Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W

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


South West North East
1 1 2 2
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead:10

“Why a duck? Why-a no chicken?”

— Morrie Ryskind, Robert Florey, and Joseph Santley

Against four hearts West did remarkably well to start with the diamond 10 rather than a spade, which would have simplified declarer’s task immeasurably. Declarer counted eight top tricks, with prospects for one in diamonds and another from an endplay. He also saw that if he covered the lead with dummy’s diamond jack and East had the ace and queen of diamonds, the contract would surely fail. That would point to West’s holding both black-suit kings, and since East would shift to a spade after winning the first diamond, there seemed little prospect of success.


Conversely, if the lead was from the diamond queen, South could always take the finesse later. So declarer made the counterintuitive play of ducking the first trick, which gave the defenders a problem. East overtook the 10 to play a spade, but declarer rose with the ace, then drew trumps. A diamond to the eight then set up two winners on which to dispose of the club losers.


The result would have been the same if East had ducked the opening lead. On a low diamond continuation to the eight and queen for a spade through, declarer would rise with the ace. After drawing trumps and taking a ruffing finesse against the diamond ace, he could play another trump to dummy to shed a club on the established diamond. Finally, a spade exit would endplay West for the 10th trick.


When nothing else seems likely to work, consider ducking the opening lead, even when there are trumps outstanding.

ANSWER: Although you have a little to spare in high cards, nothing about your side-suit pattern suggests that you have your cards in the right place. So you should pass and rely on partner to come in again if appropriate. By contrast, if your partner had opened one diamond instead of one club, it would be clear to compete further, since there would be a double fit.


South Holds:

5 3
K J 10 9
K J 8 2
5 4 2


South West North East
    1 Pass
1 1 2 2


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