Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday July 25th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: North


9 7

K Q 10 2

10 9 8 7

10 5 3


5 2

9 6 5 4

A K J 5 3

J 2


Q 10 3

A J 8

Q 6 2

Q 9 7 6


A K J 8 6 4

7 3


A K 8 4


South West North East
Pass Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Diamond king

“There is a pleasure in poetic pains

Which only poets know.”

— William Cowper

With the U.S. Nationals being played all week in Toronto, all this week’s deals come from last year’s championships in New Orleans.

Two highly capable declarers, one a former world champion, missed the extra chance that would have brought the four-spade contract home. When West led two top diamonds, both declarers simply ruffed, forced a dummy entry in hearts, then took the spade finesse. After drawing trump without loss, they played three rounds of clubs, but when East turned up with four clubs to the Q-9, they were one down.

The extra chance is to find East with the spade 10 as well as the queen. Play three rounds of clubs before touching trump. When you regain the lead, you can ruff the fourth club in dummy and take the spade finesse.

Could this play cost your contract? Well, not if clubs are 3-3, but if West has the spade 10 and either player has a doubleton consisting of two of the top three missing clubs, the defense may get a trump promotion when you would have succeeded with the more straightforward line.

The answer is to cash one top club at trick three. If the queen, jack or nine appears, revert to Plan A, leading a heart to dummy to take the spade finesse. If only low clubs appear, continue with a second and third round of clubs. And if a defender has played the club nine from a doubleton nine, good luck to him!


South holds:

A 7 2
K J 9 7 5 3
J 4 2


South West North East
2 Dbl. Pass 3 NT
All pass
ANSWER: Despite the fact that you have a sure side-entry, this hand looks wrong for a heart lead. Your partner had a chance to raise and did not do so, and your RHO’s jump to the no-trump game argues for discretion. The choice is between the spades and diamonds. The fact that the opponents have not looked to play spades persuades me to lead that suit; I’d lead the two, of course.


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 8th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Interesting – unlike many or most previous columns, the hand in this quiz did not come from the column deal.

I share your reluctance to lead a heart, and also would choose between a low spade and a low diamond. As you said, they chose not to play in spades and South has the AS to contribute. Still, West essentially promised spades, while diamonds could be wide open.

East obviously thinks there is a route to 9 tricks, and it cannot be running spades (or would have bid them) or hearts. If East has bid on general strength, that’s one thing. The South hand, however, suggests that East expects to run a minor suit, probably clubs. If so, failing to attack diamonds may lose a critical tempo.

Nonetheless, I think I would lead the spade, just as you said.

(Of course, TOCM suggests that leading the 2S will find Kxxx facing Qx, while leading the other deuce will find that suit A10xxx facing K9x while the spades were Q10xx facing xx all the time. 🙂 )

Bobby WolffAugust 8th, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for your comprehensive analysis, together with conclusions.

I want to issue a personal disclaimer, stating positively that the idea of strongly favoring this or that might be good for the writer’s ego, but not healthy for his listeners and believers.

Make no mistake, BRIDGE itself is in control and there are just too many variables for anyone to think that he has found the answer. In the above example, while spades and diamonds are both possible contract beaters, so is hearts whereby he, (whether or not partner has the ace, very unlikely, or the queen, more so, but certainly not the favorite) but even if he has 2 little, but with clubs stopped, may get in with one of them and be able to establish your hearts and to add further that fate has forced the declarer than to need a spade trick for his game going trick and you will obviously stand guard over that to disenable his intentions.

The best that can be said concerning opening leads vs. NT is that the opening leader can make an educated guess, usually based on his wide experience, but nothing more than that.

And to further explain, the above might be bad news for the defense, but, if it is, then it is good news for would be 3NT declarers to know that his defensive opponents have to do some suffering also.

Howard Bigot JohnsonAugust 9th, 2011 at 8:36 am

HBJ : On a King of diamonds lead, I would be praying for the clubs to divide 3-3, hoping to restrict my losers to one in both minors and the Ace of hearts.

Entry to dummy for the spade finesse is restricted to one UNLESS of course East shows up with the 4th club plus the Q10 of spades. Big if. This enables an alternative entry to dummy through the ruff the fourth club.

On trying clubs first, I wouldn’t know what to do if East dropped his jack under my King? Suspecting a 5-1 or 4-2 break would undermine my confidence and hope that the 4th club still remains my best opportunity to make that all important 10th trick.

A truly challenging hand.

Bobby WolffAugust 9th, 2011 at 12:13 pm


Indeed, aren’t they all, especially column hands, which cry out for recognition?

You’ve described a mouthful when you confess to praying for certain distributions which may allow this elusive combination of cards to score.

Only one tiny word of wisdom (I hope) to add. Certain defensive plays like a possible falsecard of the Jack of Clubs, especially by an experienced opponent, is an unlikely occurrence since the appearance of the Jack itself might be so enabling to the declarer that he might now change direction to the winning line, because his problem will already then be solved.

Defense has been and still is the most difficult part of our game, probably because it is much easier to be declarer, which always means looking at all 26 of our assets before having to make our first play, rather than on defense where we only see 13 of ours, plus, after the relatively blind opening lead, 13 of the other side.

The bridge beat goes on, but understanding the intricacies, may lead to more knowledge of the mindsets of our worthy opponents.

Thanks always for your particular adept comments.