Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 9th, 2012

The Kings go by with jewelled crowns;
Their horses gleam, their banners shake, their spears are many.

John Masefield

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

*Splinter in support of spades


J. David King, who notched his 10,000th masterpoint in 1993 at the Fall National Tournament, brought home a very difficult contract against Alan and Ellen Siebert here. King's partner was Marguerite Holley.

Declaring five spades, King ruffed the second round of clubs and led the spade queen. With this type of layout, it is imperative to lead high from the hand with one honor to protect against the very situation that existed here, namely all four trumps with East. (West could not hold four spades after his unusual no-trump.) King continued with the spade10, covered by the jack and won with the king.

It is not too common to finesse in a suit where you have no natural loser, but King knew that he was going to have to find a way to dispose of all of his diamonds. The chances were that he was going to run into a 5-0 break. So he took a heart finesse, and next picked up trumps by leading to the eight and then cashing the ace.

Now came the diamond queen, covered by the king and won with the ace — and sure enough, West had all the diamonds. King cashed the heart ace, pitching a diamond, and ruffed a heart, drawing the last nondiamond card from West. Finally, he led a diamond toward dummy’s seven, and West was helpless. She won with the nine, but then had to lead away from the 10-6 into the J-8.

Even though you have a minimum hand for the auction, it is mandatory that you cuebid four diamonds here. It is arguable that you might bypass cuebidding diamonds if you had a minimum hand with a second-round diamond control, but here the cuebid of four diamonds does not show extras, because it does not take you past game-level.


♠ Q 10 4 3
 A Q J 7 5
 A 7 3
♣ J
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠ Pass
3♠ Pass 4♣ 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


jim2June 23rd, 2012 at 1:45 pm

It would seem that the defense lost its way when East failed to double 5S.

bobby wolffJune 23rd, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, you are referring to a “Lightner double” which is defined as asking for an unusual lead from partner in order to give the defensive partnership a better chance to defeat the hand rather than for a more normal motive of increasing the amount of the set.

The idea is grand, but there are sometimes poisoned flowers on the way to the execution. First, “Lightner doubles” are usually reserved for slams where at the most, 2 tricks are needed for success and second, sometimes doubles are made, in order to tell partner not to even think about taking a sacrifice against this (at least to the defender) ill-fated contract.

In any event, if the defensive partners have a loosely held agreement that high-level contracts, (non necessarily slams), should also be under the Lightner zone, then double away and let the devil take the hindmost.

Incidentally, wouldn’t you join me in praising J. David King on a beautifully timed and carefully conceived overall declarer’s plan?

Thanks for your creative input (assuming I am correct in what you were referring to).

jim2June 23rd, 2012 at 4:52 pm

In the column hand, West had already passed when East would have doubled, so the “do not sacrifice” message would have been off the table.

Given the bidding, surely the only suit East could possibly be void in is diamonds.

jim2June 23rd, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I got interrupted earlier. J. David King’s line of play was indeed well thought out.

On the double, North’s strong fit-showing (9+ spades between N-S) bid also sent the message that the E-W club points would take at most one trick. Thus, if the hand is to be set, it would seem to have to be by ruffs. After all, East would also know that declarer would know which defender would have any missing trump cards.

Thus, this bidding sequence seems a clear special case for ensuring the correct interpretation of an East double, despite it not being a slam.