Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Most coincidences are simply chance events that turn out to be far more probable than many people imagine.

Ivars Peterson

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


In today’s deal, John Holland (a regular medalist for England in Open and Senior teams events) was declarer at six no-trump, against which West led a heart. Holland optimistically inserted the jack; if that had held and diamonds had broken 3-2, that would have been 12 tricks, and any pedagogical interest in the deal would have vanished. But when East covered the jack with the queen, Holland won his ace.

When diamonds broke, Holland cashed them all, discarding a heart and spade from hand. (Since five tricks are impossible against the 5-0 break, it is right to lead the diamond ace or queen first, in case East has a bare jack or 10. Then a low diamond to hand reveals whether a finesse of the nine is necessary.)

On the run of the diamonds, East discarded two clubs and a heart. When declarer cashed the club king and led to dummy’s queen, East pitched a small spade. Since it now appeared East had begun with four cards in each major, how should declarer continue?

It looked as if declarer would need a successful finesse of the spade queen to bring his trick total to 12. But Holland spotted a small extra chance when he led a low spade from dummy; after East contributed the five, he put in his eight. This play would guard against East holding both the jack and nine, and Holland’s foresight gave him his slam. An alternative would have been to run the spade 10, and if that were covered, later to finesse the eight.

With 5-3-3-2 shape and a doubleton in the opponents’ suit, few would argue with overcalling in your long suit at the one-level. At the two-level, issues of suit quality and tactics play a part. Here, your suit is good, but you do have only five; and yes, doubling may get partner to compete in spades — but are you sure that is such a bad idea? I would double rather than bid two diamonds.


♠ 10 7 5
 J 8
 A Q 9 7 4
♣ A Q 9
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1

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


David WarheitDecember 25th, 2018 at 10:20 am

It is right for S to cash the DK first. If E has singleton 10 or 9, S can still make 5 D tricks, but if W has all 5 D, S can make 4 D tricks without having to lose one on the way. Now, after establishing the 4th D trick but before cashing it, if E has K third of S or if W has doubleton J-9 or singleton J or 9, there’s your twelfth trick.

Iain ClimieDecember 25th, 2018 at 11:35 am

Hi David,

Merry Christmas / Happy Holiday – keen as ever! Dotting the i’s, I assume the line is S to Q after setting up but not cashing the 4th D.



A V Ramana RaoDecember 25th, 2018 at 2:31 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Wishing you Merry Christmas
Looks like the double finesse in spades is safest bet. But before that perhaps south should lead diamond to Q in dummy at second trick . Just in case east is dealt with a singleton J / 10. when east follows with low card , south finesses in spades, wins heart return , reach dummy in clubs for repeating spade finesse which wins and had east followed with Diamond J/10 , south cashes diamond K after winning second spade finesse to confirm what is going on and can score the slam

Bobby WolffDecember 25th, 2018 at 3:41 pm

Hi David, Iain, & AVRR,

Thanks to all of the above for your helpful, provocative and well thought out comments.

AVRR, when you mention finesse the spade I assume you mean run the 10 and, of course, if the jack covers, then finesse the queen?

All delicate plays, but David’s suggestion of first playing the king of diamonds seems eminently correct unless East not West had all five diamonds and somehow also had four spades to the king, likely allowing a spade diamond squeeze endplay.

However my head, like Jim2 often claims, has started to hurt, giving me the lame excuse of holiday blues, if I continue.

This glorious season’s love to you three stalwarts and, of course all our other loyal, tried and true, contributors.

jim2December 25th, 2018 at 10:58 pm

But it’s true!!


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