Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday May 8th, 2017

First ponder, then dare.

Helmuth von Moltke

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


Some people play that South’s response of two no-trump would be invitational, so that with no major and 13 to 15 points, plus balanced distribution and stoppers in the unbid suits, he must bid three no-trump. Others play that two no-trump would be a minimum game force and a jump to three no-trump would be a strong no-trump.

All roads lead to the no-trump game, though, and after West leads the spade nine, South can see that he needs to set up clubs to make his contract. This game will be easy enough if East has the heart ace. But South must try to develop a club trick without relying on a favorable lie of the cards, if he can.

Specifically, while trying to set up clubs, South must keep East out of the lead. If he does not do so, and lets East in, that player would be delighted to shift to a top heart and run four tricks for the defenders in that suit as the cards lie.

South wins the spade lead in hand and goes after clubs. When West plays low, South puts up the king, comes to hand with a spade, and leads another club. When West follows with the queen, South lets him win the trick. The clubs are now established, and South will be able to unblock the suit, and cross to hand to run the clubs.

If declarer had played clubs from the top, West could unblock his queen at his first opportunity. Now East would come on lead with the club jack, and sink the contract with a heart shift.

I don’t see any good reason not to lead diamonds, but I can see a good reason to break the rules and lead the queen. After all, if declarer has the jack it probably doesn’t matter which card I lead, and similarly if partner has the king-jack, but if partner has the ace-jack and dummy the king, leading a high diamond might work very well to run the suit on defense.


♠ Q 10 2
 J 6 4
 Q 10 3
♣ 10 9 3 2
South West North East
  1 ♠ Pass 2
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 ♣
Pass 3 Pass 4
All pass      

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Arun G BahulkarMay 22nd, 2017 at 9:58 am


Would you recommend D Q even if South did not have the 10 ? I guess not – what if partner had the A10 and dummy the KJ – lead of the Q would lose the tempo.

jim2May 22nd, 2017 at 10:57 am

On BWTA, does it matter what 2C meant?

David WarheitMay 22nd, 2017 at 11:25 am

At trick 2, W should play the CQ without a care in the world. S now might think that his only chance is to play W for singleton Q (or maybe it’s his lucky day and W has CQJ doubleton). Curtains!

Iain ClimieMay 22nd, 2017 at 11:55 am

HI Bobby, David,

I was going to suggest the same thing, especially as West might have CQ alone but not the HA (or perhaps Axx when South can get it right double dummy but not all the time at the table). If declarer does duck the queen with C4-1, now he’s potentially gone off in a hand which a weak player would make by playing 3 top clubs and crossing his fingers. Yet clearly 4-1 clubs (OK, 1-4) are not that unlikely. If East has 3 or more clubs including the queen, nothing helps (barring good luck in diamonds – perhaps East has Jx(x) or Qx(x)) so how do the 2 lines (duck CQ at T2 vs. three rounds of clubs) then compare?



Bobby WolffMay 22nd, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Hi Arun,

To me, the Queen of diamonds lead (on today’s LWTA) is imaginative enough to be worth a try:

1. The bidding is such, (East bidding two other suits) to suggest that mathematically he is more likely to have exactly two diamonds than any other number with three and one in the ballpark and zero a vague possibility.

2. The declarer, if faced with a guess, either the king jack in dummy or the king in dummy and the jack in hand is a huge favorite (in most bridge intelligent settings) to play the opening leader for leading away from the queen rather than the ace.

3. Yes the 10 in the opening leader’s hand could be backup should only the king be in dummy with declarer having three small and it could even result with a competent declarer having to ruff the third diamond high (to his detriment, declarer possessing nine hearts to the AKQ between them)) if the diamonds were distributed 5-3-3-2 around the table but when declarer’s RHO produced the jack on the second diamond, declarer might then play him for six.

4. With everything extraneous not pointing otherwise, it seldom hurts to both make it easier for the defense and at the same time more difficult for declarer. But, at the same time, unconventional opening leads sometimes hurt more than they help, but, at least to me, this does not appear to be the case here, but then, just being another bridge player, I do not work for the bridge gods (and believe me, they are always in charge).

Finally, Arun, thanks for your innovative suggestion. Perhaps others will have a different view and if so, we will soon find out.

Bobby WolffMay 22nd, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, it could matter what 3 clubs means, but my guess is that when asking his partner (proper procedure, although not subject to an alert, unless conventional or unusual) the answer will merely suggest a club suit, but, of course, forcing and could be only a fragment, but more specifically, asking for more description. IOWs somewhat vague but nevertheless standard, meaning, in reality, not much help for an opening leader, except, when faced with a close choice, to beware of leading a club.

Bobby WolffMay 22nd, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Hi David,

Yes, everything you say (especially LHO’s legal deceptiion) and suggest is true, but all of us better learn to accept that when playing against equals, or instead, expect to lose our fortune.

And if he does possess QJ doubleton, by ducking, the contract is still assured, merely pointing out another reason to strongly prefer IMPs and rubber bridge to matchpoints, a condition, many duplicate lovers do not enjoy admitting.

Just to be clear, I do not regard sheer guesses, sometimes confused by an opponent’s fast wit, reason to distort what I think is Contract Bridge’s great asset, always insure one’s contract, with scant attention to overtricks. However that statement is definitely not universally accepted by all.

jim2May 22nd, 2017 at 5:03 pm

In many auctions I have seen lately, the 3C bid would have been more a request for heart support.

In which case, I think a club lead would be safer.

Bobby WolffMay 22nd, 2017 at 6:53 pm

First, I replied to Iain, the site went dark, I saved what I had written and sent it up to be published, but as yet it has not.

Bobby WolffMay 22nd, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, 3 clubs could be holding fewer than 4 clubs, but my guess is that it is more likely natural (only 3rd suit rather than 4th).

That of course, in addition to not necessarily wanting to lead the safest suit, but rather hoping to at least develop a trick or two defensively, sways me into leading the unbid suit.

Even if 3 clubs is not a suit, it should be at least values, since it likely asks how good his partner’s diamond strength is for NT. Since partner could well have raised hearts with three (2 hearts promises 5+) it is probably percentage that the opener has honor and another to now prefer hearts (or perhaps only Kxx or Ax(x) in diamonds).

Not to mention: s. AJxxx, h. K10, d. J9x, c. Axx.

Of course, bridge partnership styles are different, and at all levels, but the above, at least IMO, is what I would call standard treatment.

Iain ClimieMay 22nd, 2017 at 9:41 pm

Hi Bobby

No worries, I did wonder what might have happened.


Bobby WolffMay 22nd, 2017 at 11:15 pm


Here is my reply to Iain which never appeared:

Hi Iain,

Very close and thus not automatic either way, but this type of hand, at least IMO, basically separates excellent overall players from the world’s best, more so, than sheer technical superiority, which because of frequency of occurrence, winning psychology appears much more often, than does the napkin hand which specializes in only analytical brilliance,

Top level bridge psychology includes many things including, sizing up different type of world class players considering length of time, their current rapt attention, and many of the same attributes which seem to be ever present with the best poker players, who cannot afford any lapses of concentration, if they expect to win.