Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 10th, 2012

You may tempt the upper classes
With your villainous demitasses,
But Heaven will protect the working girl.

Edgar Smith

East North
Neither ♠ A K 6
 Q J 8
 10 7 6 3
♣ 7 6 3
West East
♠ J 2
 K 10 7 6 5 4 3
 9 2
♣ A J
♠ 10 9 8
 A 9 2
 8 4
♣ K Q 5 4 2
♠ Q 7 5 4 3
 A K Q J 5
♣ 10 9 8
South West North East
1♠ 3 3♠ 4♣
4 Pass 4♠ All pass


When defending against a major-suit game, you might be tempted to try to cash an ace in another suit. But sometimes you have to resist temptation.

Not every North-South reached four spades in this deal from the 2002 European Teams Championships. Those who did, but did not receive a club lead, had no difficulty in coming to 10 tricks by way of five spades and five diamonds. However, in the match between Israel and Poland, Michael Barel had no problem leading clubs after Yoram Aviram’s helpful hint in the auction. The four-club call guaranteed heart support and showed where his values lay. Aviram’s bid led Barel to the best lead, the club ace. East overtook the club jack continuation, then cashed the club king. It must have been tempting to continue with the heart ace, as West’s overcall promised no more than a six-card suit. But when West pitched a low heart, Aviram realized that his partner had started with a seven-card suit, and the heart winner was not going to stand up. Had West started with six hearts, he would have pitched a high heart.

Equally, with his trump holding of 10-9-8, Aviram appreciated that West only needed to hold the spade jack or queen, be it doubleton or singleton, for the contract to be defeated. So he continued with a fourth round of clubs, and sure enough, West ruffed with the spade jack, elevating East’s trump holding to the setting trick.

Lead the spade jack. When leading partner’s suit, lead the top of a two-card sequence. The spade jack might cost you a trick in the suit if partner were short, but when your side has nine-plus cards in a suit, leading the top honor should be safe and more revealing than a low card.


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


David WarheitSeptember 24th, 2012 at 10:36 am

I’m not sure why a low heart shows 7 and a high heart shows 6; I guess it is low is odd & high is even. It seems to me, however, that west knows that his partner has heart support, else why did he bid 4C on such a ratty suit, but heart support can only be ace third, meaning declarer is void. In that event, partner would need to hold at least 10-9 third of trumps (or something really good in diamonds, in which case nothing I do matters), so I discard the king of hearts. If partner has ace doubleton of hearts, he will realize that I don’t have 8 hearts and will cash his ace of hearts, so I can’t see how telling partner in no mistaken terms to lead a fourth round of clubs could possibly cost. You’ve got to admit, tossing the king of hearts rather than the 3 is a whole lot more likely to get partner’s attention.

bobby wolffSeptember 24th, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Hi David,

Yes I do, especially the attention, but although this hand is relatively simple in its message, the high-level legal communication between partners is what important bridge competition is all about.

First, both partners should only be worried about securing the setting trick and going about it the best way. Second, upon examining the defensive evidence, East (whether his partner has played his lowest heart, almost assuredly a count signal, low odd, high even, or the King, as you say, attention getting) it should be logical that partner with equal vulnerability, neither, would not do so with only K10xxxx and a relatively balanced hand, unless perhaps he was betting on the opponents to win the event.

Going still further, would South holding QJxxx, x, AKQJ, xxx venture 4 diamonds instead of pass over the opponent’s 4 club bid? Hardly, making the solving of bridge logic problems a key to good bridge. The simple Sherlock Holmes tale of the dog who does not bark (in this case he would pass his RHO’s 4 club venture), is more often than most realize, the conclusive evidence used in determining defense.

As a final rejoinder, how about West holding J10x in trumps but with six hearts and then, of course only two diamonds, but East 4 hearts to the ace, along with his 5 clubs (likely), 2 small diamonds and xx in spades, leaving declarer with Q9xxx, void, AKQJx, xxx, after West trumps the 4th club with the 10 or the jack of spades, could he resist finessing the 9 of spades on the second round of the suit playing East for three to the jack or ten? Going still further, if West held the J9x in spades as long as his partner did not hold the telltale 10 might just also get the setting trick home where in most defensive cases (without the killing subtle defense) it would have been what would normally be called a laydown game.

Such are the real manufactured out of thin air high-level defenses which only serve to set apart our game as an off the charts mental challenge for all to enjoy.

Thanks, as always, for your always pointed intelligent opinion, which often allows further discussion centered around various challenges within the hand described.