Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: North


6 4 3

K 10 9 7 6 2


A 5



A J 8 4

J 7 6

K 10 8 4 2


J 7 5 2

Q 3

A 2

Q 9 7 6 3


A K Q 9 8


10 9 8 5 4 3



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

Opening Lead: Club four

“It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

— Gore Vidal

In four spades declarer won the opening club lead in dummy, entered his hand with a trump, and led a diamond to the king and ace. East returned a club, which was ruffed.

At this point both East and South have three trumps. Declarer crossed to the diamond queen, returned to his hand with a trump, and ruffed a diamond in dummy. East overruffed dummy and forced declarer with another club, but declarer was in charge. He ruffed, drew East’s last trump with his own last trump, ran the diamonds, and conceded a heart to make his game.

Had East not overruffed the third diamond, South would have had no way back to his hand without reducing his trumps again, and that would have been fatal. The defensive point is to be wary of overruffing dummy when holding the same trump length as declarer, particularly if declarer cannot get back to his hand without subjecting himself to a force. The trump trick will come back with dividends — declarer won’t be able to use his established side suit.

And what about declarer: did he do anything wrong? Yes, indeed. He erred at trick two when he led a trump to his hand rather than a diamond from dummy. Start the long suit before drawing trumps! Because he didn’t, he would have been in serious trouble if East had not overruffed the third diamond. However, if South plays diamonds before spades, he will prevail whether East overruffs or not.


South holds:

Q 9 7 3
K 5 2
J 6 2
Q J 2


South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 Pass 2
All pass
ANSWER: In situations of this sort, where declarer has no obvious source of tricks on the side, I tend to lead from sequences, rather than the unbid suit. While a club could be fatal if partner has no high honor, any other lead could be equally expensive. When in doubt, look for the safest lead.


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


jim2June 6th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I would be tempted to lead a small trump.

With dummy showing both black suits and a tolerance for hearts, I would be trying to avert diamond ruffs on the Board. With a bit of luck, partner will win the first diamond lead and return a second heart.

jim2June 7th, 2011 at 12:02 am

As our host said, he headed to the Seniors Trials in Detroit.

The Conditions of Contest are fairly complicated, but our host’s team (“Schwartz”) finished just behind the leader in the opening Round Robin, with the top 8 (of 12) to comprise the Quarterfinals.

Go Bobby!

For those who might want to follow:

You can even see hand records, etc.

bobby wolffJune 7th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Hi Jim2,

Welcome from Detroit where my team had a successful first day which is the good news. The bad news is that KO tournaments often turn around as fast as revolving doors, but what are players supposed to do but relax, try to enjoy it and, above all, attempt to play well.

While I respect your choice of a trump lead on the above LWTA, my experience is that, if dummy has at least some support for declarer’s longest suit (doubleton+) our chances for success, particularly with our balanced hand, are below dismal. However, sometimes, probably more often than most think, dummy may be a misfit with possibly only 1 trump so that we do not want declarer to be better placed in managing the hand, by leading a trump away from the king since it effectively chops up a number of possible holdings in partner’s hand.

However, on any one hand it is relatively impossible to guess what lead may work, so that in this choice, more than in most, other blind guesses, it becomes somewhat random as to what will work.

Thanks for your opinion. In this case all rhetoric deserves equal respect since we will never find out who is right.

jim2June 7th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Your choice was probably better, but that small trump just looks tempting.

A powerful stat software app could probably be fed parameters consistent with the bidding and run through 1000s of scenarios and then generate probability distributions. Such an approach would be a 21st Century version of theme-sorted bid-them-ups. That capability probably already exists, but no matter.

Beat Levine!

bobbywolffJune 15th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Hi Jim2,

Sorry for my belated answer, but your suggested software app reminded me of the very early days of the ACES (very late 1960’s) when Bobby Goldman (one of the original Aces) used a beginning computer to simulate thousands of hands, (at that time to only use for the benefit of modern bidding, sometimes causing a major stir in the heretofore beliefs of old time bridge bromides).

The above thought also, in turn, brought to mind a remembrance of the classic space film, “2001, a Space Odyssey” where a huge computer named Hal (I guess necessary at that time before microchips) went somewhat crazy and wrecked havoc.

Life, if one is lucky enough to live long enough, serves as a personal history which chronicles critical inventions and their developments which proves to all who want to be positive about all the wonderful accomplishments of the recent past generations.

Now, if only the world can find a way to stop the hatred, jealousies, and conflicting religious ideals which invariably lead to off the charts violence, we will be able to achieve a result where everyone, not just the ruling powers, will benefit.