Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dealer: North

Vul: N/S

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


South West North East
    1 1
1 Pass 1 NT 2


Pass 3 Pass
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead:


“We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last, best hope of earth.”

— Abraham Lincoln

Today’s deal raises the issue of when, if ever, to ruff in when declarer has a potential loser in a suit.

You can predict what will happen at most tables. East will cash the diamond king and ace, then lead his lowest diamond. On this trick South will pitch a club. West will ruff in and hope to score either a trump trick or a club trick later on. But he will be disappointed.

Let’s rewind and consider West’s defense here. Despite his possible trump trick, it must be right to lead the singleton diamond against four spades — it is partner’s suit after all — planning to set up slow diamond winners or to take two ruffs.

But what about his play to the third trick? The likelihood that he will generate an extra trump trick by ruffing in is slim to none. Declarer is not likely to lose a spade finesse to West once East shows up with six diamonds to East’s one.

If, instead of ruffing, West simply discards on the diamond six, dummy’s queen wins the trick. Declarer must lose a trump trick to West, and there will be no parking place for declarer’s remaining club loser.

Ruffing in here would be a variation of ruffing on air — it just happens to be a less obvious bad idea than usual.

ANSWER: It is tempting to bid three hearts, hoping to play game in hearts. More realistic is to look for the best result possible — playing in a club partscore, which rates to be safe enough. With slightly better hearts I would look for the 6-2 or 6-3 fit. But clubs is likely to be your side’s best strain, and your high card rates to be worth nothing to your partner. It’s time to pass.


South Holds:

Q 9 6
10 8 6 5 4 3
8 5 4


South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 3 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


Suzanne WellsMay 21st, 2009 at 2:26 pm

I enjoyed your bood “The Lone Wolf” very much, thank you for writing it. Do you recommend 3rd and firth leads against suit contracts only or both suit and no trump contracts? Please explain the benefit of leading low from a doubleton on opening lead or anytime leading from a doubleton. Thanks

Suzanne Wells Cottonwood, AZ

Bobby WolffMay 21st, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Hi Suzanne,

Thanks for your kind words about TLW.

While, being an old dog, I must confess that I prefer 4th best against both suits and NT although I have sometimes played 3d and 5th, however the ones who favor 3d best from even and either low or 5th best from odd are interested in a clearer differentiation between 4 and 5 cards suits (in frequency the most common to occur). This method is quite often only played against suit contracts, since 4th best, because of the Rule of Eleven, is still valuable in determining 3d hand play in NT.

Another alternative for NT is called Attitude which suggests a low card (usually a 2,3,4, or possibly a 5 lead), while not attempting to show the number of cards held, does guarantee at least one major honor in the suit, requiring the opening leader to lead a middle type card when holding a weak suit.

Doubletons, while rarely led against NT (unless partner has bid them or by doubling that suit along the way or perhaps even by doubling the final contract to suggest that specific lead), might be chosen to lead vs. a suit contract if either that suit is suggested to be led by the opponent’s bidding (rare) or sometimes if holding trump control the opening leader is hopeful that, with two cracks at the goal he may be lucky enough to be able to ruff the 3d round of that suit.

Finally, all I can tell you about leading low from doubletons is that I think it originated in Poland (a relative hot bed for bridge and one in which many world class players reside) it (and this is guesswork) appears to me that a lower card to be a negative inference of not as likely to be a singleton, but allows the lead of an 8 or 9 to have a better chance to be one. There may be other strategic reasons, but if so, I am not well enough versed to be able to comment. The idea though, is beginning to catch on with very good players, so I have no doubt that the idea has merit, but alas I have not as yet checked it out.

David WarheitOctober 5th, 2009 at 1:46 am

West leads his diamond, East plays the King and South plays–what? Well, of course, he plays the four, more or less foreseeing the ending as described in the column. But now East puts on his thinking cap. He knows that South had a perfectly good falsecard with the Jack, but instead played the four. Why? Because he’s not afraid of West ruffing in, because that’s his trump trick anyway. So East shifts to the club king at trick two and down goes South.