Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 31st, 2017

There lives more faith in honest doubt Believe me, than in half the creeds.

Lord Tennyson

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


When West opened one heart, North and East passed, leaving South to reopen with two spades, an intermediate jump. Even if you play pre-emptive jump overcalls in most positions, this is one where it is clearly advantageous to play intermediate jumps — 1216 points and a good six card suit. With less, one can bid one spade, with more you can start by doubling, then bid your suit.

The two spade call let North jump to game, and put West on lead with no really attractive option. When West opted for a passive diamond, declarer won in dummy with the king and took the spade finesse. West won his king and decided to go all out to set the game; he shifted to a low heart, and the defenders cashed out for down one.

That was astutely defended, but South should have worked out two things. One, East had to have a top heart (or West would have led one), and therefore West had ALL the other key cards — so the spade finesse was a broken reed.

Declarer should have cashed the spade ace at trick two. If the spade king had not dropped, South could have taken the club finesse at once to get rid of a heart loser. If the spade king dropped, declarer might take the club finesse at pairs, but at teams he might settle for trying to ruff out the club king in West, making 11 tricks if it fell in three rounds, and making 10 if it did not.

My last choice would be a diamond – the likelihood that I’m giving declarer a trick we won’t get back is too high. I can see a case for any of the other three suits; a heart is the most aggressive, but most likely to cost a trick, so I’d settle for the club sequence narrowly in front of the spade lead (the seven for choice).


♠ 7 5 2
 Q 8 4
 A Q 9 2
♣ 10 9 4
South West North East
      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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2August 14th, 2017 at 2:26 pm

In LWTA, the conventions being played by the partnership and the opponents may well figure into the choice of lead even on an auction as simple as this one.

For example, if E-W are playing Stayman, then West might have a club suit and chose to play 1N over some relay sequence to 3C. If they are playing Jacoby transfers, then West might also be unable to bid 2D to play.

Similarly, if 2C by partner would have been conventional, then partner may have a club suit and been unable to compete with it. The same, of course, would apply to other 2-bids.

slarAugust 14th, 2017 at 4:15 pm

Simple question: you’re playing teams NV, you have xx/xx/xx/AJT9xxx, and partner opens 1NT (15-17). Do you raise to 3NT or transfer to clubs? If you don’t raise to 3NT, how much more do you need to raise to 3NT?

Iain ClimieAugust 14th, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Hi slar,

Trickier if you’re vulnerable; the IMP odds aren’t so stacked then as they are vulnerable. I might even pass 1NT although this could tempt the opponents in; that 7 card suit is awfully tempting though – you might even get a cheap save in 3NT minus a couple against their 4H or 4S. Bobby’s views will be instructive as ever.



jim2August 14th, 2017 at 5:40 pm

I am not Our Host, slar, but the partnership method to get to 3C might make a difference, especially if the opponents have clear counter-methods.

For example, if the partnership uses 2S to transfer to 3C with responder bailing to 3D if the suit is diamonds, then it makes the opponents able to double 2S freely. However, if 2N is the bid, then doubling would require more sophisticated counter-treatment. I once encountered a pair that played 2S asked for 3C and 2N asked for 3D. All NT raised went through Stayman.

jim2August 14th, 2017 at 5:41 pm

Oh, in any case, I would get that hand to 3C.

Bobby WolffAugust 14th, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Hi Jim2, Slar, Iain, Jim2, & Jim2,

First, I apologize for having had an unusually busy morning and obviously neglected my favorite enterprise, tending to my bridge obsession and, of course, sheer pleasure.

Second, While defending against 1NT it, more often than not, is not necessary to strike gold
with your original statement, the opening lead.

Third, if #2 is on target, it seems practical to not give away an unnecessary trick, eg, the king of diamonds in the openers hand or what an opening heart lead may catch with your partner to make the playing of 1st and 3rd to the trick, a full trick, or even just the heart positioning worse than 2nd & 4th.

Fourth, though a club or a spade (BTW, I slightly prefer the 7 of spades although the
109 as a sequence is a very slight preference, since the absence of a response from dummy makes it more likely that partner has length in a major suit than a minor (four of them instead of three, although by a very small margin).

Fifth, although the choice of opening lead has been discussed in many books, and argued about or worse for almost triple digits of years, I wouldn’t invest any amount of anyone’s valuable time, worrying about what is best.

The major reason is that, at least IMO, that chances are the dummy will be balanced, or at least semi, and within the inability to envision a game, making the analysis of best choice very close to a random guess.

Also since partner will normally have between 7-13 hcps, likely at least semi-balanced because of his not competing (somewhat depending on the partnership conventions), but in reality as blind a choice, not worthy of deep thought, only a guess, but based on years of experience “Signifying” what the Bard might say, “Nothing”!

And besides I didn’t want anyone to be offended by my absence so politically it is wise for me to call this so-called problem, trivial.

Bobby WolffAugust 15th, 2017 at 12:01 am

Hi Slar,

Sorry to not have answered your specific question.

I raise to 3NT and await the play especially while holding 3 worthless doubetons out side or if holding 3-2-1 on the side. However If holding 1-1-4-7 I would rather then guess to bid 5 clubs, but that is just my choice and I cannot explain why, except the two singleton hand seems to have a better chance in a suit.

slarAugust 15th, 2017 at 2:41 am

Thanks for your answer. It is good to know my instincts were right. Unfortunately the cards were not! This had the effect of handing the top-rated team a lifeline which allowed them to survive the 3-way match and subsequently win the event. I guess luck was on their side!

jim2August 15th, 2017 at 1:13 pm

3C — heh-eh!


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