Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: North-South


Q 9 5

Q J 6 2

K 10 8 4

K 2



K 10 8

A 7 6 2

A 9 7 6 4


8 3 2

A 9 5

Q 5

Q J 10 8 3


A K J 10 6 4

7 4 3

J 9 3



South West North East
2 Pass 3 All Pass

Opening Lead: Heart 8

“The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.”

— Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Junior World Championships has zonal tournaments all over the world to determine the qualifiers for this event. When Poland took on Sweden in a Junior European Championships, the Polish declarer demonstrated a proper understanding of one of the more complex areas of the game — namely, that of the theory of restricted choice.


In one room the Swedes ended up three down in an optimistic four-spade contract when declarer misguessed diamonds early and ran into a ruff. But Bartosz Chmurski, who is now an international player on Poland’s open team, reached the more decorous contract of three spades. The lead was a low heart to East’s ace, a club back to West’s ace, and a low diamond switch. It now seems as if declarer has a straight guess in diamonds, but Chmurski got it right when he hopped up with dummy’s king to make his contract.


I think he made the right theoretical play too; the reason was that he inferred that West found an awkward lead from K-x-x in hearts at trick one. (Because the defenders did not try to take a ruff, the suit must surely be 3-3.)


Since West might have preferred to lead a diamond rather than a heart had he held the diamond queen, but was relatively unlikely to find an opening diamond lead away from the ace, this made it more likely that the diamond ace was in West’s hand.


South Holds:

Q 9 5
Q J 6 2
K 10 8 4
K 2


South West North East
    1 Pass
1 1 Pass Pass
ANSWER: Since you can be fairly sure you are facing a balanced minimum hand or a dead minimum hand with long clubs, you really have no game interest now. A simple call of one no-trump looks to be enough; you can always take further action if your partner comes to life.


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


John Howard GibsonOctober 7th, 2011 at 9:52 am

HBJ : If declarer is presumably stacked up with a decent spade suit, with North’s bid miildly pre-emptive showing some values, then for West there is a real risk involved with leading any of three other suits. Therefore I would lead a spade.

When declarer at trick 2 leads a club towards dummy West suely rises with the Ace , allowing declarer to ditch a diamond on the established king……but he is still down to a guess on diamonds with perhaps this time with less inferences to go on.

Bobby WolffOctober 7th, 2011 at 12:11 pm


Yes, it is unusual in bridge, just as it is in a criminal case, when there is not at least some incriminating evidence left behind by the culprit(s).

Here, it is clearly the choice of opening lead, probably the choice of leading from the K108 of an unbid suit which should help an observant declarer to guess the diamond suit correctly. Simply put, a respected player would tend to lead away from a queen rather than an ace or, for that matter an awkward holding which he obviously held in hearts.

Also with your possible choice of a singleton spade which would soon be determined, especially on the bidding involved is also not a preferred choice since it is often likely to give away holdings like AJx or the Qxx as well as the Q10xx, J10xx or K10x(x) in partner’s hand. Ergo the opening leader is more likely reluctant to lead either from an ace or the ace itself than he would from the queen.

Sheer bridge talent would not see you through this exercise, but the experience of playing against very competent players might.

Thanks for your comment and your opinion. However, the leading of a singleton trump is often as impotent as a straw in the wind and does leave behind (not always) a dog which has a reason not to bark (possession of Aces).

jim2October 7th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I think the Defense has to be the one to lead diamonds and force declarer to guess.

That is, assume the xS opening lead then xC, as you proposed, and the Defense never leads diamonds.

Declarer ends up with two heart tricks, allowing a second diamond pitch, for 6 spades, 2 hearts, and 1 club for 9 tricks.

(Even if the Defense holds up the second heart honor, the QS is an entry.)

Bobby WolffOctober 7th, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, of course, with the nine tricks that you mention, eventually there for the taking it will be West himself who will underlead his diamond ace, trying to look for all the world like he was holding, The Manchurian Candidate, aka as the queen of diamonds.

John Howard GibsonOctober 7th, 2011 at 7:32 pm

HBJ : Hi there again. You mention how a stiff spade lead could be costly if partner has certain spade holdings, but surely there are many otherholdings like 3 to the Ace where damage isn’t done.

A low heart from king 3 into declarer’s Ace ( always a possibility if his spade suit is weak) might well set up dummy’s queen.

Moreover, the spade raise narrows down the likelihood of East possessing anything of substance in the suit.

In essence this opening lead comes down to the lesser of 4 evils. Sometimes it is a matter of lick that your final choice pays handsome dividends. For instance a low diamond ( best as it happens in the hand above ) away from the Ace could set up two winners for declarer if dummy turns up with the king to 3 and declarer Qx.

I guess this is why who I am…… as opposed to experts who know how to play with the odds.

Bobby WolffOctober 8th, 2011 at 1:11 pm


Your discourse is why bridge is the great game it is.

Someone, with perhaps many scalps on the wall, and more on the way to grab, could be as wrong as ice, and so called lesser experienced neophytes right as rain.

Shouting from the rooftops as well as suggesting with aplomb are both healthy, entertaining and instructive, but retiring from the exercise is almost never called for.

If you are interested, my take (a sheer guess) on whether leading a singleton trump, on this type of bidding will cost your side a trump trick is only about 15-20%, probably a far lesser percentage than my blathering indicated, particularly so since all other leads run risk which is also hard to calibrate but is nevertheless in full bloom.