Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I notice that the better players use third-and-fifth leads. What are the benefits of them, and where can I learn more about them?

—  Willing to Learn, Montreal, Quebec


ANSWER: The theoretical advantages of third-and-fifth as opposed to fourth come when you as a defender are trying to work out how long partner’s suit is. In fourth-highest a player leads the same card from suits one apart in length; in third-and-fifth the same card from holdings two cards apart. Bridge logic normally helps you work out a two-card disparity more easily and more often than a one-card disparity.


Two books called “Opening Leads,” one by Bob Ewen, one by Mike Lawrence, are highly recommended, as is the book by Rosler and Rubens called “Journalist Leads.”


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Holding Q-8-7-4, 9, 9-3-2, A-J-10-3-2, I responded one spade to my partner’s opening bid of one heart. My partner jumped to three spades, and now I thought with only four trumps and a singleton in his suit that I should pass. He turned up with a singleton diamond and we made five in a canter. Was I wrong to pass?

—  Chicken Little, Huntington, W.Va.


ANSWER: I understand your logic and (especially if playing with an aggressive partner) might duplicate your decision. However, the good club spots might enable me to set that suit up for discards and thus persuade me to bid on.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

When should honors be declared? Some of us were taught (we couldn’t remember where or when) that one should declare honors immediately before playing the hand. We thought about this and decided that this system would give the opponents too much information, and therefore began to question what we believed we had learned.

—  Honor Bound, Portland, Ore.

  ANSWER: You get to claim honors till the score for the rubber has been agreed. So as you suspected (and for precisely the reason you mention) they do NOT have to be claimed at the start of the play of the hand. Best is to claim them when leading the last of the sequence or when drawing what is clearly the last trump.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

What is meant by balancing or protecting? How is bidding in that seat different?

—  Shifting Perspective, Columbia, S.C.


ANSWER: When you are last to speak, after two passes, so that your pass would end the auction, you are in the balancing or protecting seat. You tend to reopen when possible, and so overcalls tend to show about a king less than they guarantee in direct seat. By contrast, jump overcalls (often played as weak) should be intermediate in balancing seat, say 12-16 with a good six-carder, and an overcall of one no-trump has a somewhat wider range, say 11-15.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

A few weeks ago you had a column touching on differences in defense between IMPs and matchpoints. Recently I held A-9, K-J-3-2, A-Q-10-8-3-2, 6. Defending four spades after my partner had eventually raised my diamond suit, I led the club six, won by declarer. I took my trump ace, and underled my diamonds, hoping my partner had the king and would give me a club ruff. Alas, declarer had the singleton diamond king. Result: misery! Was my play sensible?

—  Master Blaster, Charlottesville, Va.


ANSWER: Your play sounds reasonable, but let me give you a suggestion. If you use your partner’s plays in trumps as SUIT PREFERENCE — not count or attitude — some of the time you will be able to work out what to do. If your partner follows under your spade ace with a high spot, you may decide not to play him for an honor in the low suit. This requires partnership trust, I admit. But let me leave you with the thought that the pleasure you would have gotten from your play, had it succeeded, would have far outweighed the pain you actually felt when it did not!


If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, e-mail him at Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2009.