Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 28th, 2011

Dealer: West

Vul: E-W


A 4

A J 8 6 2

K Q 5

K Q 2


10 9 7 6 3

10 7

A J 10 8

9 8


J 8 2

K 9 4 3

7 6 2

J 6 3


K Q 5

Q 5

9 4 3

A 10 7 5 4


South West North East
Pass 1 Pass
2 NT Pass 6 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: ten

“The craftiest trickery is too short and ragged a cloak to cover a bad heart.”

— Johann Kaspar Lavater

David Price is a British International who won the Senior Teams at Sao Paulo in 2009. He was sitting South, playing rubber bridge, when he found himself in a delicate slam.


In six no-trump he needed to attack both red suits from his own hand. Your shortage of entries presented a problem unless the diamond ace is doubleton with West. Even the desperate move of leading a club to the 10 might be frustrated by an alert East rising with the jack.


Price saw that if the heart king and diamond ace were in different hands, he might succeed by winning the opening spade lead in hand and leading the heart queen. If this lost to East and the heart suit split 3-3, that player might find the wrong minor-suit switch. Of course, if West had the heart king and covered the queen, the best play would be to duck; but now East might be able to give a suit-preference signal.


After considering all of this, Price took dummy’s spade ace at once and at trick two led a low heart from dummy! He hoped East might duck the heart king, or that West would have no suit-preference message to help him if he won the trick.


In practice East quite reasonably ducked the heart king, and that was fatal. Since this marked West with the diamond ace, Price established the two diamond tricks he needed for his contract and finished up with two tricks in each red suit, three spades and five club tricks.


South Holds:

K Q 5
Q 5
9 4 3
A 10 7 5 4


South West North East
2 2 3
ANSWER: Doubling three diamonds would suggest spade length and might prompt an embarrassing action from your partner, so it looks better to raise hearts. Because the auction suggested that your partner does not have too much wasted in diamonds, it looks reasonable to take a slight gamble and jump to four hearts. You would bid three hearts without one of your spade honors.


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


John Howard GibsonFebruary 11th, 2011 at 11:55 am

HBJ commenting : If I was sitting East I would know for sure my partner didn’t have queen of hearts, so at trick 2, I would hop up with the king every time. With spades clearly not providing a setting trick, it is a case of switching to a minor…..but which one ? Partner could of course play the 10 of hearts as a possible suit preference signal for a diamond, but I would switch to a diamond anyway. South bid a constructive 2NT, but without the KQJ of clubs ! So surely he must hold the Ace. With only KQ of diamonds in view it becomes possible for declarer to have diamonds guarded to the J10, as opposed to the Ace. The odds favour a diamond switch.

But there again I would query why partner just didn’t kick off with the Ace of diamonds, because then declarer is restricted to 11 tricks ( 2D, 5C, 3S and 1H ).

Bobby WolffFebruary 11th, 2011 at 3:13 pm


As usual, you provide cannon fodder for discussions. However, what if declarer held the following hand:

s. Qxx, h. Qx, d. Axxx, c. Axxx, it would be a perfect match for his bidding and for his choice to lead a heart from dummy, hoping either for a 3-3 break, Kx in hearts with East or a defensive mistake which you are now committing. Also, at least from declarer’s perspective even if he finds you with the heart holding you have and you, on this layout properly duck your king, later in the play if you also hold the king of spades you will be subject to either a slam going end play, or just a spade play from the dummy to establish his queen for the 12th trick, if declarer guesses the final position.

To add more fuel to suggesting that East should duck the heart is that of instead of playing for West to hold both the KQ of hearts tripleton rather to hope East either from a doubleton or tripleton King rises when a heart is led from the dummy. And the beat goes on, providing discussion which only proves how fascinating our game can really be.

Finally, it is true that if West would have started with the ace of diamonds there would be no problem with setting 6NT, but alas no story to tell either. I do agree with the very old adage that aces were meant to capture at least one of the opponent’s honors not the twos and threes that follow from leading one.