Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 15th, 2018

A knowledgeable fool is a greater fool than an ignorant fool.


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


This week’s deals all come from national championship events from Philadelphia.

As West, you deal and pass, then hear one diamond on your left and one heart on your right. You bid two clubs, which produces two hearts on your left and four hearts on your right. You lead your singleton spade and see the diagramed dummy.

That opening spade lead goes to the six, partner’s seven and declarer’s queen. To your pleasure, declarer plays a heart to the ace, then a heart back to her jack as your partner pitches the spade four. What next?

The correct defense is to lead a low diamond now rather than the ace. You need partner to have the diamond king, and given that this is a teams event, you must assume he will know to rise with his king rather than duck (since if declarer has the ace, he cannot beat the game). Your natural play seems to be to play the diamond ace and 10, but when your partner wins the trick, how would he know you wanted a spade ruff, not a diamond ruff? Conversely, if you lead the diamond nine to his king, he won’t have any option but to get the defense right — you hope.

The good news on this occasion is that because your partner started with all the small spades, he will be able to read that you initially led a singleton and that you want a spade ruff — you may not be so lucky next time! To see what I mean, imagine that the spade two and nine were switched.

Your side surely has the balance of high cards. How is declarer ever going to make 10 tricks here if you lead the heart ace and continue in trump? Yes, dummy might conceivably produce a good diamond suit, but you surely still have time to shift to spades. So the heart ace feels right to me, even if a low trump is slightly safer.


♠ K Q 4
 A 9 6
 K J 4
♣ A 9 8 2
South West North East
  Pass Pass 2
2 NT 4 Dbl. 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2January 29th, 2018 at 4:28 pm

West passed, then came in with an overcall while vulnerable with a passing partner with a suit lacking AK10. Combined with the absence of a preempt, this strongly suggests a one-suited hand with values outside the suit. The failure to lead a diamond honor denies the AK, places one of those honors in the silent East hand. The only other major high cards are the KH and the other diamond honor, so West almost certainly must have them.

There are 10 tricks, making a ruff or a 4-0 trump break the only threats. With the KH apparently onside, I would lead the JH. No matter what West does, the defense will get only a high trump. They can take it by using it to ruff a spade, if they wish, but it is still only that one trick. If West is 1-4-2-6, declarer’s actual line seems no better and — indeed — there may be no successful line.

Iain ClimieJanuary 29th, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’m surprised West didn’t try something with that hand. Maybe 3C isn’t for the squeamish (and the oppo should still reach 4H) but pass with those intermediates and shape seems overly cautious. If it starts 1C (P) 1S, now what, though? Will South wade in with that lot? He may well pass and then, after a 2C rebid P P, reopen with 2H but the sequence may talk NS out of game.

As you say, it is a bidder’s game.



Iain ClimieJanuary 29th, 2018 at 6:07 pm

Hi again,

Also, how attractive a lead is a spade from xx K10x A10 QJ98xx? I think 6331 is more likely than 6332 shape too (I’ll have to check) but the CQ looks more attractive as a lead in the hand above; hence DA and another after taking the HK should be enough for partner to get it right. Despite this, I can see where you’re coming from!


Bobby WolffJanuary 29th, 2018 at 6:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt what you suggest is essentially on target, but not without at least some reservation.

We start with usually if some defender is short in trump it would be considered normal for the overcaller, since his vacant spaces are moatly filled with his overcalled suit, to be the defender to be that, not his partner.

Add to that, the declarer cannot be sure, although surely fear, that the lead might not be a singleton, but from instead some length (notice third seat played the seven, not the jack), although declarer falsecarded by winning with his queen.

Next, if West did hold the AK of diamonds, North had opened the bidding with one diamond and, of course, depending on the whole diamond layout around the table, it could turn out to be a set inhibitor in the form of being instrumental in allowing a trick(s) to lose the tempo in the development of defensive winners.

All the above is not to discount your analysis, only to suggest that our game, featuring both Dame Fortune and Lady Luck, is oft times not as predictable as your thoughts may lead.

However, and an entirely different subject, East needs to know that his partner has the ace of diamonds when the play up to then has unfolded, making West a sure shot of holding the diamond ace, should he lead either the ten or the nine (before the ace), in case South has a singleton (if only to save an overtrick) and, of course lead a spade back, discounting South’s ruse at trick one.

Also please accept my firm opinion of you as very KNOWLEDGEABLE without doubt or, of course, not a hangover from always fighting TOCM.

Bobby WolffJanuary 29th, 2018 at 6:49 pm

Hi Iain,

While both of us were writing, me to Jim2 and you first theorizing and then turning your attention to another possible glitch, especially considering that awful TOCM, which, though rare, has always zeroed in on our together, and, always, well, almost) brilliant, great friend.

Yes, while opening the bidding 1 club with West’s collection (with all those intermediates) still it can be understood not to, when one considers the advantages of being the first to speak against the negatives of possibly receiving the wrong opening lead and/or not having enough high cards, to offset the plus of being 1-3-3-6 in added playing strength.

And no doubt (at least in my sometimes warped mind) bridge is a “bidder’s game, NS should still reach four hearts by North selecting a one heart overcall (bad 4 card suit and all) or an off center TO dbl, (which I definitely do not cotton to), but even after passing, perhaps South could overcall the one spade response by East with 2 hearts (perhaps my partner will later tell me to “bite my tongue” rather than to indulge such fantasies).

In any event the unbiased reader will understand that some sacrifice often needs to be made by epidemic conservatism, otherwise the adjective too dangerous needs to rather be applied to not acting rather than its opposite.

No doubt your second hand (in spite of calling 2-3-2-6, 6-3-3-2) does register positive with me in logic and makes a normal heart finesse right as rain. Again trying to figure out what the bridge gods or her highness herself, Dame Fortune has in mind, is never pleasant since it is nigh impossible.

And also resulting from “details” to the main subject of simply East playing his partner for an ace (in this hand, diamonds) that he MUST possess.

“Aren’t we devils”?

Jan 30, 2018 – 凝縮収斂January 30th, 2018 at 11:02 am

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