Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 24th, 2012

All strange and terrible events are welcome,
But comforts we despise.

William Shakespeare

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


There is no easy answer as to what plan South should have followed here, but his leap to six hearts was precipitous and perhaps an overbid. But how would you play the slam when West leads the spade three and East covers dummy's spade 10 with the jack?

At the table declarer won with the spade ace and drew trump in four rounds. With only one entry to dummy outside the diamond suit (the club ace), it seemed that he would need a 3-3 diamond break to make the contract. Declarer played ace, king and another diamond and shrugged his shoulders when East showed out on the third round. He ruffed in his hand and could do nothing but finesse the club queen. Had the finesse worked, he could have ruffed out the diamonds successfully. However, East produced the club king and cashed the spade king for one down.

Can you see how declarer should have made the contract? When the diamond queen and 10 fall on the first two rounds, dummy’s 9-7 have become equals against West’s J-6. All declarer needs to do is to lead the diamond nine and let it run, discarding his spade loser.

West wins with the jack and returns a club, but declarer can win with the club ace in dummy and throw his two club losers on the diamonds.

(Yes, a club lead would have beaten the slam, but I don’t ever want to play against anyone who could find that!)

This is a close call between a diamond and a spade. Had partner opened one club, I would definitely prefer the spade lead. Here a spade lead has the better chance to set the game; the diamond lead is more likely to hold the overtricks. So I would lead a diamond at pairs, a spade at teams.


♠ 8 7 6 5 2
 Q 7 4
 J 9 3
♣ Q 5
South West North East
1 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


jim2October 8th, 2012 at 10:38 am

In BWTA, which diamond?

Iain ClimieOctober 8th, 2012 at 11:13 am

Hi Mr Wolff,

Declarer missed a further point here – even if diamonds break, the CK is very likely to be wrong and you’ll still have a black suit loser at the end. After drawing trumps, playing a high diamond on the 3rd rd of the suit must be right and, if East follows, now throw the spade. This works nicely if diamonds break, if. they are 4-2 with 2 honours dropping or if E has DQJ10x to go with the CK and SK – now what does he lead?


Iain Climie

Iain ClimieOctober 8th, 2012 at 11:17 am

Rats, the SK or even the DQ and it is still off unless the CK is right. Worth a try, though. So much for me being awake.

bobby wolffOctober 8th, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Hi Jim2,

Definitely the 3, so that the J9 can await over the declarer, where the declarer’s diamond honors are almost sure to be.

Just to think that in the beginning of learning bridge (many years ago for some), most were taught to lead the highest in partner’s suit, so that the original bidder would know how to proceed from there should make us all realize what a young game bridge (contract variety) really is.

It has improved greatly and its example from an arithmetical and logical viewpoint stands as a beacon for all to embrace. Playing card logic, not games which are essentially not card games but games played with cards, such as poker, blackjack and I am sure others, teaches positioning, timing and deft maneuvering.

Those artful characteristics plus problem solving, legal partnership communication, percentages, detective work, psychology, legal deception, and sometimes grueling mental battles symbolize to me why bridge needs to be taught in our early schooling, almost always useful in later life and never to be forgotten.

Thanks for asking.

bobby wolffOctober 8th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Hi Iain,

Obviously when two diamond honors fall on the AK and an original club has not been led, we are already home, if we do not mess it up. As you said, if East started with QJ10x we now have to hope for the King of clubs to either be onside or singleton offside, but in any event we should be very happy when the cards are located the way the column had them.

Top of the morning to you.