Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 14th, 2016

Better to trust the man who is frequently in error than the one who is never in doubt.

Eric Sevareid

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


Against four spades you lead the diamond king, getting the two from partner and the three from declarer. Is the contract beatable or should you hope to hold it to four? The answer may surprise you: you are almost a lock to set the contract if your side does everything right. Can you see the key to the defense?

The secret lies in partner’s play to the first trick, the diamond two. In a situation like this, your partner is obliged to give you a count signal. The missing diamond is the seven, and if partner had it, he would play it to show you a doubleton; that means declarer has the seven. Rather than cash your diamond king, you should switch to the club eight. When you get in with the spade ace, you will lead a low diamond for partner to ruff and will receive a club ruff in return to defeat the contract.

This is an easy defense when you think about it correctly. As long as partner can be relied on to give count when he is expected to, defenses like this one are available. If you couldn’t trust partner to give count, you would have a much harder decision. It might be right to defend as you did on the chance it will work, but it might also be right to shift to a heart, hoping to get a trick there.

Knowing for sure that your partner will play the seven from a holding of 7-2 takes away the mysteries of this hand.

Rather than lead from a dangerous doubleton holding, you have to lead a suit contra-indicated by the bidding, in the knowledge that you need your partner to have scattered values to have any chance to set the contract. Since your partner has not acted he rates to have no fit – and likely length in the opponents’ suit. So I would lead a low heart.


♠ K 6
 K 8 6 2
 K 9 6 3 2
♣ Q 4
South West North East
    Pass Pass
1 1 Pass 1 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieNovember 28th, 2016 at 12:25 pm

Hi Bobby,

I don’t think we’re beating 1N on LWTA as partner hasn’t bid with his (assumed) 8-9 count; any less and we clearly are unlikely to go plus. Yet he hasn’t doubled, bid 1N or bid 2C (NF by a passed hand) so what has he got? Perhaps a 3-3-2-5 hand with no heart stop (J10x perhaps) and poor clubs, while the oppo appear to have an 8 card spade fit. I agree that declarer will probably have short hearts, (2 at most, maybe 1) but I think we’re more likely to strike gold with a diamond lead and partner having DQ10 or even DQJ alone; declarer may well have 4. I suppose declarer could have bid 1N with (say) 4-0-5-4 shape but it seems unlikely.

Any thoughts on this? We could be getting a game swing regardless if the opponents have both been cautious.



BobliptonNovember 28th, 2016 at 2:37 pm

No, Ian. The bidding means that opener has no more than 3 spades, while responder has no more than 4. Partner has at least 4. That is why Iprefer to lead the SK. While it is riskier than a low heart, there have been too many times when it has worked, while leading dummy’ s suit has been disastrous.


Bobby WolffNovember 28th, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Hi Iain & Bob,

Trying to find an effective lead while defending 1NT and having opened the bidding with 11 high card points and getting no response from partner is even less wise than going bear hunting with a switch.

While both of your posts smack of good bridge, I apologize for creating an unreal waste of effort to offer an explanation.

I guess this could happen at matchpoints where other opponents would also not be in game, so that each defensive trick gleaned becomes important, but if so, and since both of you offer different approaches, Iain a very conservative choice of his own, opening bidder’s suit and Bob, an ultra aggressive stab at what partner may like to see.

Call my judgment not worth any of the three of
our time and only chalk it up as an unusual case of “guessing” at what may save or lose a trick or two but not being surprised over whatever might happen.

Finally, perhaps nailing the dilemma, one unanimous choice is desired, two creates a debate, but three is an undesired crowd.

Iain ClimieNovember 28th, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Hi Bob,

My point was that I’d be very surprised if partner had 4 or more spades unless he is very weak as he’s have doubled 1H or bid 1S. If he is very weak, we aren’t beating 1N but players rarely pass nowadays with 7 or more points and a hand which could dredge up something. Qxx J10x Jx Kxxxx or similar would be an exception, to be fair.

My other concern is that I have some partners who would totally fail to cope if such a lead misfired; with them it just isn’t worth the imaginative shot you suggest, as they’ll sulk for several hands. I am not naming names, mind you….



Iain ClimieNovember 28th, 2016 at 4:49 pm

PS Is there a mixup on the bidding as our hand opened, not West but you mentioned opener. Monday may have struck here.

Bobby WolffNovember 28th, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Hi Iain,

No, I knew that the opening lead is now being made by the player who opened the bidding, I.

And besides, I would expect to only discuss the opening lead made on this hand as a “red herring” since there is little science in doing so, only much talk about very little.

Iain ClimieNovember 28th, 2016 at 5:52 pm

Sort Bobby, I thought Bob might have misread something not you.