Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 25, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: None

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


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
4 NT* Pass 6 NT All Pass
*Quantitative; 17-18 with six hearts

Opening Lead: Guess!

“Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”

— The Book of Daniel 5:27

The opening lead can determine the success or failure of a contract. And sometimes, as in today’s deal from the 60th Lederer Memorial Trophy, declarer’s assessment of the opening leader’s capabilities played its part.


In action were the Hackett twins, Justin and Jason, playing against their English teammates, David Gold and Tom Townsend. Both pairs were part of the English team that won the silver medal in the World Championships in 2008.


No slam is especially good, since making 12 tricks requires the heart suit to play for just one loser — and the chance of that is only just over 50 percent. If there is only one heart loser, it appears that six no-trump will make as many tricks as six hearts, but that is not so. Consider declarer’s dilemma on a club lead. He has to guess correctly which club to play from dummy, or the defenders will take a club trick and a heart trick.


A glance at the West cards will indicate how unlikely an opening club lead might be, but David Gold found the fine opening lead of the club five — and Justin Hackett made the equally fine play of the club queen from dummy! Ace and another heart sorted out that suit, and 12 tricks were there.


When asked why he had played the club queen rather than the 10, Justin explained that top-class players are more likely to underlead a king than a jack.

ANSWER: Your first thought might be that game your way is a long way off and that you would rather defend, but in fact all your cards rate to be working on offense. Since a two-level overcall will deliver about an opening-strength hand — normally with six hearts — bid four hearts, planning to double four spades if the opponents continue. If partner bids five hearts in front of you, he may well be right to do so!


South Holds:

J 5
A 4
K Q J 7
Q 10 7 4 2


South West North East
  1 2 3


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


Denis KristandaJanuary 12th, 2010 at 7:48 am

Fortunately for Justin, playing the heart by the text book will deliver the contract anytime. But bravo to defender to lead club, forcing the declarer into guessing the right one from trick #1 with ( extra additional burden to solve the Heart suit as well).

I think Jason/Justin may well be a future Wolff/Hamman !

Have a good day !

Bobby WolffJanuary 12th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Hi Denis,

Thanks for your comments.

Mentioning both David’s opening lead and Justin’s guess of the queen and then, of course, Justin’s follow through by playing the hearts correctly is obviously a great triumph for these particular players, but also for bridge itself, since this hand is a testimonial for the beauty of the game.

I share your admiration for the relatively young Hacketts since they began at a very young age and have progressed in the recommended way, recently even exceeding their considerable expectations. Townsend and Gold are just emerging and also have great promise. With a combination of hard work, significant talent and the practice of Active Ethics these two pairs, together with other relatively young enthusiastic, extremely talented partnerships from around the world, gives our game a great hope for our high-level future.

Again, thanks for writing and also, of course, for your last line.