Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

In science, the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs.

Sir Francis Darwin

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


Mastering the standard suit combinations is something that requires time, trouble and the occasional visit to the textbooks. And it is not always so easy to distinguish one position from the next.

Here South sensibly offered clubs an alternative strain — even the 5-3 fit might have played best if declarer needed to ruff out spades. North was happy to play the suit slam, but after the lead of the heart nine, South saw there was no obvious advantage to playing there — that is, unless declarer went for an endplay rather than attempting to squeeze a third trick out of the spades.

That said, how would you maximize your chances of developing three tricks from the spades? Declarer’s decision to run the spade jack, then later play the ace and king in an attempt to drop the 10, was not a success.

This was a better try than cashing both top spades, I believe, though that would have worked as the cards lie, as would taking two finesses or even leading a low spade toward the jack. But the best technical line is to draw trumps, cash the spade ace and continue with the nine, planning to let it run if East plays low.

You next plan to run the spade jack if West follows with a small card. While this line fails if East blithely plays low on the second round from queen-empty-fourth or even queen-third, this still represents the best odds play. And you could argue that if he does find this defense, he deserves to beat you.

A double here is cardshowing (typically a strong no-trump equivalent or better, with no clear alternative action). It is not for penalty, but closer to take-out than optional. You should simply bid three diamonds and let your partner take a further call if appropriate.


♠ Q 6
 Q J 5 4 3
 Q 10 8 5
♣ 6 5
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 2 ♠ Dbl. 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


jim2May 7th, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Er, hmmm, breaking out my best Sam Spade voice.

This is the stuff that headaches are made of.

First of all, I suspect a typo in the column text here:

You next plan to run the spade jack if West follows with a small card.

If West followed with “a small card” then the 9S won the trick, and declarer has 12 tricks. I suspect it should read instead:

You next plan to run the spade jack if West wins the 9S with the 10S.

In any case, all lines probably should include drawing trump and then cashing one high spade first. This means all lines win when either missing spade honor is singleton, East has Q10S doubleton, or East is void. It also assumes the club distribution has not influenced the math. (e.g., if East had all four clubs, then West more likely to have longer spades)

Playing spades from the top loses only to holdings where one hand has more than three including both honors.

A straight double finesse loses only when both honors are offside.

The column preferred line loses only when East has three or four spades including the QS but NOT the 10S. (It adds the not-calculable chances of misdefense)

Note that the double finesse wins in those holdings where that column line fails, but the double finesse fails when both honors are with East where that column line wins.

My head hurts already, so do not ask me to compare the math probabilities of the three lines. I suspect they are all close but I cannot deny that the chances of misdefense are substantial on the preferred column line.

bobbywolffMay 7th, 2019 at 2:47 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for giving all of us a thorough complete analysis of the correct playing of 6 clubs (and also for practical purposes, 6NT) in simply creating the most likely method of taking 3 legitimate spade tricks.

Of course, sorry for the column gaffe which more likely was a brain, rather than a typo mistake.

Although, often, as Jim2 often complains about his head hurting, when comparing (or at least attempting to) the order of playing the key suit, spades, one, with experience, grows in ability for the future in beginning to explore the often very small difference between the principle choices.

This, in turn serves as a backdrop, in not having to take forever, when similar (sometimes practically identical) card combinations appear at a later time, after the original thought is expended.

However and no doubt, at least as far as I am concerned, Jim2 has covered the bases with the above combination, but it may be also helpful for all interested to, at the least, understand the small differences present when determining what is the superior line.

Forewarned is as close as an aspiring excellent bridge player can get, to being forearmed.

jim2May 7th, 2019 at 3:11 pm


Please pass the ibu.


jim2May 7th, 2019 at 3:50 pm

Typos are easy!

For example, I said: “East has Q10S doubleton.” I meant: “either has Q10S doubleon.”

Mooore ibu, please!

bobbywolffMay 7th, 2019 at 6:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

Depends on the meaning of typos, which according to Oxford Dictionary is “a small error in typed or printed writing”.

jim2May 7th, 2019 at 7:00 pm

Before I learned to type, I had a lot of writeographical errors.

Still do, actually.

Where’s that cold compress?!