Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 8th, 2020


A V Ramana RaoApril 22nd, 2020 at 11:25 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
But , if south plays east for doubleton K of spades, perhaps he can win the first heart in hand, lead a spade to A in dummy noticing the fall of ten frm east,come to hand
With heart and lead a spade, ducking in dummy when West plays nine. If east happens to have K J and ten of spades, he wins two tricks always and if west is dealt with K J 9 5 of spades, he wins two tricks . So when west plays nine on second spade, it should be ducked in dummy hoping east wins with his bare K

MirceaApril 22nd, 2020 at 3:22 pm


I’m just curios, do the big shots like you know these positions by heart? IOW, when you see this dummy do you spend no time at trick one thinking how to play the trumps? Obviously, this assumes no tangible inference from the bidding as to the location of the king of spades.

For any of my peer mortals, there is a very good piece of software called SuitPlay that will give you the best line for any suit combination. Very good software, free (for Windows, only). I put this combination through and it basically said that anything but finessing the queen will bring in 3 tricks 86.7391% of the time. That means that winning the first trick in hand and covering any trump that West plays at T2 will also work.

bobbywolffApril 22nd, 2020 at 4:04 pm


With bridge knowledge, perhaps the most likely rhyme regarding effectiveness, could be “from the womb to the tomb”.

Why and what meaning? Simply put, after taking note of who one’s opponents are and, of course, faced with more than one play, sometimes choosing the one which combines, if possible, and against decent plus players, some likely deception, without losing the advantage of what the book dictates as normal then go for it.

It is normal to just take the normal finesse, since we all know to not deny the advantage to which virtually all players and of all abilities rely.

However, and in this case, to lead low away from the AQ might tempt even a top player, to grab what he might think is necessary, playing the king from king x, for fear of disgracefully losing what could be the setting trick or even an overtrick if the game is matchpoints.

Therefore, since the above is one of those holdings, the declarer has little to lose, and a mountain to climb if he or she can pull that ruse off. I am not implying that if East follows low in tempo that I would, next round, then guess the location of the now lone king, only that the play of the small one from dummy gives that declarer his best chance to pull off a heist, which may result in a fulfilled contract.

Finally, and to repeat, I am not trying to suggest that the spade finesse being onside is not the best way to play that combination, but a little subterfuge on the way to that decision might pay dividends.

Also, your suggestion about not ducking the second round of spades, but rather deciding to play East for a doubleton king of spades by then playing the ace is indeed heroic, but sadly, certainly not percentage.

Rather to challenge the player, than to choose to rewrite the immutable percentage table. Odds simply do not listen to mere mortals, but rather just live independent lives of their own.

bobbywolffApril 22nd, 2020 at 4:39 pm

Hi Mircea,

There is no special knowledge that even a very good and/or experienced player knows to which other lesser players, but, of course, not rank novices, know.

However, and especially after considering the entire hand, not just one suit combination, does a very good player go about his business of playing that hand to best advantage, including just using the percentage table to which you refer.

However, to your mention of anything but covering the queen of spades, when a spade is led from one’s hand at trick 2 (after winning trick 1 in hand) will succeed 86.739% of the time is impossible.

My guess is that once the first spade is lost when West plays the five (only one out lower than the seven) then if declarer plays either the seven or the ace, but not the queen that 86+% would be closer to 55% than to the number to which they claim for taking 3 of the 4 spade tricks, since the best percentage play remaining when South next leads a spade from his hand, with the obvious intent to now finesse the queen, the king still needs to be in West’s hand, with the only possibility then eliminated was the original singleton king in either hand to which declarer would not have achieved his three tricks either.

Forgive me for appearing to be argumentative, because that is not my intent, but only to rather be what seems to be often present in discussing percentage tables, something being lost in the interpretation therefore interrupting its understanding.

jim2April 22nd, 2020 at 6:03 pm

What if East plays the JS on the first round and West follows with the 5S?

Iain ClimieApril 22nd, 2020 at 7:40 pm

HI Mircea, folks,

Something doesn’t ring true here. Any 4-1 or 5-0 Will scupper things as will East having 3 trumps including the K. 32% for the bad breaks, 1/4 of the 3-2 cases assuming 50-50 for who has the K and who has the 3 trumps.



jim2April 22nd, 2020 at 7:53 pm

If trump are 4-1, even if the KS is singleton, declarer will always lose two trump tricks (minimum).

The reasoning is therefore that declarer needs trump to be 3-2 or 2-3. Odds favor the trump finesse.

It does not matter math-wise, however, if the finesse is first round or second.

Thus, leading away from the Board as per text simply adds the human error bonus of East winning the KS on air.

My Q in my previous post was trying to see if there were any card play combinations that would tempt Our Host. (East wins JS, West follows with 5S, and then plays, say, the 10S when declarer later leads small towards Board.

bobbywolffApril 22nd, 2020 at 9:33 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

Yes, I firmly agree with Jim2 (not that anyone did not) about not paying rapt attention to possible false cards, since, while playing against first class opposition, one will always be confronted with, if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is not necessarily a duck since the situation may always concern itself (100%) with being played for being a duck, even if one is a duck, since he was just unlucky enough to be dealt being a duck with his only camouflage the known ability to act like one, when he was not.

However, as Iain was obviously tempting, how much credibility should be given an opponent, with my only response, one which cannot be argued, see through the camouflage, whatever psychological barriers a worthy or not so worthy opponent may attempt.

Furthermore, the above is the ducking truth!