Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

The gift of a common tongue is a priceless inheritance, and it may well some day become the foundation of a common citizenship.

Winston Churchill

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


Today is my final deal from Kit Woolsey’s excellent book, “The Language of Bridge.” This is certainly a very hard problem — and it involves a carding convention that may not be used by all my readers: third and lowest leads. Bear that caveat in mind while reading the deal.

You sit East, defending against four hearts, after South has jumped to game at his second turn. When your partner leads the spade queen, dummy plays low and you contribute the 10. Your partner now continues with the two, and when dummy plays low again, you take the nine as declarer follows suit.

It seems natural to shift to a diamond. But partner carefully chose his lowest spade at trick two. Not only must partner own the club ace for this play, but he also cannot have the diamond king or ace, or he would need a diamond shift.

So what is going on? Answer: West needs to know the right time to take his club ace. If declarer advances a club from his hand, partner won’t have the count in the suit, so he won’t know what to do. So you must give him the count yourself by leading the club two (playing third and lowest spot-card leads). Your partner would expect you to lead a small club with an odd number and a high club with an even number.

West will win his ace at once if you lead the club two; but if you lead the club nine, he will duck, playing declarer to have the hand shown, but with two small clubs and only six hearts.

When you have decent values in this position, you should consider giving false preference to two hearts. The logic is that the 5-2 heart fit may play better than a possible 4-3 club fit. But more importantly, when partner has extras, you want to keep the auction open to let him try for game. With the club queen instead of the ace, you might pass two clubs.


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


bobbywolffMay 9th, 2018 at 6:45 pm

Hi all,

Just to keep bridge in mind on a slow day,

What if East had a 6th club (the 5) and West had Kxxx in diamonds and the A10 of clubs leaving declarer with a singleton club and AQx in diamonds.

Answer: After a dirty look from East when he ducked the club return from pard, declarer scored up an unmakable game and to make matters worse, NS couldn’t then make 3NT on that hand, as he could on this one, with a diamond lead from East (since he guessed correctly that declarer had the king of spades as possibly would declarer guess to not play the king of spades after a club lead and then the queen and low spade back from West).

In addition, after today’s then poor result, EW changed their leading system from 3rd and low to 3rd and 6th (obviously unplayable) and of course beefed up their one level overcalls. Doesn’t figure to help at all but rather hurt, however, at least this partnership doesn’t sit still.

Aren’t we devils or is it the game itself? I vote for #2.

jim2May 9th, 2018 at 7:19 pm

Sadly, at our table, South judged North to have both black suits stopped for the 1N bid, and simply raised to a matchpoints 3N.

bobbywolffMay 9th, 2018 at 7:50 pm

Hi Jim2,

First time news! TOCM not only migrates the cards to your worst scenario when you play the hand, but to the opponent’s best when they declare.

jim2May 9th, 2018 at 8:20 pm

Yes, oh very yes.

Even innocent bidding TOCM ™ ‘s me!

One session of 24 hands, the opponents opened 1N 18 times. My view is that any time a pair can begin with a limit bid, they rate to have an above average board.

The reason it was TOCM ™ was that those were 10-12 NTs, 12-14, 13-15, 15-17, and 16-18. What that meant was that at other tables 1NT likely would NOT have been the opening bid.

bobbywolffMay 9th, 2018 at 9:26 pm

Hi Jim2,

If “unlucky at cards, lucky at love” rings true and according to the immutable law of averages it should make, your wife to be, at the very least, almost the most perfect person ever created and, if so, many very lucky bridge players would likely and happily, change places with you.

Not me, but many!

bobbywolffMay 9th, 2018 at 10:31 pm

Hi again Jim2,

BTW and FWIW I agree to what you think constitutes luck at tournament bridge.

When a good declarer is able to open 1NT or even one of a major against another way above average partnership my guess the chances for a good score for the opening bidder’s partnership jumps from approximately 50% (upon arriving at the table) to perhaps 70-75%.

The obvious reasons, of course, including the better chance of declaring the hand, looking at all 26 of his assets (cards seen after dummy comes down), sometimes blind opening guess for an opening lead, and by far at least IMO, fewer outright guesses during the play as to the best play to make.

Especially at matchpoints the real opponents are not at your table, but actually the other partnerships sitting in the same direction when each hand is played. At least while playing IMPs against only one team each declarer is only compared to his counterpoint at the other table with the overall contract
reached only compared with the pair sitting at the other table in the same seats.

The above, which we both know, is what makes team games much more consistent for overall results since it only 2 partnerships vs. the other teams 2 partnerships.

Luck, no doubt, and (except for you and other TOCM TM victims) evens out over a period of time, making our beautiful competition a fair contest, not necessarily for only a few sessions, but over a longer haul, very form oriented.

Finally I firmly believe that the principle of amount of gain (IMPs) as opposed to frequency of gain (matchpoints) is a better guage of what bridge is about. Not necessarily more fun, but IMO, much less luck involved,

Bob LiptonMay 9th, 2018 at 11:16 pm

Of course when a good player can open 1NT he should, since, as the Hideous Hog notes, the opening lead should run up to the strongest player, who on this hand is quite clearly North.

bobbywolffMay 10th, 2018 at 2:34 pm

Hi Bob,

And HH might have to prove it, when after the nine of clubs lead to the ace and then the queen of spades and another low one from West the spade overcaller he will need to complete a “double duck” (named for Walt Disney’s Donald and Daisy) in order to “beard the beast”.

If successful, no doubt HH would claim that he, different than most of his inferior opponents, while being rueful, not only leads 4th best vs. NT, but also plays 4th and then continues 5th best, when his opponents instead, lead or switch to it.