Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 1, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: N/S


Q 3

8 7 4 2

A 6 5

8 6 5 2


10 6 2

Q 10 9

K Q J 8

K 7 3


9 8 7 5

6 3

10 9 2

J 10 9 4


A K J 4

A K J 5

7 4 3



South West North East
2 NT Pass 3 Pass
3 Pass 4 All Pass

Opening Lead: K

“One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.”

— Walter Bagehot

Two terms that are hardest to explain to novices are the trick and the finesse. Once they master the finesse, players take them willy-nilly, some necessary and some inadvisable. Consider today’s deal to see how good your judgment is.

After an opening bid of two no-trump, you find yourself in the mundane contract of four hearts, and West leads a top diamond. Since you have possible homes for dummy’s slow diamond losers, you win the ace. What next?

The answer is that the right plan is to cash the two top trumps, rejecting the heart finesse because you cannot afford to lose the lead. Now comes four rounds of spades, both diamonds being pitched from dummy. It would do West no good to ruff the fourth spade (he wants to keep his heart queen to draw two of declarer’s trumps), so he discards a diamond.

Declarer can now ruff a diamond in dummy and again is faced with a tempting finesse in clubs. If he takes it, West can win and draw dummy’s last trump, holding declarer to 10 tricks, but since that is only a question of an overtrick, it is safe enough to make the play. If South wants to make 11 tricks against any likely distribution, he should win the club ace and ruff a second diamond.

Note that an early heart finesse leads to one down when West cashes two diamonds, then sits back for his club trick.


South Holds:

Q 7 3
10 7 6
A 10 4 2
10 8 6


South West North East
    1 1
Pass 1 Pass 1 NT
All Pass      
ANSWER: When your partner opens a minor suit, the least attractive lead against no-trump tends to be the other minor, so I would not lead a diamond. I might lead a spade from a four-card suit, but here I will settle for an unimaginative club, expecting to get the chance to shift to a spade later if circumstances demand it.


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


jim2November 15th, 2010 at 6:13 pm

On the lead problem, which club would you choose? Agreements differ, I think, when partner’s opened one club (promising no more than three) with the leader holding something like 10-8-6.

Would you mind offering some additional discussion, including your own preferences?

bobbywolffNovember 15th, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, I would lead a club and have a decided preference for the 6. A card as high as the ten should never be discounted since simple holdings like partner having 4 to the Queen Jack, King Jack, or Ace Jack, may easily result in the 10 eventually taking a trick. Even against a suit contract the lead of low from a holding of three to the nine can result in the nine being of some value, so and because of that, not to mention the enabling of partner to be able to make a distributional count of his hand to you while defending, all lead to make every effort to preserve the value of an intermediate card which becomes promoted during the play. The experience gleaned while actually playing the game will eventually be of great value and will be the best way to glide into a better understanding of the value of intermediates.

I’ll leave you with the following example which is worth quite a few words:

Consider holding the Jack deuce, with partner holding the K543. and the opponents having Q76 over the Jack and the A1098 over the queen.

Result for you should be no tricks in that suit (unless their side leads the suit, then one). However if partner’s holding is K1098 instead of K543 and the opponents have the same holding in the same hands except that the A1098 are now the A543, your side, even though leading them will take 3 full tricks instead of zero.

To further emphasize this holding there is not one high card point difference in your holdings in both instances and yet you take 3 additional tricks with the 2nd example.


Good luck!