Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 4th, 2012

Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.

Edgar Lee Masters

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


The U.S. Bridge Federation is running its trials this week to select the team for the 2012 Olympiad Tournament. To mark the occasion, I shall be running a few deals from last year's event, in which my team qualified for the Senior Bowl in Veldhoven.

In today’s deal my partner, Dan Morse (East), opened one spade and I raised to two spades over the one-no-trump overcall, and played there. Against two spades, the defenders accurately led a heart, but ducked their diamond ace. So Dan was able to get a heart loser away on the club ace and hold his losers to two trumps and one in each red-suit, for plus 140.

In the other room the auction went as shown, with Arnie Fisher competing over two spades with two no-trump, and Fred Hamilton moving on to game. The defenders led a spade to the ace and returned the suit. Hamilton knocked out the heart ace, won the third spade, and led the club king from hand. Once he had guessed clubs, the defenders had just one trick in each suit, and Hamilton had nine tricks.

Did you notice the defenders’ slip? At trick one East must put in the spade jack, then win the heart ace to return a low spade. Now West will win his club ace and play the third spade to East, who can cash out for down one. (And had East ducked the heart ace smoothly, might declarer have — fatally — switched his attention to clubs?)

With two attractive leads to choose from, I'd go for the diamonds rather than a spade. Just because your RHO has bid the suit doesn't mean that it won't be possible for you to set up the suit on defense. Unless dummy puts down three cards to an honor, the lead won't blow a trick — and even then, you might still survive the lead.


♠ 10 5 4 2
 10 6 3
 Q J 10 2
♣ A 3
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass 1 NT
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 18th, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I have a terrible sinking feeling about the lead problem. I can understand the diamond but either declarer has AKxxx and I’ve lost a key tempo and helped set his suit up or dummy has K8x opposite A9xx(x). Worse still partner has good spades.

Lead a spade, of course, and you find dummy with 4 opposite declarer’s AJx or similar but declarer with 4 weakish diamonds opposite xx. Flippancy aside, can any estimate be made of the relative likelihoods of the hand types? I suspect that there are many more cases where declarer has only 4 diamonds on the bidding (when partner only needs 9x for it to be ok) than 3-2-5-3 hands or similar. If the spades were slightly stronger (J10xx or similar) this might swing things back.


Iain Climie

Judy Kay-WolffJune 18th, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Hi Iain,

You make several right-on reasons for preferring a spade lead, instead of choosing a better suit, but not one where the opening bidder bid.

One thing i keep in mind is that, while defending 1NT, it is usually possible (probable) that the defense can change the defensive course and that the 2nd time around is just as effective as the 1st. In some ways and against 1NT (as opposed to game) the main concern is not to give a trick away to declarer that he might have lost if we had not had to play 1st and 3rd to that trick instead of the preferred 2nd and 4th.

Although leading a fairly solid holding of QJ!0x does not guarantee not to (as you have pointed out), it still is probably safer than is 10xxx since the opponents can easily have 7 total spades, but even if not, leading away from the 10 is at least slightly more likely to lose a trick than many think.

However, no one (especially I) am saying that I have the leading keys to the bridge universe, only that percentages and computer simulation bear what I think is a close determination.

I appreciate your always well thoughtout impartial and sincere views.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 18th, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Obviously the above was written by Bobby Wolff not Judy Kay-Wolff. Technical difficulties.