Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 23rd, 2018

The laws of God, the laws of man, He may keep that will and can.

A.E. Housman

W North
E-W ♠ 10 9 2
 6 5 4 2
 Q 9 8 2
♣ A J
West East
♠ K 7 5 3
 Q 10 7
 10 3
♣ 10 7 6 3
♠ 6
 K J 9 8 3
 K J 4
♣ Q 9 5 2
♠ A Q J 8 4
 A 7 6 5
♣ K 8 4
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1
Dbl. 2 Pass Pass
2 ♠ Pass 3 ♠ Pass
4 ♠ All pass    


In today’s deal from the 2014 European Championships, host nation Croatia faced the favorites and ultimate silver medalists, Monaco.

In one room, South reached the normal contract, despite East’s light third-in-hand opening. After a heart lead, a simple line would be to rely on either the diamond or spade finesse working, by leading to the diamond queen. However, that approach would fail today.

Instead, assume that the contract will always make if the spade finesse works. If it doesn’t, the diamond king will surely be wrong. You cannot avoid the spade loser, but your play in the diamond suit can be tailored to the circumstances of the deal.

So how should you play diamonds for just one loser? The best line is to use the technique first identified and classified as the intra-finesse by Gabriel Chagas.

At trick two, play a small diamond to the eight or nine. East wins with the jack and returns a heart. You ruff the third heart and enter dummy with the club ace, then run the spade 10. West wins the king, you ruff the heart return, and now (though you do not know it) West has longer trumps than you.

But you play the club king and ruff a club, then lead the diamond queen. East covers, and when you play the ace, West’s 10 makes an appearance.

If you read the position, you will leave trumps alone, instead playing out another diamond. Although West can ruff, he must concede the rest whether he plays back a club or a spade.

I would start by redoubling, rather than bidding my suits, planning to double them if they escape to a minor. If my partner doubles the opponents’ escape to two hearts, I would sit for it. If two hearts comes around to me, I suppose I will bid three diamonds.


♠ A Q J 8 4
 A 7 6 5
♣ K 8 4
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT Dbl.

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 ClimieDecember 7th, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Hi Bobby,

It is an elegant piece of play but, with hearts 3-5, isn’t there a real danger that East will have DKJ or K10 alone? If you find out about the 4-1 trump split, perhaps that is different but I wonder how odds on the play actually is (assuming East has DK) here. West can also generate a losing option from J10x or Jx, of course, by playing the J. In one case South must duck then play for the drop, in the other, covering and taking the finesse on the way back works. This is getting into serious mind games I suspect.

Iain ClimieDecember 7th, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Manners slipping – regards, Iain as ever!

A V Ramana RaoDecember 7th, 2018 at 5:44 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Doubledummy ,perhaps there is an alternate line. Win the lead and play J of spades from hand. If west wins and returns a heart, ruff , play three rounds of clubs r uffing in dummy, ruff a heart in hand and lead A and a diamond playing Q from dummy. East can win two diamonds but has to return either a club or a heart on which south sluffs diamond and claims . It does not help west to ruff the diamond winner from east. Only problem is that east could hold K J 10 x of diamonds but then there is no play for the contract.
This play need not be doubledummy strictly as it retains trump control and caters to normal break in trumps irrespective of who hods K

bobbywolffDecember 7th, 2018 at 6:18 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, and no doubt, you have discovered an inconsistency with our analysis. It is relatively certain that, if indeed, West, not East has the spade king, then that together with the inferential knowledge of West possessing the heart queen (East’s play of the heart king at trick one, a spot to which almost all 3rd seat players would not be falsecarding his partner) leaves the declarer relatively certain, at least with the percentage chance, that the diamond king is with East.

However and no doubt the first diamond play should not result in the diamond queen being played from dummy, after the lead of a low diamond toward. Result, depending on declarer’s table judgment, is either following through with Gabriel’s aptly named, intra finesse, or merely just playing East to have started with the doubleton KJ or, of course instead, the KJx.

Since intra finesse makes for better reading (for some, a new magic bridge trick) we opted to go that route, but (and before finding the 4-1 spade break) I tend to think that playing East for the doubleton diamond king is slightly superior.

Kudos to you for being the numerate soul you are. While being blessed with likely the most favorable special feature any bridge player could possess, you take it in stride, rather than worry about not having that particular talent.

Finally, thanks for reminding me to discuss such things, for without doing just that, in spite of most probably not realizing its absence, it would be insincerity of a significant degree to proceed as a bridge teacher, without so doing.

And regarding manners, if so, I would be guilty of doing the same on every post I make so yes, I not only forgive you, in fact, I appreciate you joining me in what I hope is not necessarily considered rude or even close, at least by a significant some.

bobbywolffDecember 7th, 2018 at 6:39 pm


Yes, your play, in effect, forces East to give a contract making ruff and sluff, allowing declarer to discard his losing 4th diamond, made so by West having that extra trump. However, if in fact East had the KJ, K10, or even Kx doubleton the ending would come up unfavorable for declarer unless declarer rose to the task of guessing the diamond suit correctly.

However, nothing detracts from your usual keen analysis, making you very consistent and justifiably accurate in your declarer choices.

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