Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 7th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: Neither


K 10 9 2

Q 9 3

9 4 2

K 4 2


6 5

J 7 6 5

A J 8 6 5

8 7


Q 8 7 4 3

K 10 4 2


A J 10



A 8

K Q 10 7

Q 9 6 5 3


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

Opening Lead: Diamond Six

“To me, fair friend, you never can be old.”

— William Shakespeare

After a few years away from the game, Seymon Deutsch has started to play both open and senior events seriously again. Seymon and I were partners in his first world title in Venice in 1988, and he has always been one of my favorite partners.


Here, playing three no-trump in an invitational pairs event, he received a diamond lead to dummy’s nine. Next came a club to the jack and queen, then a club to East’s 10.


East could see that he might be endplayed, so elected to cash the club ace and exit with a spade to declarer’s jack, avoiding any further endplays.


Seymon cashed the first club winner, both West and North discarding a diamond and East a spade. Then he played off the spade ace, and took the fifth club (West discarding a heart, North and East letting go spades).


With the lead in hand at trick nine, and declarer having taken six tricks, South advanced the diamond king to West’s ace as East pitched his spade queen. West exited with the heart jack, covered by the queen, king and ace. South now led out the heart eight and could not be prevented from taking two of the last three tricks. Notice that if West had ducked the diamond king, declarer would have been able to take only eight tricks. Whether declarer plays a diamond or a heart, he can only score his heart ace.


South Holds:

9 3
A 10 6 3
Q 10 5
K 5 3 2


South West North East
    1 1
Dbl. 2 Pass 4
All Pass      
ANSWER: You must lead a trump, since dummy surely rates to have a short side-suit and possibly only three trumps. This way you stand a chance of getting a second trump in and killing one of the ruffs.


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


jim2November 21st, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Is Seymon’s line better than winning the spade return with the AS, cashing out clubs and the AH, then overtaking the JS and leading the 10S?

On the opening lead quiz, I tried to figure out which suit dummy rated to be short in, as the answer stated. It certainly cannot be hearts, as partner essentially denied 4. It cannot be diamonds, as partner appears most unlikely to have a diamond suit on this auction, and declarer would not seem to hold 6 of them. Thus, it would be clubs that dummy is short in. However, partner would look to hold at least 5, as well, and could even have a weakish 6-carder that did not merit rebidding at the 3-level over two clubs in this auction. This would seem to suggest to me that declarer only will try for one or two ruffs, and there is risk in damaging partner’s trump holding. After all, South’s double showed enough strength not to make partner the obvious defender to finesse for any missing spade honor. Thus, I would have led a club, conceding any ruff there.

Another way to explain my misgivings might be that, if West had a side singleton, three spades, and enough strength to cue bid, then East has 9 red cards. So, why didn’t East bid the 5-card red suit?

JaneNovember 21st, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Looks like a heart lead sets the contract. I also wonder why you are in 3 NT. Isn’t it more the norm to invite with a flat eight points? Just curious. Always interesting to see different choices, but I admit I don’t understand this one. Also, is a heart lead a bad choice? Seems to me declarer would hold diamonds since he did not have a major.

Thanks for the advice on the other hand I sent you, and thanks in advance for the advice you will send on this one.

Paul BetheNovember 21st, 2011 at 7:19 pm


East defeats your line by simply holding Qxx KT, and wins the 3rd spade to returns a spade and endplay dummy at trick 12.

But how about this.
Win the Spade Ace, and lead out the diamond King.
If West wins:
heart return, win the Ace and run clubs and the diamond queen. In the 3 card ending keep 2 spades and 1 heart in dummy, E is strip-squeezed.
spade return, win the King and continue the Ten. East must give you an entry to dummy (spades is best), which bring us to 3 clubs, 3 spades, 2 diamonds and 1 heart trick.
If West ducks the diamond:
cash 2 clubs pitching a diamond and a heart.
Then spade to the King, and a spade finishes it.
3 spades, 2 diamonds, 1 heart, 3 clubs.
East has to hold 4 spades and 2 hearts to hold you to 3.

Paul BetheNovember 21st, 2011 at 7:22 pm


If west wins and returns a spade, and we win the king and continue spades, we must take care to discard a diamond and hold the low heart to allow the heart to be run to the queen. Only when a spade is returned by East do we discard the low heart.

Bobby WolffNovember 21st, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Hi Jim2,

You are, of course, correct in it being a better play to win the spade shift in hand and then lead another spade to dummy, planning on leading a 3rd spade (assuming that East had the queen, not a sure thing) so that it becomes more fluid for the ninth trick to be developed with eventually leading a diamond from the dummy to the king.

Obviously sometimes we get careless on the earlier description of the play since someone else was at the wheels.

On the LWTA problem, East could be 5-5 in the majors with much better spades and having heard our negative double, usually guaranteeing 4 hearts, and therefore deciding to not give his hand away by now bidding a suit which will not be chosen by partner.

Also it is usually dangerous to get too deeply involved in trying to figure out what the opponents hold, since there are almost infinite possibilities with only one thing certain and that is the opponents probably have fewer than half the HCP deck and are still trying to make 10 tricks, therefore suggesting that declarer is hoping for some ruffing values in dummy.

Bobby WolffNovember 21st, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Hi Jane,

Like Jim2 before you, it is somewhat difficult and speculative to get too involved in your opponent’s bidding methods and judgment. Here North was overbidding by first using Stayman (a questionable tactic with 4-3-3-3 distribution) and then blasting to game with only 8 HCPs, but we cannot control that.

As far as the opening lead choice from West, the 2 diamond responder (South) might be 3-3-2-5 (or some such), making diamonds his possible weakness.

At the risk of jeopardizing believing in both Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, making a choice by looking at one’s hand (5 promising diamonds and only 4 mediocre hearts) is usually a better gauge to exercise opening lead judgment than hypothetical speculation.

In no way am I critical of your possible accurate assumptions, but rather all I am intending to do is to be an advocate for what you are looking at.

And, as always, I love answering your questions, so please continue to ask them

Bobby WolffNovember 21st, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Hi Paul,

Thanks for joining in the discussion with Seymon’s hand.

No doubt most, if not all, of your analysis is right on, and the thinking and possible later discussions are what makes bridge great.

Thanks for writing and I will look at the hand later (when I have more time) and see if anything additional needs to be said.

jim2November 22nd, 2011 at 2:03 am

I did discount the 1S overcaller being 5-5 in the majors, as my opponents always seem to use Michaels even with significant suit quality deltas.

Bobby WolffNovember 22nd, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Hi Jim2,

Many times, perhaps most, it, if left open to determinative judgment, is correct in ruling out certain distributions in, for example, selecting a critical opening lead, but experience dictates a caveat wherein in holding a good 5 card major (say AKQxx and a very poor one xxxxx) and being 2nd to speak since the opponents playing in a major suit game should be ruled out, just in case instead LHO then bids NT or even the other minor, and eventually plays it there, partner will not be as well placed to lead spades and therefore the defense may not get off to a good start.

Please only chalk the above off to just another nuance in our quest for superior results, but even if neither you nor I, would sacrifice the possibility of exploring both majors as possible satisfactory trump suits, others might.

The evidence, as we have talked around, should lead us in the direction of RHO having some reason to jump to game, so in the absence of his losing his senses, “Eureka Watson, when one eliminates the impossible, whatever left, however improbable, is the answer”.

Paul BetheNovember 22nd, 2011 at 5:59 pm

another comment on my first post:

If West wins the diamond Ace and returns a heart, my line was flawed, as the JS gets in the way.
We must instead rely on the actual heart distribution (more likely given the lead).
As in the original, if west returns the Jack, we cover, cash out our winners in hand, and simply exit with the heart 8.

If west returns low, low, ten, ace.
Then we also just run our winners keeping 1 spade and 2 hearts and then play a heart to the 9.