Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: N-S


A 3

5 4

Q 10 8

A J 7 6 3 2


K Q 10 8 2

A Q 8 2


Q 9 8


J 9 7 6 5

10 9 3

7 6 4

K 10



K J 7 6

A K J 9 5 3

5 4


South West North East
1 1 2 3
4 Pass 5 All Pass

Opening Lead: King

“We all have a few failures under our belt. It’s what makes us ready for the successes.”

— Randy K. Milholland

When this deal came up in a local duplicate, several North-South pairs tried to cash in on four spades by East-West, doubled. This was hardly unreasonable, but with the heart suit lying beautifully for East-West, there was no defense to the game.


Of course, North-South could do much better than that. Say you reach five diamonds after West overcalled in spades and East made a pre-emptive raise to three spades, leaving you room to explore the hand more fully. Plan the play on the lead of the spade king.


Many declarers won and immediately tackled clubs while they still had entries to the dummy in trumps. A good idea, but it did not work today. East won an early club and knew that continuing spades was fruitless. His heart shift let West cash two winners in that suit, for down one.


Could South have done better? Yes, if he had ducked the opening lead! Now he can discard a club on the spade ace and establish the clubs without letting East get the lead to play a heart through. Best defense is a trump at trick two, but declarer has enough entries to the board in diamonds to bring home 11 tricks. He wins the diamond shift, plays off the black aces, ruffs a club high, goes to the diamond 10, and ruffs a club high again. Then he goes back to the diamond queen to run the clubs and discard three of his four heart losers.


South Holds:

A 3
5 4
Q 10 8
A J 7 6 3 2


South West North East
1 1 2 2
Pass 4 Pass Pass
ANSWER: If your partner cannot double four spades, you are unlikely to collect any sort of penalty. It looks sensible to compete in a minor now, and the best way to do that is to bid four no-trump. This cannot be Blackwood, given your previous pass. It suggests a real club suit and diamond support (an extension of the “unusual” principle) and gets partner to pick a minor.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJanuary 28th, 2011 at 8:48 am

Maybe this is double-dummy, but West, contemplating his opening lead, can virtually see the king of hearts in South’s hand and would thus very much like his partner to lead hearts. Since partner raised spades, he must almost certainly have either the ace or jack of spades. So West leads a small spade for the opening lead. Not that he can foresee declarer ducking with a singleton, but he desperately wants partner on lead.

bobbywolffJanuary 28th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Hi David,

Your suggestion is nothing short of brilliant! But………

With the number of possible card combinations present for the other 39 unseen cards out there, measuring somewhere close to the USA’s ever growing debt (in actuality much higher than even that staggering figure), it might (euphemism for would) be considered unilateral by some kill joys to choose the lead of a low spade.

While imagining where the king of hearts is located and what might be done about it please also consider the pleasant surprise it might be for declarer’s would be singleton Jack of Spades holding in dummy for a crucial game making heart discard later in an otherwise ho-hum normal 4 diamond (but not game) hand.

None of the above should serve to diminish your eternally optimistic hope for success. After all, who among us could have possibly visualized the scintillating game of bridge being available for all of us to enjoy either playing or, as we do, merely discussing.

Sweet dreams and please never lose your Polly anna approach to our game.

Thanks for the use of your imagination.