Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 28th, 2019

One will seldom go wrong to attribute extreme actions to vanity, moderate ones to habit and petty ones to fear.


S North
None ♠ Q 9 4 3 2
 K J 3
 K 3
♣ 7 6 5
West East
♠ 10 6
 10 7 6 2
 A J 5
♣ J 9 8 2
♠ J 8
 A Q 9 4
 10 9 6 2
♣ Q 10 4
♠ A K 7 5
 8 5
 Q 8 7 4
♣ A K 3
South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 * Pass
3 ♠ Pass 4 ♠ All pass

*Transfer to spades


Schadenfreude, enjoying the discomfort of your friends and acquaintances, is a powerful emotion. It can be entertaining to be a fly on the wall when two teams are scoring up their match, particularly if you are watching friends of yours in the middle of trying to justify their losing efforts. It is not that you want your friends to fail, but you may not mind seeing them do less well than you.

In today’s deal, which came from a Spingold knockout match from a decade ago, I was sitting out for a set and took the opportunity to spectate at the table of some fellow Texans. After the set was over, the scoring-up started, and when it reached this deal my friends called out minus 50. “Lose 10 IMPs” came the riposte, and I could see my friends biting their tongues to keep from asking what had happened, until the scoring was complete.

But after the set was scored, one of them dropped an offhand comment about the deal, and his teammate asked him what had happened. “They led a heart to the jack and queen, and I lost another trick in each side-suit” came the response. “And at your table?”

His teammate replied, “I also led a heart, but declarer cleverly played low from dummy at trick one. He knew he could always finesse against the jack on the next round, but as it was, I had to guess who had the heart 10 at the first trick. When I got it wrong and put up the queen, the hearts played for a discard for the slow club loser.”

Leading from a doubleton heart certainly doesn’t seem right: Partner is unlikely to have enough in the suit. But since a club would be a wild gamble if dummy has at least five, I’d take my shot on finding partner with a high diamond (or the jack) and kick off with the diamond 10.


♠ J 6 3 2
 J 3
 Q 10 9 2
♣ J 7 5
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 11th, 2019 at 9:20 am

In the third room S played low in dummy on the opening H lead. E won the 9 (knowing partner would not lead fourth best from four small), and he led a C. S won the A, led a D to the K and ducked a D. W won the J and returned a H. E won and led a H which S ruffed, drew trump and ruffed a D, dropping the A. He then returned to hand with a trump, cashed the DQ discarding a C from dummy, and claimed, making 4S.

Iain ClimieFebruary 11th, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Hi David, Bobby,

Nice extra chance but the hand illustrates why I’d rather lead small from 10xxx whereas one of my regular partners swears by leading the 2nd highest. Swap the H8 and H10 (as East at the table where the contract made did mentally) and you can see the problem.

I wonder if anyone spotted David’s extra chance at the time or in the post-mortem, though? The unsuccessful South might not have appreciated the reminder that he’d missed two extra chances, but at least his oversights were only punished by one loss.



jim2February 11th, 2019 at 3:11 pm

I did, but David is almost always faster to post than I am.

Bobby WolffFebruary 11th, 2019 at 3:41 pm

Hi David,

No doubt your play, after the possible lost opportunity at trick one, saved the day and would have disenabled the Schadenfreude.

Your play took advantage of a very reasonable location of the diamonds (3-4 with the ace being with West). Only bad breaks in likely both the pointed suits might have derailed your critical extra chance.

As to whether it is best to require at least the 10 in hand to lead 4th best is a controversial subject, IMO fairly evenly divided among the world’s elite. Hands like today benefit from leading 2nd highest from 4 small, but sadly have the disadvantage of being harder to get the count by the defense.

However that subject has nothing to do with not making a complete recovery (your line) from an earlier ploy by declarer which did not work. As a matter of fact, the having additional spurs to one’s bow often identifies the real expert from one which might get there, but hasn’t quite yet.

Bobby WolffFebruary 11th, 2019 at 3:55 pm

Hi Iain,

Not only did the declarer not spot his extra chance, but how about the author? However since it was me, it will remain nameless (or is that an oxymoron?).

However I do hope that the actual declarer forgot to read this bridge column or at least tune into this site. If he did tune in to AOB, might he believe that I intententionally failed to mention his second overlook? I, of course, did not, but at least he may have benefited by experiencing Schadenfreude on his own.

Bobby WolffFebruary 11th, 2019 at 3:59 pm

Hi Jim2,

There is only one bridge condition which is worse than TOCM TM and that is being afflicted with TOCM TM and growing slower with age.

Ken MooreFebruary 11th, 2019 at 6:56 pm


With the opening lead, there is always a question, as today, about being aggressive or passive. These are my thoughts. First, an aggressive lead is somewhat more likely to lose a trick rather than to gain a trick. So when the opponents bid confidently, as today, they are likely to make the contract whatever you do. The thing to do is to decide the most likely holding that would allow us to defeat the contract. Therefore, be aggressive knowing that the worst thing that might happen is to give an overtrick.

But, when they have to “settle” on a questionable contract, being aggressive is more likely to give them the contract-going trick than to help. Therefore, be passive.

Your thoughts on this?

Bobby WolffFebruary 11th, 2019 at 8:07 pm

Hi Ken,

Regretfully, my answer may not be considered any more than replying to a sincere question with other questions.

The opening lead is, no doubt, a blind thrust depending on the game being played (rubber bridge, IMPs, board-a-match or simply matchpoints). Each has at least a small difference from the others and indeed in addition might depend on exactly who the opponents are and thus reflect both their bidding, together with the tempo along with and, of course, their tendencies, if either is known or suspected.

Yes, the opponents, whatever is led, are (or should be) expected to make their contract, by their bidding (15%) and by your holding (85%) plus the dog which did not bark, North, who passed over your LHOs opening bid.

Of course perhaps your partner is very conservative, especially about coming into the bidding, after his opponents have opened.

All of the above shows how difficult being an excellent opening leader, really is making the expectation of success (finding not only the winning suit, but also sometimes the specific card in that suit).

However, no one should feel disadvantaged since everyone playing bridge, whether tournament or not, will always be subject to those pessimistic conditions.

In this case we suggest leading a diamond, specifically the 10 (normal lead system from honor, 109) or if not, the 2, 4th best.

To say that lead gives no guarantees is an underbid, but everything considered, it is our opinion that the card mentioned will work out the best (in the very long run).

While not much will be learned from above, perhaps the overall expectations about our sensational game will be better qualified so that newer players will not get such a lowly feeling of thinking the best player in the room knows so much more about the game than the opening leader to this hand.

However, after the lead is made, the dummy comes down and the play to the 1st trick becomes complete, the talent kicks in, wherein the really good player is much faster to pick up what to do in the 12 tricks to come than will be the newer player.

And finally, after each succeeding trick the defense will get easier till at sometime (usually long before the end) the very good player will pretty much know the original whole layout on this specific hand and will be able to (along with his competent partner) be able to play the last large number of tricks flawlessly.

Sorry for the confusion, but hopefully the above presentation will suggest what to expect and the easiest way to climb up the bridge ladder to respectability, if, in fact, that is the goal.

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