Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Soar not too high to fall; but stoop to rise.

Philip Massinger

West North
North-South ♠ A 9 5
 Q 6 5
 A Q 4
♣ K Q J 3
West East
♠ K J 10
 A 7 3
 J 10 8 6
♣ A 6 5
♠ 8 7 6 4 2
 K 9 7 3
♣ 8 7 2
♠ Q 3
 K J 10 8 4 2
 5 2
♣ 10 9 4
South West North East
1 Dbl. 1♠
3 Pass 3♠ Pass
4 All pass    


In today's deal from a team game, South misjudged both the play and the result that would come through from the other table.

In four hearts on the lead of the diamond jack he put in dummy’s queen. East won the trick and astutely shifted to a spade at trick two. That set up the setting trick for the defenders.

At the scoring-up, when his teammates called out minus 620, South asked suspiciously if West had a led a spade to trick one, or if East had forgotten to shift to a spade at trick two after a diamond lead. East-West denied the charges, and South asked exasperatedly how game had been allowed to make.

Patiently West explained that their declarer had drawn the correct inference at trick one that West would not be leading from the K-J-10 of diamonds with what was surely a safer or equivalent holding in spades, his partner’s suit. Thus East had the diamond king and nothing else. So South found the imaginative play of ducking the first trick in dummy. If East also ducked this, declarer could establish a club as a discard for his spade loser at his leisure, and East could not overtake the lead without setting up the discard at once.

Note that if declarer plays the diamond ace from dummy at trick one, West can underlead in diamonds to East at his next turn, and the defense will still have time for the spade shift.

Since you are facing a passed hand and a partner who could not or did not redouble one diamond, game seems highly unlikely to make. With a balanced hand, and no reason to believe that spades is the wrong strain for your side, it looks right to pass now. While bidding one no-trump may get you into a slightly better strain, it also runs the risk of getting you into a much worse one.


♠ K J 10
 A 7 3
 J 10 9 6
♣ A 6 5
South West North East
Pass Pass
1 Dbl. 1♠ Pass

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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2March 27th, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I completely agree with the column hand discussion on lead choices.

Nonetheless, declarer might sweat a little should West shift to the JS at Trick 2.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 27th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Hi Jim2,

Ah yes! But one of two things might guide the declarer to the right path of having to let the spade jack ride, once the diamond finesse is refused:

1. Still believing in the original premise of why his LHO would choose to lead from KJ10 of his original suit, diamonds, instead of his partner’s bid suit.

2. The partnerships (some very experienced) who still believe in playing J denies (which I and others think stands for denies being able to win) which, at least to me, along with support doubles are the two worst popular conventions played in present competition, jack denies because it allows the declarer to much better determine how to play the hand and support doubles which, depending how the auction goes, is much more help for their opponents to judge how high to compete as well as how to better defend.

When a partnership goes out of its way to lionize the declarer’s judgment both in the bidding and the play more than it helps itself, the answer is to cross that convention off the card.

i could add a few more conventions to cross off the list in attempts to trying to improve a partnership but ultimately failing, but I have probably made enough enemies for the day.