts.