Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

We live and learn, but not the wiser grow.

John Pomfret

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

*Artificial and game-forcing


This was another deal from a local teams game in which different approaches by the two declarers yielded a swing. Against four hearts, the lead was the same at both tables: the diamond 10.

At the first table, declarer flew up with the ace while East played an encouraging six. Declarer then crossed to hand with a top trump. After returning to dummy with the club 10, South finessed the heart jack. West won, and since his side needed at least one diamond trick, he continued with the diamond three to try to give count in the suit. East won and carefully shifted to the spade king, then cashed another spade to defeat the contract.

At the second table, declarer also won the first trick. Then he cashed the heart tops before playing on clubs. When the third round of clubs was not ruffed, he was able to discard his remaining diamond on a good club. West ruffed in with the trump queen and exited with a diamond, but a spade ruff in dummy was the tenth trick.

What are the odds for each approach? Both plans would succeed if the heart queen appeared singleton or doubleton from East. Otherwise, the first approach makes the contract on just half of the 3-2 breaks, about a third of the time. The second declarer succeeds when there is a doubleton trump queen on his left, but also when the hand with three trumps has at least three clubs. This has just short of a 5050 chance of bringing the contract home, making it the plan to choose.

Bid three diamonds. Despite having only 8 points, this hand is worth an invitation to game opposite a 15-17 no-trump. Having your honors in your long suits is very useful, and the spade intermediates are worth an extra high card. As a passed hand, three diamonds should be invitational, not forcing. Let partner have his say, and respect his judgment.


♠ K 10 9 5 2
 8 5
 K Q 6 5
♣ 8 6
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 NT Pass
2 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


jim2December 31st, 2019 at 4:11 pm

Could you explain how — as the text states — the contract succeeds if East has the singleton QH?

bobbywolffDecember 31st, 2019 at 8:29 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes an analytic error on our part, which should have read, if East had a singleton queen of trump, the only chance for success is for that West to have three or more clubs, along with his four hearts to the 10, percentage wise quite unlikely, simply because West would have three fewer empty spaces than East, to be dealt those clubs.

Thanks for the tip, YPY, (you perfectionist you).

jim2December 31st, 2019 at 8:47 pm

Say West really does have three clubs along with the four hearts (missing QH).

He ruffs the fourth club (after declarer pitches the losing diamond) and returns the trump 10.

How does declarer avoid losing three spades?

Iain ClimieDecember 31st, 2019 at 9:51 pm

HI Bobby, Jim2,

Suppose East has HQx and 2C but plays the HQ on the first trump. Now South will have a very tricky time explaining how he went off.


bobbywolffDecember 31st, 2019 at 11:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

Please remind me to be prepared next time we speak, since I’m now considering a switch to gin rummy, backgammon, dominoes or whatever game you haven’t yet learned.

Its downright amazing how contracting TOCM can do wonders for one’s bridge game.

bobbywolffDecember 31st, 2019 at 11:22 pm

Hi again YPY,

I just ordered the 10 of spades for NS and can now only wish I had done it earlier.

jim2January 1st, 2020 at 12:07 am


bobbywolffJanuary 1st, 2020 at 7:47 pm

Hi Iain,

And I suppose, after you falsecarded the queen of hearts, and then declarer, believing you, led the third club, you, no doubt, would take 10 or 15 seconds (directly in proportion to how much you disliked this particular declarer) before you ruffed the 3rd club in dummy and then took more time before you switched to the king and one spade.

Shouldn’t waste opportunities like that to set your opponents up for more errors (because of anger) on the next hand.