Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 22, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: E/W

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


South West North East
    Pass 1
4 Dbl.* All Pass  

Opening Lead:K

“When first we met we did not guess

That love would prove so hard a master.”

— Robert Bridges

Today’s deal is a classic example of identifying what your best chance is to make your contract, then playing for it.


South sensibly jumped to four hearts over East’s one-diamond opening. West’s double showed cards and encouraged East to bid four spades if he had a four-card suit, or to make any other appropriate call with significant extra shape. As it was, East had nowhere to go but to pass and hope he could beat the game.


West led out the diamond king and queen, then the 10 to East’s ace. South ruffed in and laid down the heart ace, but now had a choice. He could play the heart queen to try to pin the jack, or he could play a low heart and try to drop the king. He actually played for the second choice and quietly went down a trick.


When he told his partner that it was a blind guess as to what to do, he received a less than sympathetic answer. “Imagine that East DID have the doubleton heart king. What would have happened to you when you led out the low heart and the king captured thin air? East would have been able to lead the fourth diamond now, re-promoting West’s heart jack to the setting trick. So your best chance was to try to pin the heart jack by leading the queen. If that works, there can be no promotion.”

ANSWER: This double calls for an unusual lead. It suggests your partner has a good suit of his own and is asking you to lead your shorter major on the chance of finding his suit. Therefore, lead the heart 10 — and hope partner does not have six spades ready to cash!


South Holds:

10 8 4 3
10 3
Q 9 8 7
J 7 4


South West North East
      1 NT
Pass 3 NT Dbl. 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


Amnon HarelMarch 9th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for an entertaining and educational column. Yet again 🙂

But this time, I don’t get it. What’s unnatural about looking for partner’s major when you hold far less than half your sides HCPs? Shouldn’t partner expect you to make such a lead just from the fact he has a strong hand? (and he must have one, since he things declarer will go down on the right lead)



Bobby WolffMarch 9th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Hi Amnon,

Thanks for your kind remarks.

There might be a consideration or two which you have not considered:

1. When the opponents bid 1NT Pass 3NT they can have anywhere between 31+HCPS to as few as 23+ which might be held if the responder has a 5 or 6 card suit (almost always a minor, since he didn’t explore game in his major). Because of this, it is difficult for a bereft or not so bereft opening leader to guess partner’s overall strength.

2. The third or fourth seat double is used to only increase the chances of setting the hand, with little regard to trying for the largest score possible on that hand. Bridge being what it is, with much guesswork involved (albeit educated guesswork), broader parameters of goals are needed rather than just always seeking to win the lottery.

3. Having said the above, it follows that it is now determined that lead directing doubles rather than the very unlikely event of just having a hand good enough to basically force five defensive tricks from random suits is by far, on frequency, more likely to happen. Going still further, that since most NT sequences are designed to try and seek an eight card major suit out and prefer a found one to playing 3NT then gives the inference when none is sought, the partner of the opening leader should only double when he wants to direct a lead he was not able to comfortably suggest during the bidding.

4. Ergo, like most everything else about high-level bridge, the logic of the game added to frequency of occurrence, helps determine almost all of the important caveats, both offensive or defensive, used in playing the game.

5. However, let me caution you with this final statement. Although the above is 100% true, at least in my opinion, the opportunity for individual judgment is still ever present and that talent alone usually separates the really great players from those who are even greater.