Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 10, 2009

Dealer: North

Vul: All

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


South West North East
    Pass Pass
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
2 Pass 4 All Pass

Opening Lead:K

“Enemies’ gifts are no gifts and do no good.”

— Sophocles

Sitting West, you lead king, ace and a third club against four hearts. South ruffs the third round and plays a diamond to dummy, then a spade to the king and your ace. What next?


The answer is that it does not matter what you do next. You have already let the contract through! Say you switch to a diamond. Declarer wins in dummy, leads a spade to the jack and queen, then draws two rounds of trump and plays to trump the fourth spade in dummy. Since your partner is out of trumps, he can do nothing to stop this plan from succeeding. But you could have prevented it; the key to the deal is to duck the first spade.


Declarer’s general strength and distribution are clearly marked by the bidding and early play. Declarer must have the king-queen of spades, so winning the first spade cannot generate an extra trick for your side. The consequence of holding up the ace is that declarer now has the unpleasant choice of how many rounds of trump to draw before continuing the attack on spades. If none, you will win the spade ace on the second round and give partner a ruff with his heart 10. If South takes two rounds of trump, you will win the spade ace and play a third trump, leaving declarer with an eventual inevitable spade loser. By winning the spade ace, you gave declarer control over drawing trumps; by ducking it, you retained control yourself.

ANSWER: Against small slams, you should normally lead aggressively rather than passively, unless you think you have the contract set on passive defense. Here, a diamond lead may not work, but it is the huge favorite over a club lead (although I might lead a club if partner had had a chance to double a five-diamond response to Blackwood and had not done so).


South Holds:

J 7 2
8 4
K 8 6 4 3
10 7 3


South West North East
  1 Pass 2
Pass 3 Pass 4 NT
Pass 5 Pass 6
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