Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 1st, 2016

Confess yourself to heaven;
Repent what’s past; avoid what is to come.

William Shakespeare

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


In response to a minor-suit opener there is no unanimity as to the meaning of responder’s jump to two or three no-trump. Many play the jump to two notrump as invitational, so that North can pass with a minimum opening bid. So here South jumps to three no-trump to suggest a balanced minimum game force, tending to deny a biddable four-card major. That ends the auction.

After the lead of the spade 10 (top of a sequence, not denying a higher honor such as the ace, king, or queen) South captures East’s queen with his king and must develop the diamonds to make his game. But he can see that he needs to do so without allowing East to gain the lead for a potentially fatal second round of spades. If East is allowed to lead a spade through declarer’s jack, West may be able to run the spade suit on defense and defeat the contract.

The solution is very simple – once you see the problem. South crosses to the heart jack and leads the diamond 10 from dummy, planning to duck this around to West. If East covers, South captures the queen with his king, goes back to the heart king, then leads a diamond to his seven. He does not care if West wins the trick, since he is in no danger if it is West who leads the second spade for the defense.

This line of play ensures South can run the diamonds without letting West in, and thus make overtricks in his game.

A spade lead seems to accomplish nothing; but should we simply go passive, perhaps trying to tap out declarer, or find an active defense or play for a ruff? As far as I can see, either a club lead or diamond lead might work. But equally those leads might throw away a trick for no reason. So I will simply lead a spade; my second choice would be the club queen.


♠ J 9 7 3 2
 9 6 3
 Q 7 6
♣ Q 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.
3 ♠ Dbl. Pass 4
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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitAugust 15th, 2016 at 10:17 am

Unfortunately, there is no solution, simple or otherwise, on the given lie of the defensive cards. After S finesses the diamond 7, he can then cash the king but has no way back to dummy to cash the two remaining diamonds. The suggested line works whenever diamonds are 3-2 or west has 4 or west has singleton Q or 9 or west has club queen, but alas none of that is “in the cards”.

Jeff SAugust 15th, 2016 at 1:26 pm

Can’t South let the QS hold the first trick? The defense can clear spades, but now West is the danger hand and it seems much easier to keep West off-lead and still preserve your entries while diamonds are being set up even in the unlikely event that West holds the long diamonds.

Jeff SAugust 15th, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Oh, I think I see the problem – the defense lets South win the 2nd trick and we’re now worse off. Oops.

bobbywolffAugust 15th, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Hi David,

The column has a severe gaffe, since, as you mentioned, there is no entry back to the good diamonds, thus restricting declarer to three diamond tricks, 2 clubs, 2 hearts and 1 spade, a total of only 8.

However depending on West’s discards on the last two diamonds cashed, declarer can end play West in hearts, throwing him in and forcing West to then give trick #9 to declarer in the form of the spade jack.

Because of the blockage in diamonds there is no need to take the 2nd finesse in diamonds, but rather to just play them straight up and when they do not break, then resort to the heart end play.

Of course declarer will have to guess the hand perfectly, disdaining the straight club finesse in order to cater to exactly how the cards were distributed.

Major apologies are in order from me for allowing this horrible description to occur.

bobbywolffAugust 15th, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Believe it or not, your insignificant gaffe is a common one, and by so doing, that combination will likely be forever ingrained in your thinking, making you that much better going forward.

Improving in bridge has many situations which only have positive results, by having been there, then learning not to have it happen again.

Once bitten, forever warned, at least to a determined competitor.

Iain ClimieAugust 15th, 2016 at 9:38 pm

Hi Bobby,

On LWTA is there any case at all for a trump lead. If in doubt lead trumps is often wrong, I admit, but it probably won’t cost a trick so might be right at pairs although it is more dubious at teams.



bobbywolffAugust 15th, 2016 at 10:50 pm

Hi Iain,

Neither a trump nor a spade looks productive, so I’ll round it off in favor of a spade, in order to allow partner to know ASAP just how desperate are our chances for a set.

Trying to pick out the killer, assuming one exists, is no better than finding one which sadly becomes the only loser.

This auction could have resulted in a 4-3 fit since the responsive double may indeed have contained only three hearts, but leading them may attack partner’s AJx or KJx to, of course, our detriment.

Yes, I agree, “When in doubt lead a trump” should, at least to me, be a total opposite of what is usually right, only lead a trump when the bidding specifically suggests that it may be a winning strategy.

However Dame Fortune sometimes is so fickle that day is night and verse visa.

Shantanu RastogiAugust 16th, 2016 at 7:17 am

hello Mr Wolff

1. I hope I am not missing something but I dont see anything wrong with the line suggested in the column. After Spade 10 lead there are three Heart entries to dummy. So south can win Spade King and can use two Heart entries to take Diamond finesse as suggested in the column and use third entry to enjoy Diamonds. If west can win second Diamond then Diamonds are 3-2 so no problems at all.
2. There is no end play in Hearts as all the top Hearts are with NS.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

David WarheitAugust 16th, 2016 at 9:36 am

Shantanu: What you are missing is that our host has changed the cards in dummy. Originally dummy had CK and did not have HKJ while declarer had HK, so dummy had only 2 entries (HA & CK) but he needs 3 entries–2 for D finesses and the third to get to dummy to cash the last 2 D tricks.

bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2016 at 12:13 am

Hi Shantanu & David,

Yes David, after reading your comment I now remember doing just that, and you have now confirmed it.

After trying to remember and reading what I originally wrote about the horrible gaffe and then seeing the current cards, I almost flipped, thinking, what is happening to me.

Perhaps it is bad enough when I am somewhat sane, but the new hand did buffalo me.

Sorry Shantanu for your arriving late to this party with everyone else seeing the original fouled up hand. And BTW thanks for your vote of confidence, since I am oft times in need of one.