Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Lord Finchley tried to mend the electric light
Himself. It struck him dead: and serve him right!
It is the business of the wealthy man
To give employment to the artisan.

Hilaire Belloc

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

Your choice!

The deals this week all come from the trials that allowed my team to qualify for the Senior Bowl in Veldhoven last fall. We fell behind in the early going, then recovered with the aid of deals like the following one.

At our table, the developments were unremarkable after West dealt and passed. With an awkward hand and marginal opening-bid values, I opened my long suit, clubs, and a contested auction saw us play five diamonds. My partner, Dan Morse, was at the helm, and since East had shown long spades, he tackled trumps by playing the diamond ace first, and now had no problem bringing home 11 tricks. That looked like a normal result, one that was likely to be duplicated at the other table if the contract was five of a minor.

However, the auction was as shown, with South declaring three no-trump. But look at how the cards lie for declarer: if West leads a heart, there are nine top winners; and on the lead of a low spade, declarer will come home in his game because of the spade blockage.

However, cometh the hour, cometh the man. Fred Hamilton on lead selected the spade king as his opening salvo! When Arnie Fisher encouraged with the 10, Hamilton played the spade jack to Fisher’s ace, and that let the defenders take the first six tricks.

Whenever the opponents come to a stop at a low level and you have unexpressed high cards or shape, you should consider bidding on. Despite the fact that West's sequence suggests length in your suits, you should bid two diamonds. I can't guarantee that you do have an eight-card fit, but it just feels right to bid here.


♠ Q 2
 A J 7 5 4
 K J 10 7
♣ K 7
South West North East
1 1 NT Pass 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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonJune 21st, 2012 at 7:39 pm

HBJ : I must admit that leading a heart might be lost cause if declarer does have at least two guaranteed stops in the suit….but the 10 of hearts still has some merit given that West possibly has 1 or 2 entries in spades.
But would I select the king of spades ? Only if I believed partner held say 5 to the queen…..but why should I. Although North has bid clubs , diamonds could well be partner’s best suit. Yet the smaller miracle lies in the spade suit ( not diamonds )…… and so the spade king has to be the logical play.
One thing for certain is that declarer is bidding 3NT on the basis of the club suit running, and so the defence has to attack straightaway the suit he may only have 1 stop in….probably spades. Mind you to find East with 6 to the Ace is more than a small miracle answered…’s your yearly quota all wrapped up in one.

bobby wolffJune 21st, 2012 at 8:25 pm


Thanks for your to the poiint comments.

The only difference in our judgments is that I actually believe that a spade honor lead needs no real miracle to be successful in defeating the contract. Sure some luck is necessary and I am not expecting my chances as anywhere near 50% to succeed, but I would guess that they are at least 25% (1 in 4) of doing the job.

Maybe it is my eternal optimism giving me fantasies, but also it could be my experience telling me that with controlled optimism and the ability to shrug off leads which only serve to help declarer make his contract is a combination of feelings which make one a very tough opponent.

High-level bridge is not a game for the meek at heart or low self-esteem. but rather for swashbuckling pirate like tough minded competitiors. My guess is that you will now, if you haven’t before, gone all in with what is being said.

Robert JonssonJune 21st, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Please would you clarify the reason for playing trump starting with the ace? East having shown long spades, is it not more likely that his partner has longer diamonds and thus the queen?

bobby wolffJune 22nd, 2012 at 12:47 am

Hi Mr. Jonsson,

I’m not at all sure to which hand you are referring. The above AOB concerns itself with a sensational opening lead which works and is not at all about East showing long spades. Also your question is not about the BWTA at the end. Please clarify your particular problem and I will be happy to give you an opinion.

Jeff SJune 22nd, 2012 at 3:10 am

I think Mr Jonsson is referring to the 2nd paragraph of text where you talk about your partner Dan Morse playing 5D. Specifically, “My partner, Dan Morse, was at the helm, and since East had shown long spades, he tackled trumps by playing the diamond ace first, and now had no problem bringing home 11 tricks. ”

So, I think the Mr Jonsson is wondering if it wasn’t more likely that West would show up with Qxx since East had shown long spades.

Robert JonssonJune 22nd, 2012 at 8:57 am

Thank you Jeff for clarifying my rambling!

bobby wolffJune 22nd, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Hi Jeff and Robert,

Yes, now I understand and appreciate the concern about “guessing the diamond queen”.

At our table, even though I, now being out of town and having no records available, do not have a memory recognition of the exact bidding. However, I vaguely remember one opponent bidding spades and the other hearts (no weak 2 bid was opened), so thinking the 2 bids had balanced the possibilities the declarer played for a 2-2 break instead of a 3-1 distribution.

Another more important for column purposes reason, but much less for technical bridge, centered on the space available always present with newspaper space which somtimes occurs, interrupting a more thorough discussion.

Thanks Robert for spotting a very good question and to Jeff for striking a reminder chord with me. I apologize for the inconveniences caused.