Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 1st, 2016

Our sympathy is cold to the relation of distant misery.

Edward Gibbon

S North
None ♠ 8 5 3
 9 7 6 2
 J 4
♣ Q 10 9 7
West East
♠ Q J 9 6 4
 Q 3
♣ J 8 6 5 3
♠ 10 7
 J 10 8 5 3
 10 9 8 6
♣ 4 2
♠ A K 2
 A Q 4
 A K 7 5 2
♣ A K
South West North East
2 ♣ Pass 2 Pass
3 NT All pass    


Many of my readers are regular rubber bridge players, but those who dip their toes into the world of duplicate tournaments are often confused as to how strategies change when playing teams or pairs.

Today’s deal emphasizes the difference in approaches. You declare three no-trump on a hand where your 27-count would have been even nicer at Rubber Bridge. Your partner wisely decided not to look for a suit game after you showed the values for game in your own hand.

You win the lead of the spade queen (East contributing the 10) with the king, and unblock your two top clubs. Next you lead a low diamond toward dummy’s jack; if the suit splits 3-3 you can do whatever you like, but if the suit breaks 4-2, you need to hope the queen is onside.

West rises with the diamond queen, then leads the spade jack to set up that suit. You win in hand, and cross to the dummy with the diamond jack to cash the club winner. After East shows out on the third club, there would be no issues at teams. You would make sure of your game by leading to the heart ace. This guarantees 10 tricks without risking the contract, and you would actually emerge with 11 tricks.

But at pairs, might you not assume you were in the normal contract, and that West had such short hearts that the finesse was odds-on to win? I’m sure your partner would be appropriately sympathetic when your finesse lost to the singleton king, and you went down three.

This is not an auction where partner has guaranteed real clubs, so I would lead a spade. It may well be necessary to cash or set up a trick in that suit at once, and you do not especially fear partner shifting to either a club or a diamond, since you have an honor in each suit. Leading the spade queen in an attempt to retain the lead looks overly intellectual to me.


♠ Q 9 7 5 2
 7 4
 Q 9 5
♣ J 9 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 1
1 ♠ 2 2 ♠ 4
All 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


jim2February 15th, 2016 at 3:28 pm

I think declarer can improve the odds by ducking the first spade. For example, give West:


bobby wolffFebruary 15th, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your eventual meaning, of course, is that East (not West, with the hands interchanged) would be thoroughly squeezed in the red suits allowing declarer to take 2 spades, 4 clubs (fall of the jack) and either 4 diamonds and 2 hearts or 3 diamonds and 3 hearts without having to risk the heart finesse, because of knowing that the hearts have to be originally 1-5. It’s a classic example of timing the hand by losing all the tricks necessary but the one expected to be gained by executing an effective squeeze at trick 12 which would make Clyde Love very proud.

IOW, not only an extra squeeze trick is produced, but no danger in the heart finesse would be present because of counting the hand.

If that play would be produced in a very important tournament (like the slush one in Lower Slobbovia) you would also win the hand of the tournament award together with all its perks.

jim2February 15th, 2016 at 11:48 pm

Indeed, I meant East.