Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dealer: West

Vul: E/W

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


South West North East
  Pass 4* Pass
4 All Pass    
*Strong spade pre-empt

Opening Lead:10

“Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.”

— John F. Kennedy

People often complain about freakish computer-dealt hands. But those hands reflect the true odds, while the imperfect human method leads to unnaturally balanced hands. The following deal, though, from the National Women’s Teams in the UK, would have added to such paranoia.


At one table South became declarer in four spades after North’s Namyats opening bid to show a strong hand with spades. She received the opening lead of the heart 10. The two was played from the dummy, East began a high-low with the six, and Dhondy won with the king. Dhondy next led the heart four from her hand. West discarded, as did dummy, and East had to follow with the three. When did you last win the second round of a suit with the four?


At another table North decided to start with her system’s strong bid, two diamonds. South launched straight into Blackwood. North responded five diamonds to show one or four keycards with diamonds as trump, and South KNEW this must be four to justify the two-diamond opening. So she bid seven no-trump.


West first checked that she was on lead, then doubled and led the diamond ace. Seven no-trump was soon down 10 for a 2600 penalty.


Although North’s opening bid was ill-judged, South’s bidding was very wild. North might have shown three keycards, after which South would not have known if there was an ace missing. In addition, South should have bid seven hearts, not seven no-trump, because North might have had a heart void.

ANSWER: While it might be right to sit back and defend, my instincts with this pattern are to compete in a minor. The best way to do this is to bid four no-trump for the minors. This way you rate to get to play in your longest combined minor-suit holding.


South Holds:

9 2
A 10 9 7 6
K 5 4 3 2


South West North East
  3 Dbl. 4


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


bruce karlsonJune 18th, 2009 at 11:10 am


At least twice, in recent columns, a singleton has been the initial lead. I tend to lead one regardless of my trump holding, even if it is a suit bid by the opponents, if my partner could have an entry. I frequently hear that, absent trump control, the lead should always be avoided, particualarly in a suit bid by the opps. What say you???


Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2009 at 12:34 am


Bridge has a mind of its own. The bridge Puppeteer makes sure to all aspiring players and some not so, that whether one follows other good player’s judgment, and/or a common apparently sensible general suggestion that always, sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t.

Having said the above, my judgment is probably attuned to following what you have heard to do. Obviously, having trump control can quite often give you at least 2 shots at the apple which enables it to be officially recommended. However the possible corrent answer is to choose the lead which offers the greatest chance for a successful defense. Sometimes in matchpoints merely getting an extra trick, but not the setting one, makes it a possible choice.

If I was to include your question on an aptitude test for bright beginners it would be in the form of an essay and would ask what the considerations are for determining one’s lead. As long as the student, on this specific question answered, leading a singleton will usually get a quick answer to its effectiveness, trying for immediate tricks, but at the same time relinquishing other ways of establishing a favorable tempo for developing other defensive tricks. “You pays your money, you takes your chances”, but overall I favor what you suggested in your question and would require trump control, but would stand ready to violate that choice if no other lead appeared likely to work. Since cheaters regard the opening lead as crucial, they practically never have that problem!!!!!!