Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday June 30th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: North


A Q 10 4 3

K 10 8 5

Q 7

K 4


8 2

J 9 6

9 6 5 4

A J 10 6


K 9 7 6 5

7 4 2

10 3

8 5 3



A Q 3

A K J 8 2

Q 9 7 2


South West North East
1 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT Pass
4 NT Pass 6 NT Dbl.
All Pass

Opening Lead: Spade eight

“Be careful what you set your heart upon — for it will surely be yours.”

— James Baldwin

Conventionally, a double of a final no-trump contract, assuming the doubler’s side has never bid, calls for a lead of dummy’s first-bid suit. Of course, after you get the lead you wanted and win the first trick, you have to know what to do next!

Today’s hand from a team’s trial was reported by Eddie Kantar. To put you at ease, you can’t do worse than the expert in the East seat did.

As East you double to help partner on lead; partner obediently leads the spade eight, declarer plays low from dummy and you decide to grab the king, felling declarer’s jack. What would you lead now? After you decide, take a look at the full deal.

The expert in the East seat shifted to a heart. Oops … Declarer was able to take nine tricks in the red suits plus three spades. How should East have known to shift to a club rather than a heart?

East has to reason like this: If declarer has the heart ace along with the jack or queen, there is a good chance that partner’s club ace will vanish into the ether — just as it did. However, if South has the club ace and partner the heart ace, South will need four club tricks (thus a holding of A-Q-J-x or A-Q-10-9) for the defense to lose the heart ace.

If declarer’s clubs are just a touch weaker (say A-Q-10-7), the club shift won’t cost. So East should go with the odds and shift to a club.


South holds:

K 9 7 6 5
7 4 2
10 3
8 5 3


South West North East
1 Dbl. 1
ANSWER: Although I am a firm believer in trusting partner to have the right hand on which to double, I’d need just a little more than this (though maybe only the spade jack) to volunteer one spade now. My plan will be to balance in spades at the two-level if given the chance. My partner will then have a pretty good idea of my values.


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


JaneJuly 15th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

Guess I am not a deep enough thinker, but why would east ever double this contract? Left to their own devices, west will lead a club more that likely, and the contract looks like it is always down one. Declarer has to lose a club and a spade, which, granted, he should have lost anyway. Isn’t this double too risky? I understand what the double means about leading dummy’s first bid suit, but east’s spades are not very good. Seems to me his hand should be better than it is to double, even for direction for the opening lead. His partner certainly does not have to hold an ace in any suit.

Thanks in advance, as always.

jim2July 15th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I wondered the same thing, but I have to admit that West would have been a hero if South had been 1-3-6-3 and West returned a club.

Bobby WolffJuly 15th, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Hi Jane and Jim2,

Both of you wrote to the point comments, However….

bridge is not as simple as all that.

While listening to your opponents when they are on their way to a slam, it becomes next to impossible to predict what suit your partner will lead. A normal sleight clue that partner will lead the unbid suit (in this case, clubs) has no utility since the specific cards your partner holds in that unbid suit will determine his choice, not the fact that it is unbid.

Add that to other unknown vagaries which appear during defending a slam and it’s every bridge player for herself.

While from a very base standpoint it might be necessary to get a spade lead so that when partner gets in with a trick he must take (could be in any suit) your king of spades might be the setting trick if partner has another spade to lead (or if declarer more likely takes an opening lead finesse).

If you think that my comment does not have much value, you are correct, but it is necessary to understand that on hands like these, especially when a large swing may be in the balance, all anyone can do is hope for the best.

One caveat to remember and from both being significantly ahead or significantly behind. This type of hand is what a trailing team wants to occur while a leading team DOES NOT!

The AOB column is written both from an educational and from a hoped for entertaining viewpoint. This one features entertainment, so do not put too much stock in its educational value.

I’m sorry for not being very helpful