Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 21th, 2016

It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.

Bill Watterson

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


In today’s deal North elects not to use Stayman after hearing the two no-trump opening because of his balanced shape. After a diamond lead against three no-trump South must try to develop tricks in both hearts and clubs. He can reach dummy only once, with the diamond ace. The question is whether to use the entry for a heart or club finesse.

If South uses the diamond entry to dummy for a club finesse, he has an even chance to gain a club trick. If the finesse succeeds, he will win two club tricks instead of only one. But if South, instead, tries a heart finesse, he may gain nothing at all. The point is that a single finesse in hearts may produce nothing for South that he cannot get by leading the suit from his own hand.

For example, if East has a doubly-guarded heart king, the finesse will work, but East will still score his king sooner or later. It is only if East has the doubleton heart king that the finesse gains immediately; and even then South is only up to eight tricks, since his fourth heart will not be high.

South has no way of knowing which finesse will work, so his play is a matter of guesswork. But it is pointless to try for something that won’t be of material assistance. Best is to use dummy’s entry for a club finesse; when it holds, play ace then queen of hearts. Win the diamond return and duck a club, to make the game whenever either hearts or clubs break favorably.

How many tries toward slam should you make? The best way forward, I think, is to cuebid four clubs, planning to give up over a four-heart signoff. Remember your partner knows he has shown 0-7 or so already. With two major honors such as an ace and a king you can assume he would work out to advance beyond game. And note that we haven’t even considered the danger of club ruffs…


♠ A 4
 A Q J 6
 K Q J
♣ A Q 3 2
South West North East
      3 ♣
Dbl. 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 4th, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

I love the quote today, which applies to so many areas within large organisations and other bodies; it should be used by Scott Adams, Dilbert’s creator.

The hand is also very instructive and there are a few residual chances from playing the hearts later from hand. Either opponent might have H109 alone while West could have a singleton HK (East won’t have, or we’d have had a heart led at T1). I suspect he won’t see the funny side, though.



bobby wolffFebruary 4th, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Hi Iain,

And speaking of reality, I and other readers will hasten to always select yours and, of course then not deny.

Like, at least one of the three bears, your porridge is usually well measured for temperature, but instead of filling one’s stomach, and mine is much too large, you more often than not, fill our bridge minds with important details, not seen by others, but the difference between winning and losing in many cases.

Not to say that our current cast of bridge menagerie (stolen from Victor Mollo) doesn’t have other excellent analysts also giving their time, effort and acumen in an attempt to clean up the column and site.

It is just that sometimes I am remiss in not mentioning it more often.

BTW, what might the “Hideous Hog” say as dummy when his “ox” started off by leading the queen, instead of the ace of hearts and found West with that singleton king you mention? At least then the good news, West might appreciate the funny side you mention.

Iain ClimieFebruary 4th, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this, and in similar (I hope) light-hearted vein, try this:

Bridge playing in Thailand a little risky?


bobby wolffFebruary 4th, 2016 at 6:27 pm

Hi Iain,

The headline said it all, “Police arrest old players”,
what else, since they didn’t find any young ones.

No doubt the bridge police checking for cards up one’s sleeve. They probably heard about the cheating. On a more serious vein, some countries fear gambling and have always thought that playing cards was certain evidence of that.

Even the founder of the Aces, Ira Corn of Dallas in the late 1960’s, was not allowed to play cards, while growing up, years earlier by his family who thought playing cards were tickets from the devil. However Bangkok is known for other activities which caters to other types of finesses, also enjoyable (I only heard).

No doubt the smaller the world, the more cultures collide, but much better that then the way IS goes about establishing their methods.