Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 13th, 2019

The messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary; he will come only on the day after his arrival; he will come, not on the last day, but on the very last.

Franz Kafka

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


**Pick a slam


Everybody knows a quick peek is worth two finesses, but most of us would be happy to play a slam that depended solely on one of two finesses succeeding. That converts to a 75 percent chance — good enough, but hardly money in the bank. If you could improve your odds over that, you would not turn your nose up at the opportunity, would you?

Let’s look at a position that reflects precisely these chances. You play six hearts when North offers his partner a choice of small slam on a hand where the matching distributions mean that, despite his surplus of values and trumps, declarer must work hard to hold his minor losers to one.

After a spade lead, declarer draws trumps in three rounds and eliminates the spades. How should he advance from there? He can improve his odds over the simple diamond finesse followed by the club finesse. He should play the ace, king and a third diamond, eschewing the finesse since there is no need to take it. If West wins the diamond queen, declarer can claim the rest, whatever suit that player returns, since he must lead a club into declarer’s tenace or give a ruff-sluff.

But if East had held the diamond queen, he would be forced to open up clubs, and declarer would let the lead run around to dummy. Then, unless West had both the club queen and 10, declarer would avoid a club loser. In other words, this line succeeds unless not two but three cards are badly placed.

You have no particularly attractive lead, and a trump lead certainly isn’t passive — give partner a doubleton honor, for example, and you may help pick it up for declarer. Your best bet is to lead a club, even if you can’t back up that choice with anything but the general idea that leading from a four-card suit is more likely to set up a slow winner than leading from three.


♠ A 6 2
 Q 7 3
 10 6 2
♣ Q 9 3 2
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 2 All 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


Iain ClimieMay 27th, 2019 at 9:55 am

HI Bobby,

There is a small extra bonus when West holds CQ10x(x) but also a doubleton diamond queen, although then the finesse would have endplayed him after drawing trumps and eliminating spades. It all adds up although I recall a very plaintive article by Scots writer Hugh Kelsey many years ago when he avoided the obvious one of two finesses on a hand to find a line he reckoned was 96%. The 4% promptly bit him in the backside.





David WarheitMay 27th, 2019 at 11:20 am

Iain: You forgot to mention that the suggested (correct) line of play will also succeed even if all 3 important cards (DQ & CQ10) are badly placed should it happen that E has doubleton DQ.

Iain ClimieMay 27th, 2019 at 12:37 pm

HI David,

True and well spotted.


bobbywolffMay 27th, 2019 at 2:32 pm

Hi Iain & David,

With you two around, neither will need me to add a thing.

However, in spite of my own admonition I still will imagine one is playing matchpoint pairs and mention the bastardized increased problem in the matter of an overtrick.

The taking of two finesses in the minors will provide an extra 10 more points while playing the alternate contract of 6NT possibly reached by greedy pair players. After all the combined point count is there, plus, of course of the absolute solidarity, though in this case unnecessary, longest suit.

While then looking at the matchpoint result of 6 hearts making 6 will likely, in a good field, come in below average should not be downputting, but only an unhappy realization which is common to that somewhat bastardized specific competition.

Yes matchpoints is a fun, stimulating, very competitive event, and only lacks the underrated aspect of the superior game bridge was meant to be. When faced with a choice, choose, and if possible, pick the most likely contract to succeed, not the one which offers an insignificant (at rubber, total points, or IMPs)
opportunity to score up a few more points.

Easier said then done and while pairs is indeed still exciting, it doesn’t quite offer what contract bridge, no doubt IMO, was meant to inspire. Of
course, change a couple of defensive tens and queens around and the end result will then shock the greedy partnerships who chose 6NT.

None of the above is directed against greed, only to hopefully calibrate its desirability.