Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 21st, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: South


6 5

A K 4

10 9 3

A 10 5 4 3


Q 10 8 3 2

7 5 3 2

K 7 6



K 9 7

10 8 6

J 5 4

Q J 9 7


A J 4

Q J 9

A Q 8 2

K 6 2


South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass

Opening Lead: Spade three

“The lucky moment to improve,

And just to stop, and just to move

With self-respecting art.”

— Robert Burns

South opens a strong no-trump, and North has essentially a balanced hand and no interest in a slam, no matter what his partner has. North shouldn’t worry about the small doubleton spade, but simply bid three no-trump and hope his partner can make it. Against three no-trump, West leads the spade three and East plays the king. Plan the play.

There are two sensible options: the first of them is to duck the spade king as well as the next spade. Then you win the third spade and lead the club king and a second club. If you can set up the clubs for four tricks without letting West on lead, you will make your game. And you may also survive if clubs are 4-1 and East has both diamond honors, with the spades originally 5-3. I rate this line at something less than 60 percent. Not bad — but can you do better?

Yes, you can. There is a far surer route to nine tricks. The best approach is to win the spade ace at the first trick, cross to dummy with a heart, and run the diamond 10.

If West wins the diamond with the jack and does not play back a spade, you will be able to repeat the diamond finesse in comfort. If West clears the spades, you will get to test the clubs before repeating the diamond finesse. This line succeeds at least three times out of four.


South holds:

A 9 4
10 6 4
Q 8 3
K 9 6 4


South West North East
1 Pass 1
Pass 2 Pass 4
All pass
ANSWER: In auctions of this sort, if the choice is between going active with a diamond lead and passive with a trump lead, I tend to favor the active lead. Incidentally, the heart lead is not as passive as you might think; a lead from three small hearts would be far less likely to cost a trump trick.


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


jim2April 5th, 2011 at 2:38 am

If the defense lets declarer win the second spade, declarer can not use the club suit (other than try to drop the QJ bare).

bobbywolffApril 5th, 2011 at 5:13 am

Hi Jim2,

After Declarer wins the opening spade lead, it might be tempting to go to a heart in dummy and lead a club, hoping East plays the seven. If so declarer can duck, expecting West to win and then play for a 3-2 club break.

While it does not work plus the added disadvantage of East not producing the lowly 7 of clubs probably makes the column line of going after diamonds at least as good as a percentage 3-2 club break.

Another factor is that in a good game (better players) the defense will know what you, the declarer, is trying to accomplish in clubs making it unlikely that East will play the seven on the first club, even if he has it.

All that certainly verifies what you say about the club suit.

bobbywolffApril 5th, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since last I wrote, I fell asleep and woke up in Hell when after embarking on the alternate line I suggested involving establishing the clubs and ducking when East produced the seven. East’s hand turned out to be:

s. K9

h. 10862

d. KJ

c. QJ987

After ducking the club, I then proceeded to lose the next five spade tricks, going down 2 when the diamond route would have produced my contract plus an overtrick. Yes, West had led his 5th best spade, but considering my venue, what should I have expected?

Also, what did that dream teach me? Besides the bridge learning involved, never to go to sleep on a full stomach.

jim2April 5th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I had drafted a response that included the 0-5 club risk, but it seemed too specious to post.

Maybe we both ate the same thing last night!

Amnon HarelApril 5th, 2011 at 4:13 pm

There an extra chance.

At trick two lead a club to the ace.

If a 5-0 break comes to light, pinch yourself to make sure it isn’t a nightmare, and continue with diamonds as in the column. Nothing lost.

If righty follows with a low card, switch to the diamonds as in the column, nothing lost.

If righty follows with an honor, play a club to the K.

1) If the other honor drops, play on diamonds for more overtricks 🙂

2) If righty shows out, take the marked club finesse through the safe hand.

3) If lefty follow low, give him a dirty look and continue as in the column – heart to dummy then diamonds. Worst case, lefty has a club to cash along with a spade and a diamond.