Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 23, 2009

Dealer: North

Vul: None

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


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

Opening Lead:7

“The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.”

— Robert Frost

Because the Nationals start on Thursday in San Diego, all the deals this week are from last year’s Fall Nationals. In the Board-a-Match Teams, Alex Ornstein (East) had the opportunity to make a master play and grabbed it with both hands.


On West’s revealing lead of the heart seven against three no-trump, declarer played low from dummy and Ornstein played the king. South won it and immediately ran the club queen — the right play because after the lead, West was far more likely to have three clubs to the K-10 than the singleton king.


At any rate, Ornstein won the club king and shifted to the spade jack — curtains for declarer. East’s logic was that if West had led a heart from three low cards with what clearly was a four-card spade suit, then he must have the spade ace-queen, and unless West had the spade 10, nothing could help the defense’s cause.


As you can see, if East had shifted to the more mundane low spade at trick three, declarer simply plays low, and West must win the first spade. Now declarer’s spade king is protected from further attack.


One further point: Was West wrong not to lead a spade at trick one? I’d say not. At matchpoint pairs or Board-a-Match, the main objective on defense to a normal contract is to avoid giving away unnecessary tricks. Yes, you sometimes fail to set a contract that you might have beaten, but if on three other occasions you save an overtrick, that is a fine investment.

ANSWER: West showed 5-5 in hearts and diamonds, and subsequently settled in four spades, probably therefore with one club and two spades. The danger with leading ace and another trump is that it gives up trump control. Maybe a better lead is your small trump! Now you may be able to get in and draw dummy’s last trump before cashing your clubs. This idea comes from Krzysztof Martens’ “University of Defence: Opening Leads.”


South Holds:

A 5
9 8
K 10 7 2
A K J 8 7


South West North East
1 2 NT Pass 3
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


VirtualDecember 7th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Bobby, In “Lead…”, I don’t see how west’s bidding showed him 5-5 in H and D. Is it a specific understanding between east-west to mean the other minor and a major? If so, is it the sign-off at 4S that then shows the major was hearts?

Bobby WolffDecember 8th, 2009 at 12:14 am

Hi Virtual,

Many good players (perhaps most, at least in North America) play immediate jumps to 2NT over an opponent’s opening one bid, as conventional for the two lowest unbid suits. As such, in order to qualify for such an enterprising effort, the distribution should be at least 5-5 and in hearts and diamonds.

The raise to 4 spades is only further clarification of her outside cards, usually 2, since with a 3-5-5-0 distribution and over partner’s unlikely 3 spade bid, it would normally be worth a 4 club cue bid, meant as a slam try, which is enabling toward slam, if partner is willing to see it likewise.

As one’s hand is usually not either good or bad when the original bid is made, it requires each round of bidding to reevaluate partner’s response and then make an educated guess as to which direction your hand is going and then, in whatever way possible, let partner in on your secret. It probably needs not to be said that a minimum response in one of the expected suits is almost always on the low and negative side, while a come to life cue bid shouts out to one’s partner, “YEA, we may be on the way to high contracts and great things”!

Such is the purpose of top flight bidding, with only good judgment, which always comes with experience and partnership trust to add, before the partnership is on its way to a formidable reputation.

Thanks for writing and Happy Holidays!