Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 6, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W


J 4

A 6 2

10 9 8 4 2

Q J 5


A 9 7 2

K Q 10

6 5 3

9 8 4


Q 10 8

7 4 3

K 7

10 7 6 3 2


K 6 5 3

J 9 8 5




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

Opening Lead: 2

“Do not block the way of inquiry.”

— Charles Peirce

On today’s deal both the defenders and declarer had the chance to do better. See where you think most of the blame should fall.

South, playing five-card majors, opened his better minor. His rebid showed a balanced 18-19, and North had an easy raise to three no-trump. When West led a fourth-highest spade, South won and immediately played on diamonds, letting East win and cash out the spades. West could then switch to a top heart, leaving declarer struggling to escape for down one because the diamond blockage prevented establishment of that suit.

Both declarer and the defenders had a chance to do better. To start with, after winning the spade lead, all South had to do was cash both top clubs, then play the ace and queen of diamonds. The best East can do now is to return the spade and let West cash out (dummy discarding the losing hearts), then play a top heart. Declarer wins in dummy and cashes the remaining top club, discarding his unblocking diamond honor. Dummy is now high.

So how could the defenders have done better? West’s opening lead was to blame. Although I won’t go so far as to say that leading from ace-fourth into a strong no-trump is never right, my experience tells me that whenever a viable alternative exists, it should be taken. In this case, on a top heart lead declarer must duck dummy’s ace, and when East discourages hearts, the spade shift establishes five tricks for the defenders before declarer can take nine.


South Holds:

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


South West North East
    1 1
2 2 3 3
All Pass      
ANSWER: If you are going to lead a diamond, as I would, my instincts are to lead the 10 or the seven, not a smaller one. The reason is that with partner almost guaranteed to have five or six diamonds, I want to avoid letting declarer score a singleton honor (with the bare queen facing king-third, for example).


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


David WarheitSeptember 21st, 2010 at 9:19 am

When west leads the king of hearts and declarer ducks, west can also beat 3NT by continuing with the queen of hearts. Declarer must win the ace. He now a) finesses diamonds for 3 tricks and runs hearts for 3 tricks and cashes the AK of clubs, but then he must break spades, and the opponents can win 4 spade tricks or b) runs hearts and AK of clubs, then plays ace of diamonds and another. East wins and must break spades, but the result is the same: down one.

Bobby WolffSeptember 21st, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Hi David,

Again you are either Johnny on the spot or more likely David roughing up Goliath. However, I expected you to also describe how, if after the first nine tricks, with the initial trick to the defense and the next eight to the declarer, South now gets out with the King of Spades East must throw the ten, enabling him to bridge it back to partner with his third round eight back to partner’s nine seven rather than concede his last club to dummy’s queen.

Oh what a tangled defense we seek, which in this case is better than a peek.