Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 11th, 2017

So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?

Hunter S. Thompson

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


In today’s deal, North could open three diamonds, but a 7-2-2-2 pattern is not ideal at this vulnerability. Having passed, he has just enough to risk responding three diamonds in competition. A fit for diamonds in the South hand will make the North hand worth six or seven tricks, and North does have some tolerance for hearts.

Thereafter, South has enough values and spade stoppers to be able to try three no-trump with some confidence there will be a play for game.

After a top spade lead, it looks logical for South to win and go after the diamonds. Ducking the first spade trick may not cost, but it has no clear upside, either. So at trick two, South leads the diamond queen, with the intention of letting it ride for a finesse. When West puts up the diamond king, South must resist the temptation to win with dummy’s ace, since he can afford to give up one diamond in order to safeguard the game contract. Giving up the first diamond to West guarantees the rest of the suit against any possible break.

South can regain the lead, whichever black suit the opponents play, then lead a diamond and run the suit. But note that if dummy won the first diamond, East would later win a trick with the diamond 10. And the diamond suit would now be dead since there is no entry to dummy.

The general rule is that where there is no side entry to a long suit, declarer may need to give up the lead in that suit early to retain communication.

There is no reason to assume that you must lead spades to kill heart ruffs in dummy; you ought to have time to shift to trumps if that is needed. I can certainly see the case for leading the club jack, playing for ruffs. Indeed, with such weak diamonds, I prefer the club jack over the diamond lead as the best way to set up winners in the minors. I’d probably lead a diamond if I didn’t have the club 10.


♠ A 8 5 2
 A 3
 10 7 5 4 3
♣ J 10
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♠
Pass 1 NT Pass 2
Pass 2 ♠ 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


Iain ClimieDecember 25th, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Hi Bobby,

Re today’s quote –

Churchill said “There is no feeling to match that of a young man who has been shot at but missed.” A work colleague who served in Afghanistan said something similar. On the other hand Terry Pratchett’s cowardly wizard Rincewind is heavily into boredom (when nothing is trying to kill him) while Odysseus briefly visits Hades on his 10 year return home and meets Achilles’ ghost. The latter laments his pursuit of glory and early death, wishing he could swap places with a lowly peasant farmer living a life of toil.

Maybe the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence!

All the best,


bobbywolffDecember 25th, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Hi Iain,

First, “Merry Xmas to you and yours and the joys of whatever this holiday season has brought”, second, sorry for the “slam dunk” excuse for our usual Monday choice of easily understandable. Or should we instead call it our “game cincher” to always tie the effort to our scoring.

Next, In spite of the vast time differences in life’s experiences, the old writing geniuses always seem to capture what is apparently felt by humankind immemorial.

Reminds me of the history of Sigmund Freud, the Austrian founder of psychoanalysis who concluded that older age bred bitterness about life which needed to be known early so that it could be properly prevented, but when his own life reached that stage, he became known as perhaps the worst ever violator.

Yes, your green grass parable is right-on!

No doubt, while living life, particularly a long and winding one, our current emotions take hold and yearn for that other side of the fence.

David WarheitDecember 25th, 2017 at 7:16 pm

Assuming best defense, the only 2 D distributions that matter are where W has either Kxx or xx (where x could be the ten). S leads and wins the Q and then leads the 5 and W plays the remaining x. Any thoughts as how to proceed?

bobbywolffDecember 25th, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Hi David,

No doubt you ask penetrating questions, but ones which are directly on point and very revealing.

First of all, in many bridge problem cases, perhaps a huge percent, the declarer will have the advantage of timing (of when to spring it), sometimes catching a carefree defender (and among the very top ones, you will rarely if ever, especially in World Championships and such, be blessed with playing against one who is not already prepared to not give away the farm, or, to be specific and in this case, the game).

Cutting to the chase, while holding either Kxx, or K10x, a great defender will play both his two small cards on the two leads of the Q and then his other one. Not needing to go into why since you have already figured it out, but just in case you haven’t yet considered what if declarer is then considering what to do (on, of course, after his LHO has contributed the 10 on the second one, that he now has reached the point of no return, meaning all that is left is a basically 50-50 guess as to what to do.

However, one can intelligently argue that only if LHO is of World Class would he have not covered the Queen while holding the K10x so therefore if you deem him of the above quality you will then rise with the ace. Whether the king may then fall I cannot guarantee since it is someone else’s opinion of what to think of LHO.

It may be worth noting that if for some reason, the opening lead is won in dummy and a small diamond is led away from the long diamonds, with the queen of course winning and then West follows with another small diamond (perhaps the 10, but of course, insignificant) the same procedure would apply, could or would RHO duck the king from king and only one, the answer is a resounding, OF COURSE!

Such are the occasional battles when good players compete against each other showing a keen desire to be one of them, which no doubt, even if you do not consider yourself worthy, just asking the question, for all practical purposes, makes you right there with them in NT!