Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Albert Einstein

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


Yesterday, we mentioned Occam’s Razor, a hypothesis dating from medieval times. It states that when comparing two explanations, one should assume the truth of the one with the fewer assumptions. This applies to bridge in the form of the Theory of Restricted Choice — and, as we shall see later this week, to what is popularly known as the Monty Hall Problem.

In bridge terms, when comparing two possibilities, we must reduce the probability of an event if a player had previously had a choice of equals to play; this is because he might have played either of them at that turn. But enough theory — let’s look at a deal and see how it works in practice.

In three no-trump, you win the spade lead and drive out the heart ace, then win the spade return and cash the hearts, both defenders pitching small diamonds. With no clue as to who has the fifth spade, you need to bring in the clubs now.

You cash the club ace, then cross to the club queen, bringing down the 10 from West. Should you finesse or play for the drop on the third round? The appropriate percentages to measure up are jack-fourth or 10-fourth of clubs in East against J-10-x in West. You should not look at just the chance of jack-fourth against J-10-x (where the odds would be very close), because West would have had a choice of high spot-cards to play from that holding at his second turn. That makes the finesse the clearly indicated play.

You have just enough to bid two diamonds, an Unassuming Cue Bid to show club support and a better hand than a simple raise. This should get you to hearts or no-trump if that is appropriate, and you plan to bid three clubs over a two-spade rebid.


♠ K 9
 K Q 10 5
 10 9 6 3
♣ Q 7 6
South West North East
  1 2 ♣ 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


Joe1June 26th, 2019 at 12:33 am

Continuing yesterday’s theme, logic and probabilities will only get you so far, trying to read your opponents is a skill that often is more on target than calculating probabilities on the fly. But with good poker-faced opponents, probability is all you have. As Kenny Rogers song says: “…reading people’s faces, knowing what the cards were, by the way they held their eyes”. Not that I am great at it, but with attention and focus, I have improved over the years. Which is why playing with people takes different skills than playing with the computer, and is more fun.

Joe1June 26th, 2019 at 12:43 am

That said, against a straight faced opponent, I would finesse, but reluctantly, not confidently.

bobbywolffJune 26th, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Hi Joe1,

Agreed, since the poker element in bridge occurs often, Usually in the choice of either playing the hand or enticing the declarer to guess wrong while on defense. Occasionally the opportunity to play mind games appears in competitive bidding between the partnerships where one side or the other tries to bait his opponents into doing the wrong thing.

Like good poker players, most will want to indulge in the above challenge, while other more wooden players (but very good technicians) prefer having the best technique, rather than psychology, determine the end result.

And the beat goes on, which seems to agree with your assessment of what is the surest way to adopt a winning philosophy.