Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

So weary with disasters, rugged with fortune, That I would set my life on any chance, To mend it or be rid on it.

William Shakespeare

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


The odds associated with a finesse are traditionally 50-50, but sometimes you can achieve a 100% result by finessing into the safe hand — and sometimes you can achieve an equally good result by rejecting the finesse altogether.

Consider today’s deal, in which you reach what appears to be the normal contract of four spades, on a passive club lead from West.

To digress for a moment: I would certainly lead a red-suit against that contract myself, since it is far more likely that you need to set up winners than go passive here, but that is another column. Similarly, the question of whether to lead second-highest from four small here would produce different opinions from different players.

You win the club ace and hasten to draw trumps; what next? You should cash the club king and ruff a club to eliminate that suit altogether. Now you must play the diamond ace followed by the diamond queen. Yes, you give up on the finesse, but you have ensured your contract in the process. Whoever wins the diamond king must give you a trick in return, either via a ruff-sluff or by broaching hearts for you, to ensure that you lose no more than two tricks in the suit.

Note that if you take the diamond finesse, you risk going down. When it loses, back comes a diamond, and you will find you still have to lose three hearts.

The technique here, of eliminating the side suits and forcing a favorable return, is one worth adding to your repertoire.

Your partner is suggesting a long heart suit (but maybe only five cards). Opinions differ as to whether this should be forcing, but your heart support and working cards in the minors argue for a raise to game, regardless of partner’s intentions. However, fans of transfers might consider employing them here, too!


♠ Q J 9 4 2
 Q 7 2
 A Q
♣ A K 3
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
2 NT 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A.V.Ramana RaoApril 16th, 2019 at 12:53 pm

Hi Dear Mr.Wolff
After drawing trumps and leading clubs, if club Q appears from east on the third club , south can prevail even by discarding a diamond instead of ruffing and playing A and Q of diamonds

bobbywolffApril 16th, 2019 at 12:58 pm


Definitely yes and it would be wise for East to not to play the queen of clubs on the 3rd one, possibly Jack, ten, nine in order.

Of course, no never mind against a seasoned and aware declarer, but one, here a defender, should never make it easy for any opponent, but rather make him or her win his spurs.

Bob LiptonApril 16th, 2019 at 1:04 pm

If west leads a red card on opening lead, the contract is fine. With a diamond, rise with the Ace, clear trumps, eliminate clubs and give up the diamond. With a heart lead, you play low, establishing the third heart, and get to take the diamond hook for the overtrick.


bobbywolffApril 16th, 2019 at 2:04 pm

Hi Bob,

Absolutely, unless the opponents have the affront to ruff the third round of hearts when then the declarer will be left with only the diamond finesse to bring home the bacon.

For further reference please consult Jim2 who has had the most experience with such things.

A word of caution: Please do not ask him whether the diamond finesse worked since it, well, I do not need to tell you, the sad news. East held: s. void, h. K10985, d. K,
c. Q1096542 (West being s. 106, h. A6, d. J10985432, c. J) and both EW were silent during the bidding. At the other table they were in 4 spades making 5 when declarer got a singleton club lead instead of the ace of hearts and declarer, of course played it well, losing no diamonds and then only 2 hearts leading first from South and then after the safety play in diamonds downed the king, obligetting the doubleton ace of hearts.

Business as usual for Jim2!

ClarksburgApril 16th, 2019 at 2:11 pm

Good morning Bobby
Would like your thoughts on this hand, which I may present at our regular pre-game seminar this week.
Assume an unobstructed auction
Opener holds AKQ43 A1096 A 986
Responder J976 void J82 KQJ1072
(in our club game, Opener held D9; here I’ve given him the DA !)
Agreements include 2/1 GF, Splinters and Jacoby 2NT. Most players show only first-round controls initially.
Could you suggest an auction using these agreements, and / or your preferred agreements?

bobbywolffApril 16th, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Before I take on your hand, please let me complete my discussion on our great friend, Jim2. As if it couldn’t get unluckier for Jim2 since this hand occurred at Jim2’s favorite site, the Slush tournament in Lower Slobovia, Jim’s partner then told others that Jim had overlooked the safety play which was found at the other table, failing to mention that the opening leads were totally different at the two tables making the downing of the singleton king of diamonds virtually impossible.

When Jim2 politely asked his partner why he had not mentioned the different opening leads his partner replied, “Jim2, you should freely admit your mistake in miss playing the diamonds since you had been at the table wherein West had shown only two hearts, one club and no more than 2 spades so yes East likely had only one diamond. If so, why couldn’t it have been the king as well as any of the others? Please fess up to it when you are wrong.

And now to your hand: How about?
Opener: Responder
1S 4H (shorthess, assuming you
play it that way).
5D 5H- 1st round control
5S (no club control) 6S (not 6 clubs since
that suggests a grand slam.
Yes, 6 clubs might be necessary to play if an opponent had either the ace third of cubs or a singleton club, but I have no way to know enough to prevent that, and also the same can be said about 6 clubs with a spade ruff on either the first trick or the third.

Of course, with the hand without the ace of diamonds, but rather a lesser one, I, even though I do like the ace of hearts and solid spades would probably only respond 4 spades to 4 hearts since I have all those minor suit losers.

BTW, I slightly prefer to retain the use of the preemptive 4 heart response showing a good, long heart suit, and make the exception when short in hearts to go through the Jacoby 2NT with qualified hands for that rather than immediately show heart shortage.

Also the responder’s hand, although with a lot of potential is borderline too weak for a slam try making me lean toward only a 4 spade preemption. However, while still mentioning what I have just opined, have tried to be truthful in my thoughts of the many bidding improvements which have certainly appeared, but depending on them too much, is, at least to me, worse than using them too little,

Outside values and long experience are worth much more to me, than are most bidding innovations. Most of the younger top level players WILL NOT agree with me, so be prepared for their opinions when talking to them.

Finally and no doubt, the road to success is definitely paved by finding a long term partner who is at least, close to your way of thinking.

jim2April 16th, 2019 at 3:26 pm

It’s all true …

Iain ClimieApril 16th, 2019 at 3:49 pm

Hi Folks,

There is a confectionery equivalent of TOCM. A precursor of M & Ms were called “Treets” over here and were advertised with “Treets melt in your mouth not in your hand.” A stock joke was that a person was so unlucky that Treets melted in their hand.

All we can do is commiserate and hope that the curse stays at the card table and doesn’t infect other aspect of Jim2’s life.



bobbywolffApril 16th, 2019 at 8:00 pm

Hi Iain,

It is always nice to have you back, even if it is only checking on one of our very favorite people.

Somehow it is difficult to feel sorry for someone as suave, attentive and imaginative as Jim2, although what he represents is very compelling.

Here is hoping that playing good bridge is also very healthy and represents longer life than normal. Sure, that is self-serving, but I hope everyone on this site is equally blessed.