Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: All

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


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

Opening Lead: 7

“The glorious Lamp of Heaven, the Sun,

The higher he’s a-getting,

The sooner will his race be run,

And nearer he’s to setting.”

— Robert Herrick

Everyone knows that if you are on lead against a no-trump contract and hold A-K-fifth with no entry, leading a small card makes a lot of sense. The same logic (of ducking or playing low) applies when third to play to the opening trick, but sometimes the situation is not so straightforward.


Consider what happens when partner leads the heart seven against three no-trump and declarer plays the queen from dummy. It feels automatic for East to win the trick — but if he does, he can say goodbye to any chance of setting the game. From the auction and opening lead, declarer is surely marked with at least four hearts to the 10-9. If East wins the heart king, he will be able to take only three winners in that suit, and his partner will surely be unable to contribute two further tricks on defense.


However, if East plays low at trick one, all he will need is for partner to hold the diamond ace and a second heart. When West wins his diamond ace, he will be able to play another heart, and the defense will be in position to take four more tricks.


If West began life with a singleton heart, it is highly unlikely that East could ever have beaten the contract, whatever he did. Note also that if declarer had played low at trick one, then East would have had to play low as well, thus preserving the entry to his suit.

ANSWER: Even if you play two-over-one as forcing in a noncompetitive auction, this sequence is clearly nonforcing. Partner would have strained to bid game and take you off the hook at his second turn, so you now have no reason to bid any more, facing what you know to be a minimum. Pass, and hope you can make it.


South Holds:

Q 5 2
A K J 8 6
6 3
7 6 3


South West North East
    1 1
2 Pass 3 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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact