Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 15th, 2019

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

Sherlock Holmes

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


When this hand arose in the European Championships in the 1950s, the British declarer did well to play five diamonds rather than three no-trump. The defense cashed two rounds of hearts and played a club.

Naturally, declarer took this and led a top trump, on which West played the eight and East the three; then declarer took both top spades. When he led the diamond jack, West followed suit. Now South had to decide whether to play for spades to split and diamonds not to behave (when the right play would be to duck in dummy and draw a third round of trumps), or for the diamonds to be 2-2 and spades to be 4-2 (in which case South should overtake the second trump and would then be able to ruff out the spades).

Spades are slightly favored to break. But how likely is it that diamonds break? Imagine West has the diamond 10-9-8 and East the three, compared to that suit splitting 2-2? In abstract, the individual singleton is less likely than any individual 2-2 split, but in addition there are three doubleton honor-pairs where West must follow with his two cards at his first opportunity, and East similarly has to play his three at his first chance, lest you overtake on the second round with impunity.

So it is clearly right to play to overtake the second diamond, as that suit is much more likely to split than spades. The fact that this was the winning line does not prove anything, but at least virtue was rewarded.

Start by doubling, planning to convert a response in a black suit to four diamonds. There is no need to drive the hand to game; even the four-level is certainly not guaranteed, facing a weak hand. And who knows? Your partner may be able to commit to a better contract than diamonds, or get you to slam.


♠ A K
 J 2
 A K J 6 5 2
♣ A 6 3
South West North East
  2 Pass 3

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