Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 25th, 2015

Survival is nothing more than recovery.

Dianne Feinstein

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


In today’s deal from a team game it was possible to win the board both in the bidding and the play. The net result was essentially a stand-off, but one team missed their chance for a big pick-up.

In one room North-South bid to four spades when North guessed to use Stayman over the two notrump opening. Yes, this lets opponents find out more about declarer’s hand, but with a small doubleton club and a chunky four-card spade suit the odds are that a 4-4 fit is worth finding.

In four spades declarer received a trump lead and used a trump entry to dummy to lead a diamond to the king. Then he drew trump and set up the clubs to discard one of dummy’s hearts, eventually leading a diamond toward his queen for his 10th trick.

In the second room on the auction shown West could have earned a swing for his side. He led a low club, and when East produced the ace it looks as if should have been easy for West to duck the second club, retaining communications in defense. But declarer cunningly followed with the club jack on the first round and the queen on the second, tempting West to win the king and try to cash out clubs. Now with the defenders’ communications cut, South could simply lead diamonds toward his hand twice, to set up his nine tricks in comfort.

West should have noted that, with the club four missing, East surely had led back the top card of his remaining doubleton.

My best guess is that diamonds offer a far more fertile chance to defeat the game here than do clubs. That being so, I will lead the diamond ace, prepared to surrender the overtrick at teams, from time to time, while maximizing my chance of leading the right minor, or perhaps shifting to clubs if the play to trick one makes continuing diamonds impractical.


♠ Q 7 6 4 3
 10 8
 A Q 3
♣ 5 3 2
South West North East
      1 ♠
Pass 2 Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT All 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Joe1June 8th, 2015 at 12:58 pm

BWTA. E bids NT suggests he holds the K? Maybe yes maybe no, but greater than 50-50. I would have made a passive lead, let D come around to my AQ. C seems attractive, but pard has something in H as well. I like leading A to see dummy and the play, but more if the K is on my left. I am more worried about giving away the contract than overtricks, usually. When to lead A?

bobby wolffJune 8th, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Hi Joe1,

You are asking (and discussing) an important subject, thus entitled to a thoughtful answer.

Vs. IMPs (or, of course rubber bridge) yes East, rather than West certainly is more likely to hold the King of diamonds, but to sacrifice that trick is usually quite worth it, in order to clear the suit needed to gather the five tricks necessary to defeat 3NT, before declarer can see his way enabled for nine.

For clarity, picture your partner on lead, with essentially the same bidding and you with the same hand. Often the difference in result will depend on whether (with the unbid suits) your partner is lucky enough to have length, often 5 cards (and the strength, in this case the jack, but sometimes only the 10) may be all that is necessary. If it turns out your partner’s length was in clubs rather than diamonds he would need a much stronger holding at the top to equal your ace queen.

In other words, it is necessary, and in truth turn necessary to critical that you as South have the winning imagination to overcome Dame Fortune’s (DF) deal. It would be a “normal” lead for you if you possesed AQxxx, so all you are trying to do, from your side of the table, is to overcome the road block which DF caused, no doubt by her stealth and zeal.

Yes, in matchpoints (always a bastardized game, yes fun and very competitive, but not featuring a critical element which real bridge has always emphasized, the defense should always be looking to defeat a contract first (the scoring system demands that effort), but sometimes (too often) at duplicate normal tournament bridge the lead of a diamond here will give up an extra overtrick, making that expert lead down the list (with many) while playing matchpoints.

At another time we might discuss (in the meantime you might first imagine it yourself), the advantage of leading the queen rather than the ace as your first diamond lead.

Joe1, please ask any further questions about
this situation if you have any doubts, or even if you do not.

Iain ClimieJune 8th, 2015 at 8:24 pm

Hi Bobby,

On LWTA, I assume RHO has effectively a weak NT. Is there any case at all for leading the DQ? True, declarer may have Kxx opposite’s Jxx but it may cause a declarer with Kxx opposite xx(x) to duck and regret it later or dummy may have DKxx opposite declarer’s xxx and 2 ducks later a ghastly surprise.

Accusations that I’m suggesting this because I once flamboyantly led the Q from AQ109x picking up declarer’s Kxxx are probably valid. I’ve failed with that coup rather more often!



bobby wolffJune 8th, 2015 at 9:15 pm

Hi Iain,

As you might have read, I briefly pose that question to Joe1 about the possible advantage of leading what I would categorize the more flexible queen, rather than the ace. But, because of discussing such a variety of card combinations, I left the answer to the imagination of the reader.

Methinks that more top players would prefer the queen, although, no doubt the ace would allow more immediate control, but my guess, once any diamond is chosen, the commitment has been made to either success, failure or the most common result, no or not much difference.

However, when playing matchpoints it makes sense to remove no or not much difference since even one tiny overtrick which can become enormous, especially with a humdrum boring, nothing special, game bid.

Do you basically agree?

Joe1June 8th, 2015 at 9:57 pm

Assume E has KD, after my AD, then QD, and later my 3D for pard to run Ds. But I must get back in, with SQ? Possibly, or not. Iain’s DQ has merit. When pard gets in, D return to A, then D back to N to run them. I am hoping N has a H or C. Also If trick 1 E takes DK, on trick 2, S comes back, do I duck, or hope E had AK.

Iain ClimieJune 8th, 2015 at 11:32 pm

Hi Bobby, Joe1,

I think much depends on scoring and even partner. At teams, especially if needing a swing, the DQ has merit – at least if opposite a reasonably tolerant pard. There are some players with whom it just isn’t worth the risk!


bobby wolffJune 8th, 2015 at 11:49 pm

Hi Iain & Joe1,

When discussing the possibility of either leading the Queen from AQx or even more so, the Jack from KJx, it is thought to be an unblocking play necesssary on some layouts. Of course Iain is 100% right if one attempts to do so with the wrong partner. However if one’s partner is at least bordering on very high class he will usually understand what the opening leader is possibly thinking, especially about a premature unblocking play on lead.

Having a wise and rock hard nosed partner opposite you in any important match is always to be cherished. Something most players never get the pleasure of experiencing.