Aces on Bridge


; A 4

k J 8

l A 6 3

' Q J 10 9 7 2


; J 9 8 7 6 ; K Q 10 5 2

k 9 3 2 k Q 10 6 4

l K J 7 l Q 10 5

' 5 4 ' 3


; 3

k A K 7 5

l 9 8 4 2

' A K 8 6

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: South

The bidding:

South West North East

1 ' Pass 2 '* Dbl.

2 k Pass 2 ; Dbl.

3 l Pass 4 l Pass

5 ' Pass 6 ' All pass

Opening Lead: Spade seven

Oh me, I have been struck a mortal blow right inside.

-- Agamemnon, in "The Oresteia"

Today's deal was played by Mark Feldman more than a decade ago. After an ambitious auction to six clubs, the defense led a spade in response to East's lead-directing double, and declarer's contract now stood a good chance.

South's problem was how to generate an extra heart trick in order to discard the second diamond loser from dummy. The normal play would have been to lead up to dummy's jack, but East's takeout double of two clubs suggested that this line of play was unlikely to be successful since he was heavily favored to possess the heart queen for that action. So, a different approach would be required.

Assuming that East had at least four hearts headed by the queen and either the 10 or nine, declarer surmised that he could succeed by the ingenious approach of drawing trumps and playing a heart to dummy's eight.

East won the heart 10 and played a second spade. Declarer ruffed in hand, crossed to dummy with the diamond ace and ran the heart jack. If East ducked, declarer could play another trump to hand and cash the top hearts to pitch dummy's two diamond losers. If East covered the heart jack, declarer would win and the heart king would drop West's nine, setting up the heart seven for the crucial second discard from the North hand.

This maneuver of finessing into one player and then pinning a card in the other opponent's hand is called an intra-finesse, but it rarely involves spot cards as low as the one in today's example.


South holds:

; J 9 8 7 6

k 9 3 2

l K J 7

' 5 4

South West North East

1 ' Pass


ANSWER: Forget the rule about needing 6 points to respond! Bid one spade on this hand at any vulnerability. You could easily be making game if partner fits your five-card major, while playing a 3-2 club fit is rarely fun. If partner has a minimum, bidding could still be advantageous by making it harder for the opponents to enter the auction. Further, partner will thank you for not forcing him to play a contract with the minority of trumps.

If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, email him at

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