Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 2nd, 2016

A billion neutrinos go swimming: one gets wet.

Michael Kamakana

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


**Choice of slams


In today’s deal North-South did well to reach six no-trump, a better contract than six spades, since if both red suits behave, it can be made with only two spade tricks. And at pairs, it would also be more rewarding if it came home.

Declarer won West’s top diamond lead in dummy, then cashed the spade ace, and when East’s queen dropped, he played a club from dummy. East (worried declarer had the spade jack and that he was trying to steal his 13th trick) went in with the ace and continued with another diamond.

Declarer won the diamond in dummy, played a club back to his king, and cashed the diamond ace and nine, West discarding a club. Now the percentage play in spades is to take the finesse (following the principle of restricted choice, which argues that if East had a singleton honor he would have had no choice which card to play, whereas if he had the queen-jack doubleton he would have had a choice).

But declarer instead cashed the spade king, East discarding a club, followed by the club queen, on which West was forced to discard a heart. At this point declarer knew that each defender had three hearts left so he could play hearts from the top and make 12 tricks.

In retrospect it is curious that if West had unguarded his hearts on the fourth diamond, declarer might well have had more trouble reading the ending. By discarding his third club prematurely, he exposed the full count on the hand.

Whether your partner has four hearts, or three hearts in an unbalanced hand, it seems to me that four hearts rates to be the best game. The point is that if partner has only three hearts he will be short in spades or diamonds, and four hearts may well therefore be a better spot, even in a 4-3 fit.


♠ 6 5 2
 K Q 10 6
 A 9 6 4
♣ K 9
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 2 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


BryanSeptember 16th, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Does it make a difference if East jumps up with the Ace on the first club? East Ducking, and then what was declarer’s plan?

Mircea1September 16th, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

In your view, is the DJ a reasonable opening lead here?

Iain ClimieSeptember 16th, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Hi Bobby,

It is purely with the benefit of all 4 hands, but imagine South had settled for 6S and West had somehow hit on the Spade 9 as his opening lead. South would have had a hard luck story to rank with the best (or should that be worst) imaginable. His decision to rely on NT for extra chances as well as the extra 10 points was inspired – or perhaps a lesson that we shouldn’t be seduced by weak trumps even holding 8 or 9 between the two hands.



jim2September 16th, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Iain –

Not soooo fassst!

I was trying to resist, but 6S is cold even w/o the principle of restricted choice finesse.

Declarer takes the two top spades — oops!

– Unblocks the KQ of diamonds
– Cashes AH
– comes to hand with a high heart
– cashes other high heart, pitching one club
– cashes AD, pitching second club

and guess what! the 9D is good!

– cashes 9D and pitches last club

West can trump the 9D but it is toooo late!


jim2September 16th, 2016 at 7:47 pm

(Note that if West swapped one small heart for another diamond, then it would have been the 10H that declarer used to pitch the last club)

Iain ClimieSeptember 16th, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Hi Jim2,

True enough with the diamonds dropping as the cards lie – could TOCM be losing its grip, at least for the case of such a hypothetical hand from your viewpoint? Back at the green baize battlefield, of course, west would have been dealt the CA, led it against your 6S and switched to the S9 from SJ9x – or is it S9x? You just know what is coming next, although I’m convinced from long personal experience (excluding hand dealing) that the rule of restricted choice doesn’t apply quite as often as I’d expect.

Well spotted though, and the good luuck story you envisage is even better than the bad luck case I suggested. Have a great weekend (ideally with the sort of good fortune you describe but rarely get).


Bobby WolffSeptember 17th, 2016 at 5:46 am

Hi Bryan et al,

Often it is better on defense to not take an ace, when by doing so it forces declarer to sometimes give up on squeezes which are planned, and especially those which want to lose the trick or tricks necessary (on this hand only one) in order to arrive at the moment of execution, when the squeeze goes into effect.

However it is not always either available to do so or sometimes is a road to a crucial overtrick at pairs (mentioned in the text) so like so much else with our game, it becomes more artful than only strictly technical (which it fairly often becomes).

Each hand has to be considered on its own merits with very few slam dunk plays ever evident.

Yes Mircea, I probably would lead the jack of diamonds, although when defending a slam it is not unheard of to lead the 10 from the Jack Ten when playing against a very good declarer. Usually partner will not be fooled since, believe it or not, slams, as a matter of course, are usually easier to defend because of the fewer options available to the defense for tricks.

Early on in my bridge career while playing in a later round of the Vanderbilt I lead the J from J1097 allowing the KQ8x in dummy to take the twelfth trick when declarer played me for what I had, while holding Axx. Only 50 or 60 years have passed, but I still regret not leading the 10 and then following suit with the seven when next it is led.

As to the discussion around leading the spade 9 from J9x, my experience reminds me that most cagy players will lead the low one from 9x not the 9, (when it will not matter for partner to make his choice). The key words are when playing against equals do not expect them to play as if transparent cards are being used.

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