Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 28th, 2012

The downhill path is easy, but there's no turning back.

Christina Rossetti

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


One recurring theme of the first World Mind Sports Games was the difference that the opening lead could make to the outcome of a contract. For example, here's a deal from the Women's match between England and Poland.

In the first room, Nicola Smith, East for England, opened one club and South overcalled one heart. North-South explored further, then settled in three hearts. Sally Brock led her singleton diamond; Smith took her ace and returned the diamond nine, suit preference for spades. Brock ruffed, returned a spade, and received another diamond ruff. Another spade return completed a perfect defense that saw the contract one down from the get-go.

In the other room the auction went as shown, with Catherine Draper as North sensibly evaluating her diamond fit and aces to be worth a shot at game, once she found her partner with length in both red suits.

West looked no further than the club king for her opening salvo. Anne Rosen won in dummy, drew trump, knocked out the diamond ace, discarded a spade on dummy’s fifth diamond, and claimed 10 tricks.

Should West have read more into the accelerated bidding after diamonds were mentioned? West has five points and her partner has opened the bidding. The simple arithmetic means that North and South are unlikely to have the normal number of high cards usually associated with a major-suit game. The inference is that they have found a second fit, and the diamond ruff may therefore be critical to defeat the game.

It is often right to lead a trump when declarer ends up in his second suit. (One can infer that dummy will be short in declarer's first suit.) Here, though, partner should be able to overruff spades, so a trump lead seems unnecessary. I'd lead the unbid suit — and while a good case could be made for a high spot-card, I'd simply lead the two (or the four if playing third-and-low leads).


♠ J 7 4 2
 K 6
 Q 4 3
♣ 8 6 4 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠
Pass 1 NT Pass 2
All 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


Iain ClimieJune 11th, 2012 at 10:56 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

One stray thought – why did West pass? A raise to 3C (inverted) seems obvious or even a very heavy limit raise to 2C. Other bids may be worth trying, with the option of reverting to clubs later, or even 4C on the first round, although vulnerability argues against this. Very curious as is East’s opening bid – weak NT is the obvious choice this side of the pond or even 1S for the lead if you feel nervous, and then pass partner’s 2H or 2D.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffJune 11th, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I certainly agree with some sort of club raise by West, the opening bidder’s partner.

Some, however, have a mistaken emphasis that raising clubs might make it easier for their opponents to figure out the distribution, find a second fit (as diamonds were here) and jump to a good game.

In reality, it is just a guess, but to my taste, not trying to be clairvoyant is the best way to go, simply bid one’s hand, and let the chips (cards), fall where they may.

In any event, at least to me, a singleton side suit in determining an opening lead, is often the way to go, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, but every hand is different and sometimes it backfires by chopping up partners KJx or some such enabling the fortunate opponents to score the game going trick.

Yes, a weak NT, if played, sometimes helps the offense, but not always, however with only 4 to the jack, clubs is not my lead of choice from partner, so that, too, can be a factor. Finally, playing 4 card majors, my lifetime favorite style, would be my ultimate solution, however if so, keep in mind that if partner responds at the 2 level in a new suit, his bid would be forcing (for one round) and we would then have to respond, preferring 2NT over 2 hearts, but raising partner’s minor if partner so opts.

Thanks to you, some of our readers, no doubt got at least a peek at style differences which serve to paint, at least in the early bidding, different pictures to communicate, which I truly believe, even through the many years, has never been improved upon.