Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

If the waiter in the restaurant stumbles and spills a gill of coffee down the back of your neck, he says, ‘For lagniappe, sir,’ and gets you another cup without extra charge.

Mark Twain

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


Today’s deal sees you overcall in spades, then try three no-trump over your partner’s cuebid, since it is fairly typical here that partner is looking for a heart stopper for no-trump. When he bids on, he shows that he is cuebidding for spades, and once you cooperate, East is off to the races. Blackwood sees him put you in slam, and when West leads the heart six, the auction has told you that that suit will be breaking 6-1. You might as well play low from dummy, and capture East’s nine with your ace.

Drawing trumps seems logical, and East pitches a low heart. It now looks obvious to take the club finesse to dispose of one loser, but you actually have two alternative approaches. One line succeeds when East has exactly two diamonds (strip out the clubs, then play three rounds of diamonds, pitching a heart to endplay West). However, that is a relatively remote possibility.

A far better approach is to strip away the diamonds, ruffing the third round in hand. Then play the ace and king of clubs, planning to lead the club jack and pitch a heart. If West wins the trick, he will be forced to give you a ruff-sluff by playing a minor, since you know he is out of hearts. This line succeeds whenever the club finesse would have worked, but also adds on the slim (but not irrelevant) chance that East has the doubleton club queen. Since this line works whenever the club finesse would have succeeded, it is your best play.

You already denied four hearts when you bid two spades over two diamonds. (Yes, you could be 7-4, but in practical terms, you would surely never bypass even a moderate four-card major when in a game force). So you can bid three hearts to temporize and let partner support spades or try for three no-trump.


♠ A K J 9 5 4
 A 6 2
 4 2
♣ 6 3
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 2 ♣ 2
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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 6th, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’d be a lot happier if West had led the H4 (and maybe a bit happier if the H5). There is a growing tendency for weak 2s to be opened on decent 5 card suits on occasion and then things go horribly wrong – that H6 could be from H64 or H65.

Lucas 2s (weak hands with 5+ in a major and 4+ in a minor) are growing in popularity over here. Are there similar trends in the US and what do top players make of such ideas or do the regard them as similar to unsound gambits at chess – good against the weaker players found out against the better ones.



Bobby WolffJune 6th, 2018 at 4:48 pm

Hi Iain,

Amen! Yes, the trend over here, among experienced, but not necessarily the best players, is to prefer chaos to safety and open weak-two-bids whenever possible, to muddy the waters and be at least thought, to become tough opponents.

However the mitigating force is two fold, first EW is vulnerable, meaning that if the around the table cards are more or less evenly divided among the three hands, and it then goes all pass with West having a lonely singleton small heart, (are you listening Jim2), and it goes all pass, EW will normally be headed for a terrible result. The second and likely the most viable disadvantage is what I believe Damon Runyon, a clever American writer who often wrote about sports betting wrote “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the best way to bet”.

Finally, as you are well aware, declarer play is not always (nor even often), based on “aces and cinches” but on percentage, meaning your fears are neatly expressed above, wishing the opening leader had led the 4 of hearts instead of the 6, but instead, not following the expressed column line and allowing that queen of clubs with East to score, instead of being gobbled up. Rather to feel the satisfaction of bearding that beast!

Perhaps if the medical profession is listening, they will try harder to find an antidote to TOCM TM, if for no other reason, than to prevent an epidemic.