Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

How did I respect you when you dared to speak the truth to me! Men don’t know women or they would be harder to them.

Anthony Trollope

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


On this deal from the 2017 European Open Championships, the bulletin remarked that just because the double-dummy analysis (a computer program called Deep Finesse) tells you something, that doesn’t mean it is “true.” The program tells you what should happen on best play; but how often do you encounter that?

For example, Jovanka Smederevac declared four spades doubled on this deal, where the analysts had indicated that nine tricks were the limit — but no one told declarer!

Smederevac, playing with Matilda Poplilov, received a diamond lead; East won and cashed her heart king, then continued with the heart jack. Smederevac ruffed, led a club to the king, which was ducked, and led a club back. East took her ace but shifted to a low diamond, which turned out to be fatal. Smederevac won her queen, took the spade king, ruffed a diamond to dummy, and cashed the third club to pitch a diamond.

She had reached a four-card ending where dummy had the spade ace, a losing heart and two club winners, while East had three spades and the diamond ace, and South the Q-J-6 of spades and a losing diamond.

When declarer led a club from dummy, East could ruff in with the seven, but declarer could over-ruff, ruff a diamond to dummy, and be in position for the trump coup.

East had needed to notice that declarer has only nine tricks: five spades and four clubs. If you play a trump at every turn, declarer can take diamond ruffs, but in turn you can kill her club tricks by ruffing in.

You doubled to show a good hand, typically with the unbid suits, and your partner reverted to two spades. This doesn’t guarantee a sixth spade, but does suggest a minimum hand with no clear fit for clubs or hearts. You are certainly close to a pass, and I might do that at pairs; but at teams and vulnerable, I’d stretch to raise to three.


♠ A 9 8
 10 9 8 5
♣ K Q J 9 3
South West North East
  1 1 ♠ 2
Dbl. 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A V Ramana RaoJune 27th, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
If West can discern to lead trump at first trick even the ninth trick disappears. South can try to establish clubs or ruff diamonds but he cannot do both things simultaneously . East of course ducks first club

BobliptonJune 27th, 2018 at 1:18 pm

If west leads a trump, AV, south can lead clubs immediately. It requires him to place the cards correctly….


A V Ramana RaoJune 27th, 2018 at 1:53 pm

Hi Bob
OK . South leads club which East ducks. Now what. If clubs are continued , East wins cashes K of hearts and returns trump. If dummy wins and leads clubs, South will ruff fourth club and returns last trump. South has to lose three diamond now. Instead, if South plays diamonds after East ducks the club , East wins , Cashes K of heart and returns a trump. Only way South escapes for one down is lead a diamond after winning first trump in dummy and lead clubs . Later ruff one diamond and on next time when the lead is gained , play Q of diamonds from hand pinning west’ s I. But that would be farfetched. I think in other lines when West leads a trump initially , declared could be limited to eight tricks. Perhaps I am missing something

Iain ClimieJune 27th, 2018 at 1:55 pm

Hi AVRR, Bob,

This is all double dummy, but SA at T1, diamond won by K, spade 10 (say) back, taken, diamond ruff, CK (ducked), CQ taken by A, HJ ruffed, draw tumps, lead DQ pinning J. I think that gives 9 tricks as East is out of hearts and must concede a club or a diamond.

Feel free to shoot holes in it! The thing with Deep Finesse is that it will always drop singleton Kings offside and the like, so shouldn’t be taken too seriously.



Iain ClimieJune 27th, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Sorry, HK then HJ.

A V Ramana RaoJune 27th, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Hi lain
After C A, East will cash H K and return a trump , not heart J

bobbywolffJune 27th, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Hi AVRR, Bob, & Iain,

While somewhat discussing perfect analysis, including Deep Finesse value and double dummy play, let me digress into what, at least to me, is even more important (concerning this real hand).

East, as a third seat defender, needs to make a choice after West having only a trump singleton decided not to waste the first trick tempo and thus (IMO, not to be criticized) led a diamond. East’s decision is a fairly common generic one, that of deception for declarer, by winning the first trick with the ace, not the king, which theoretically denies the king.

Will it hurt the defense or, in this case, at least put declarer to a very difficult guess at trick two if East decides to, (as he did) lead a diamond back, hoping to begin a tap of dummy to neutralize the club trick value?

I vote yes, since West will not likely have a problem later on being deceivecd, but if West held the jack not the queen his play is likely to gain, in this hand, the setting trick or maybe two.

To me, that point is the major consideration since several possible defenses remain, but only after the blind opening lead is chosen.

IOW, realism rather than perfection, which often takes p;lace in analysis after the openng lead and not before.

Does anyone disagree, and if so, please step forward, since I, like often, may be wrong.

BobliptonJune 27th, 2018 at 2:46 pm

All I can say, Bobby, is that it’s always easier to play the hand after all the cards have been revealed.


bobbywolffJune 27th, 2018 at 7:02 pm

Hi Bob,

No doubt what you say is 100% true, but the tangled web we should weave, needs to be thought, otherwise our effort, may go for naught.