Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 20, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W

Q 10 9 5
A K 7 4
4 3
Q 6 3
West East
6 2 4 3
Q J 9 3 10 8 6 2
10 9 8 6 K Q J 5
K 10 8 A 9 7
A K J 8 7
A 7 2
J 5 4 2


South West North East
1 Pass 3 Pass
4 All pass  

Opening Lead: Q

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.”

— T.S. Eliot

In today’s deal, North does not have quite enough to drive to game, but does have enough for a limit raise, suggesting four trumps and about 10-11 points. South may be minimum in high cards, but he has decent controls and a singleton. It is generally good strategy to bid game here unless you are both minimum and balanced.

Now you must consider the play on a top-heart lead. Between the two hands there is one diamond loser and three potential club losers. What South discards on the second top heart might appear to be irrelevant; not so.

The third club loser can be eliminated if the opponents can be forced to lead clubs for you. To accomplish this, declarer must hope for a 2-2 spade break, and thus be able to strip both his hand and dummy’s of all hearts and diamonds. The best line is to discard a diamond on dummy’s second high heart, then ruff a low heart in his hand. Now he can draw two rounds of trumps and ruff another low heart, so long as the trumps split. Then he can endplay both opponents by leading ace and another diamond. Whichever opponent wins the diamond lead must lead a club or yield a ruff-sluff.

If the trumps do not split, South can always lead clubs himself, hoping for a favorable position (ace-king in one hand, or a singleton or doubleton honor in clubs, most likely in the hand long in spades).

ANSWER: On an auction of this sort, East has suggested spade length by bidding two spades as a game-try. So it is actually more, not less, attractive to lead a spade, and your spade sequence should not discourage you from making the natural lead of the queen.


South Holds:

Q J 9 6
8 5 3
Q 6 4
9 7 5


South West North East
1 Pass 1
Pass 2 Pass 2
Pass 4 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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Michael BeyroutiMay 5th, 2009 at 10:11 am

I am shocked by the recommendation made in the “Lead with the Aces” section. Dear Mr Wolff, can you explain the rationale behind the spade lead. Isn’t a trump lead better, given the auction?

Bobby WolffMay 5th, 2009 at 11:59 am

Hi Michael,

While a trump lead is possible, I prefer a spade lead. When the dummy is going to have 4 trumps for declarer, usually it is a basic waste of time to try and eliminate any ruffing value dummy may have, since like the Indians were to General Custer, “Just too many of them”.

Also, when an above average+ player makes a game try (or possibly just checking back to see if partner raised with only 3 trumps) he may be trying to stop a spade lead, with something like Axx or even weaker. In either of the above cases I have had good luck by being aggressive with my opening lead, rather than somewhat wimpy by leading a trump. Another point to consider is that partner may have Qx in trump and our lead might remove the guess for declarer.

Everything considered, I do prefer a spade lead and would rate it at about 75%, with a low diamond around

15% leaving a trump at about 10%.

John Brown, a noted English bridge author whose books specialized in defense, and who many years ago commanded much respect once said, “If an otherwise average player always made the right opening lead he would probably win every World Championship.” Of course, that might be an exaggeration, but even so, opening leads usually turn out very important.

None of the above would sometimes keep a trump lead from being the only lead to defeat the game contract, but as Damon Runyon, (An American writer, who loved gambling and gamblers, but probably never played bridge) might have also once said, “But that is not the way to bet!”