Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 21st, 2019

Consequences are unpitying. Our deeds carry their terrible consequences, quite apart from any fluctuations that went before — consequences that are hardly ever confined to ourselves.

George Eliot

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



Today’s deal features an approach in which declarer takes his chances in the right order rather than putting all his eggs in one basket.

When South heard his partner transfer to spades, he had no reason to break the transfer, but at his third turn he could show a maximum hand with a source of tricks in his four-club call. Cue-bidding and Blackwood then got him to a slam that would have been excellent if West hadn’t hit upon the heart lead. How would you play it now?

This hand offers a simple choice of approaches. You can cash the spade ace, then take a finesse on the second round. This is an all-or-nothing play, but it will lead to 13 tricks if spades behave. Alternatively, you can cash the top spades and, if nothing nice happens, go after clubs, hoping to pitch your heart from dummy on the fourth club, regardless of whether West ruffs in.

Taking the spade finesse (as opposed to the combination chance) wins when West has four spades to the queen and precisely three clubs, or precisely three spades to the queen and fewer than three clubs. Those combined chances happen about one time in 10. By contrast, playing spades from the top, then relying on clubs, brings the contract home (while the other line would fail) whenever East has a doubleton spade queen or when he has three spades to the queen and three or more clubs. That happens almost one time in three. So, cashing the spade ace-king is a far superior line.

One choice is to rebid two no-trump, even without a heart guard, in order to show the hand type. The second choice is to rebid spades, which might be acceptable even if you play it as promising six. For the record, bidding diamonds might not only mislead your partner, but would also highlight the heart weakness to the opponents.


♠ A K J 5 4
 9 2
 K Q 2
♣ J 9 4
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 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


Bruce KarlsonOctober 5th, 2019 at 1:38 pm

odds of dropping the Q about 40% and the odds of the clubs dividing 4/3 or the Q holder having 5 or 6 are better than 60%. Not sure how that smokes out exactly but if additive, raises the odds to better than 50%. I am sure I am wrong so please advise the error of my ways.. thnx

jim2October 5th, 2019 at 2:31 pm

The column text is comparing the deltas, not the totals.

That is, the odds that are presented are a calculation of the instances where one line wins and the other fails, and then comparing the two.

Another way, which is what you suggested would be to calculate the total odds of each line and comparing them (e.g., a finesse + 50% versus 3-3 = 35%). It is equally valid.

bobbywolffOctober 5th, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Hi Bruce & Jim2,
You two teamed up the way it should be done, with one quoting odds and the other chiming in with its specific meaning.
If all could come even close to responding that way, the playing of winning bridge (top flight) would not be so mysterious, but rather positive development would be taken in stride.
Rarely, no matter at what the level, do or will both partners think exactly alike, but that problem will be intelligently bridged, if and when, both learned to discuss and determine similarly to his or her partner.
Then, and if George Eliot's likely non-bridge quote about consequences, but directly applicable to our great game was taken literally, and thus mostly avoided, but impossible to do so at anywhere near 100%, could be like Humphrey Bogart reminded years ago at the end of his classic World War II love story and great movie, "Casablanca", "This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship".