Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 24th, 2012

I once told you that I am not a saint, and I hope never to see the day that I cannot admit having made a mistake.

Gerald Ford

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

*Game-forcing checkback.


When a top-ranked player slips up in a simple deal, it is always interesting to speculate why. At the table West led a low club to the two, the 10 (a helpful card from East to suggest to West that the defenders did not have a club trick) and the ace. South then played a spade to dummy's ace and a spade to the 10 and jack. Now West followed the basic principle of cashing the master trump to draw two of his opponents' trumps. Then he shifted to a diamond; too late! Declarer guessed the diamonds and had 10 tricks. Had West played a diamond first (logical, since he needs his partner to hold a red ace to have any chance to set the hand), he is a tempo ahead after East's heart switch.

Note that on an initial heart lead, declarer does best to take the queen, cross to a club, and lead a diamond up, building his discard before playing trump — but he had better guess well.

At another table Jan Jansma as South reached four spades after North had passed initially. He benefited from a fourth-highest diamond-two lead to the jack and ace, and a club shift. He won in hand and decided that East had long diamonds but had not bid, so could not hold much outside. He therefore advanced the spade queen at trick three! This was covered all around, and now he had only one spade loser once the nine appeared on the second round: 11 tricks, and a top board.

Were you tempted to redouble? It is indeed a natural reaction. But when you have a moderate one-suiter, even one with enough high cards for the redouble, you are generally better advised simply to bid the suit. Here, unless you bid one heart now, you might never get this hand described if you redouble and hear the opponents jump in a black suit.


♠ K J 2
 K J 10 8 6
 Q 6 2
♣ 6 4
South West North East
1 Dbl.

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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonApril 7th, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Hi there , Just to say tx for the recent Johnny Supremo comment and to add how getting to know as much about the count, and inferences from the opening lead has so much bearing on the choices declarer may have to make.
Clearly, in this hand declarer may be able to park a heart on the fifth club, but has one too many losers to worry about ( 1H, 1D and 2S ) . He certainly has to get busy on trumps to ensure 10 tricks ( 5C, 4S hopefully and 1H ). So Is it technically correct to play the queen from hand without any information about Easts 7 card diamond suit ?. This works if West holds both KJx, Kxx , K9, Kx ,J9 and Jx. Spade losers restricted to 1.
I never know the answer to the combined probabilities scenarios of these various holdings. Yours often relying on a prayer mat rather than solid maths.

bobby wolffApril 7th, 2012 at 6:40 pm


Without the nine of spades in either hand, it is not correct to lead the queen, but rather the normal play of low to the ace and back toward the queen ten is the correct percentage action.

The above play does not work (to offer a pun as well as an honest remark) in spades. However, after winning the spade it is a serious error for West to cash the second spade trick, before switching to a diamond which, let’s assume declarer guesses correctly and finesses the jack. However if East now shifts to hearts (which he should) that game is history and will go down 1 since the advantage of tempo has now passed to EW because West can trump a club with his master trump before declarer can rid himself of the setting trick, one of his low hearts.

The reason for East to switch to hearts is that, since West, his partner did not lead a singleton diamond he doesn’t have one, making the singleton diamond rather in declarer’s hand and almost certainly since declarer apparently has exactly 5 spades (by his play of the trump suit), declarer is marked with long (strong clubs) for his bidding.

“When one eliminates the impossible, whatever left, however improbable (and this holding is not even improbable) is the answer”.

Thanks for your continued always enthusiastic comments.