Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 17th, 2017

When the sun sets, shadows, that showed at noon But small, appear most long and terrible.

Nathaniel Lee

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


Wash your mouth out with soap and water if you even thought of opening today’s North hand one no-trump. After North opens one diamond and jumps to three diamonds, South has to decide between passing and trying for the no-trump game. He has only an eight-count, but the diamond jack may be useful in establishing the diamonds. It seems right to me to take a shot at three no-trump.

Now let’s switch to the defenders; as West, would you consider leading the club queen? It is certainly the right suit to lead, but the queen is unquestionably the wrong card. The most likely way to beat the hand is by finding partner with a top honor in clubs, but if that is so, it can’t be wrong to lead a small club. It may be necessary to unblock the suit in several scenarios, for example if partner has the doubleton ace, king or 10 of clubs.

OK, let’s switch back to declarer’s seat. When West leads a small club, which club should you play from dummy at trick one?

If the clubs are 4-3, your play will be irrelevant; but the clubs pose no danger, since there are only three tricks for the defenders to cash. If the clubs are 5-2 with East having two honors doubleton, you must play the ace to block the clubs. Try it out — and you will see that it works. You win the ace, drive out the diamond ace, and the defenders cannot run clubs whether East unblocked his club king at trick one or not.

Declarer rates to be 4-5 in the black suits, and dummy will be weak with four spades. Since a trump lead rates to cost a trick (and partner might be over-ruffing clubs anyway) the real issue is whether to lead the diamond ace and continue the suit, trying to force declarer, or lead a heart. I vote for the latter.


♠ K 5
 Q 3 2
 A 10 8 7
♣ J 8 7 4
South West North East
      1 ♣
Pass Pass Dbl. Rdbl.
1 Pass Pass 1 ♠
1 NT 2 ♠ 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


Iain ClimieJuly 31st, 2017 at 11:10 am

Hi Bobby,

I’ve seen a variant on today’s hand with a sting in the tail. South opens 1N on a hand including S109xx, shows the suit in response to Stayman and North puts him in 3N. North puts down a good hand including SAx and LHO leads a small spade. Declarer rises with the Ace to block the suit, only to find LHO has been extremely cunning with SKQJxx! Declarer has to lose the lead, and off 3N goes when ducking would have left it solid.

I believe Andrew Robson pulled off something like this against a top US pair a while back. At least he is a fine player; imagine playing against someone you don’t know and they say afterwards “I led 4th highest as you told me, partner” requiring a quick grab for the blood pressure tablets.



Bobby WolffJuly 31st, 2017 at 2:20 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes you, as you often have done, bring back memories of players (usually among the world’s best) who have defied normal “which card to lead tables” from different combinations.

Delving deeper, when and if an opponent had bid a suit either as a one level response or as an answer to the Stayman convention after an opening 1NT bid and finding the opening leader with three of the top five honors, (KJ10x or longer) to lead a small one instead of the jack l to prevent a blockage the column (and you) talk about.

Still further, long time ago acknowledged experts and of course, a guru, such as the American Al Roth, used to advocate always leading 4th highest from AJ10xx) or KJ10xx vs. NT, whether an opponent (either declarer or dummy) had bid the suit or not. Your example of Andrew Robson certainly does not have a “hollow” ring to me with his lead of small from KQJxx when he either knew or strongly suspected an opponent to likely have four of them.

There is plenty of room, especially in high-level bridge to brilliantly and on the spot, dance to a different drummer.

However when it works, a bridge writer will call it brilliant, but when and if it fails, there are always fewer kind words used, allowing most of us to recognize the sometimes small distance between being “bravely daring” and “downright stupid”.