Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 18th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: North


A 5

A 7 4

A Q 8 6 2

6 3 2


K Q 4


9 5 3

A Q J 10 8 4


J 10 9 7 3 2

Q 5 2

10 4

9 5


8 6

K J 10 8 6 3

K J 7

K 7


South West North East
1 Pass
1 2 Dbl.* Pass
4 All pass

*Support double, showing three hearts

Opening Lead: Spade king

“I hope our young men will not grow into such dodgers as these old men are. I believe everything a young man says to me.”

— William Jowett

Bridge is full of technical jargon, but some terms are more abstruse than others. For example, does the Devil’s Coup evoke a mental image of the play involved? I thought not.

However, there are some strategies whose names do conjure up the play that needs to be found, such as “avoidance play.” Consider today’s deal in four hearts on the lead of the spade king, where proper technique will see declarer producing two avoidance plays.

As declarer you can see that there is a risk of four losers (one in each major and two in clubs), but that you can almost insure your contract by keeping East off lead for the unwelcome club shift. Hence the need for the avoidance strategy.

You duck the top spade lead to prevent West from underleading his spade queen to East’s jack. You win the spade continuation and cash the heart ace. The play is simple in the extreme if either defender shows out or produces the trump queen. Assuming that does not happen, you must next lead a trump and cover East’s card. That might let West score a trick with his doubleton heart queen, whereupon he can hold you to 10 tricks by cashing the club ace. However, your contract is safe, and you have protected yourself against a layout like the one shown in the diagram, where playing a trump to the king would be fatal.


South holds:

10 6 3
K 8 6
K 7
Q 9 7 5 3


South West North East
1 Pass 1
Pass 2 Pass 3
Pass 4 All pass
ANSWER: Which minor to attack? Given that both major suits seem to be lying well for declarer, I’d be prepared to go all out and lead the diamond king, hoping to hit a home run, but prepared to strike out. I’ve done it before! The club lead looks too slow: You might set up a trick but probably won’t be able to cash it.


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


jim2August 1st, 2011 at 1:01 pm

On the lead quiz, I agree with the KSD lead, but thought to expand on one additional supporting factor that you likely judged obvious.

West made a minimum rebid, or at least one that did not show extra values. East’s jump to three spades was invitational, hence showing insufficient values to go to game alone.

The point is that East-West are unlikely to have more than 25 or 26 HCP (and might even have just 24). Considering that South has 8 HCP, that leaves 6 or 7 (or even 8) HCP for partner to hold. Even if partner holds a likely-useless soft spade honor (say, the QS), there definitely remains room for the AD and the bleacher seats.

jim2August 1st, 2011 at 1:03 pm

That was supposed to be “KD” – where did that “S” come from? And how did the number eight become a smiley??

Bobby WolffAugust 1st, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for the continued, more detailed description, of why the choice of the King of Diamonds.

You do have a positive nature which enables your mind to go directly to the problem, helping you to make a good choice in answering, but let me caution you in terms of thinking about HCP’s especially in suit play.

There is such a wide variance in card layouts that any choice is about 85%+ guesswork and the reciprocal, accurate knowledge, suggesting to everyone to keep their expectations under control.

In the hand in question we both will lead the King of diamonds, only to find partner started with KJ of clubs doubleton with them 3-3 with the opponents, the ace of spades and the declarer needing the diamond finesse, which was off side, onside to make the hand. Chalk up instead -480.

That little game you play, describing the floating nature of card placement, is more to the point and does resemble reality.

jim2August 1st, 2011 at 3:53 pm

The Theory of Card Migration, yes!

Nonetheless, on this hand, I would be comforted by – and even enjoy – my company at the half-point hand score.

Bobby WolffAugust 1st, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Consider yourself lucky for me to not only be in your section but also to be sitting the same way, otherwise your score would be worse.

jim2August 2nd, 2011 at 2:51 am

My dear sir!

It was your company there that was my source of comfort!