Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 25th, 2017

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.

Ian Fleming

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


At the Dyspeptics Club, South may enjoy the luck of the cards, but he normally manages to find a way to make up for it in the play. On occasion, though, he does achieve a coup — not by employing masterful technique, but with his lucky rabbit’s foot.

Here, when South heard his partner respond one spade, instead of raising to three spades, he allowed his balanced shape to tempt him into a rebid of two no-trump. When North raised to three no-trump, South decided to pass rather than convert to four spades — a fortunate decision today.

Against three no-trump, West led the club five, and declarer won cheaply in hand. Now South could sensibly have played on either red suit. Instead, though, declarer cashed three top spades, then got off lead with the ace and another club. West won and started to cash his clubs.

You can see the effect — while North parted with two hearts, South could throw a spade and a heart. Then West would be stuck on lead, and would either have to concede a trick to the heart king or solve declarer’s problems in diamonds.

Alas, South ruined a good story by claiming to have won the fourth round of clubs with his small spade in hand. It emerged that South was trying to declare four spades, and it was only inadvertently that he had found the perfect play to ensure nine tricks in no-trump. It is sometimes better to be lucky than good, I suppose.

Whether playing teams or pairs, it helps to decide before you lead if you are looking to go aggressive or passive. Here, since dummy is a passed hand, I’d opt for a relatively passive approach. That said, you are surely going to choose between the majors, but a spade combines leading a long suit with a much smaller chance of blowing a trick. I’d lead the five, second-highest from four small.


♠ 9 5 4 3
 A J 5 4
 Q 3 2
♣ 9 5
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 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


Jan 8, 2018 – 凝縮収斂January 8th, 2018 at 10:01 am

[…] Aces on Bridge » Blog Archive » The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 25th, 2017 […]

Bruce karlsonJanuary 8th, 2018 at 12:15 pm

LWTA: Similar situation at a recent club game after 1NT on my right passed out. I am holding 1096, AQxx, xxx, xxx. Not wanting to give declarer his likely HK and thinking it reasonable to hope for at least 4 spades with P, I led the S10. Naturally P had 5 hearts with the KJ and was displeased with my choice. This situation arises regularly. Is there a rule about active, passive, etc.?

jim2January 8th, 2018 at 2:24 pm

When informed that the low spade had not win the fourth club, I suspect declarer’s face revealed a Rueful expression.

bobbywolffJanuary 8th, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Hi Bruce,

At matchpoints and while defending against either a part score or game I prefer the lead of the 10 of spades, since defeating the contract is no more important, especially in a part score, than are overtricks (frequency of gain vs. amount of gain, so important at IMPs or rubber bridge).

I guess, although you didn’t mention it, your partner didn’t get in, to switch to a heart before the declarer had taken at least nine tricks. If so, that indeed was an unusual hand to have only bid 1NT.

Also, when 1NT was passed to your partner, why did he not balance with 2 hearts or use whatever convention you were playing to not sell out. It seems that he would have had at the very least, about a 10 count, enough to compete in the highly competitive game we play.

Not mentioning the above to start an argument with your partner, but bridge does lend itself to many partnership responsibilities, not just perhaps the most difficult one of just trying to “guess” the best opening lead.

At the very least you get an agreement with me, and, my guess, by far the majority of many high-level players.

However against 3NT it is a closer proposition, although i still believe that it would be a close choice between a spade and a heart.

Finally, there is no set rule to which experienced players always or only just usually follow, consistently.

bobbywolffJanuary 8th, 2018 at 4:40 pm

Hi Jim2,

Rueful indeed!

As my late and great father used to say to my loving mother, “Why do you constantly serve me all those lettuce and tomato salads, eg, rabbit food”?

Thanks for honoring Victor Mollo! He will always have earned it.

Bruce karlsonJanuary 8th, 2018 at 6:04 pm

Thank you Sir Bobby. Actually declarer had 8 tricks before we got in which was one more than she would have had if I led a heart. Not sure why partner did not bid his reasonably chunky hearts. There is another rule about not allowing the ops to play1NT at favorable vulnerability. Agree he should have taken action either way though.

bobbywolffJanuary 8th, 2018 at 8:07 pm

Hi Bruce,
There is one better said rule than one which categorically states not to let the opponents play 1NT while at favorable vulnerability, That is, to simply add, "when it is wrong to not so act".

That facetious addition can often describe what some think should be their arbitrary rule to follow, through thick and thin.

However the playing of bridge should have very few "always or never" since Dame Fortune is fickle enough so that the very best players need to be at the table, when the occasion demands compliance, otherwise those oral bromides are not worth the paper they are not written on.

TedJanuary 9th, 2018 at 1:29 am

Hi Bobby,

I was kibitzing a table of World Class players today (yes, real ones on BBO). The line of play taken on one hand bothered me, but I’m not sure what the best line is. I’d appreciate any thoughts you or the group may have.

(Opponents pass throughout.)

1D 2NT
3NT all pass

Opening lead spade 5



The spade J wins and declarer now took a winning heart finesse, before ducking a diamond. Is this the best approach?

bobbywolffJanuary 9th, 2018 at 5:50 am

Hi Ted,

At least to me, when a winning heart finesse is taken (especially to the closed hand, since West dare not duck the queen) it seems clear to attack clubs, not diamonds, hoping to land 3 spades, 3 hearts, 2 clubs and 1 diamond. To instead duck a diamond at trick 3 seems clearly wrong, if for no other reason but their opponents either switching to their attention to hearts, or, for that matter continuing spades, denying the declarer the time to develop his one club trick (assuming all suits break except perhaps hearts and/or spades being 5-3).

It may come down to just luck which will allow a make if the person who wins the third club doesn’t have the suit which the defense should then try and develop.

There may be even a better line of play than a heart finesse at trick 2, but once it works, it seems that your described declarer went off the rails soon after.