Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 1st, 2012

But what is past my help, is past my care.

John Fletcher

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


Today's deal comes from an international match between Poland and Portugal. At first glance you might imagine it was a dull four-heart contract with the spade ace onside. The only thing that appears to be at stake is the overtrick.

In the closed room, on the lead of the spade 10, the Portuguese declarer made 11 tricks without raising a sweat, by guessing the diamond jack. But Jacek Romanski got a less helpful heart-nine lead to his 10. Can you see the best line?

Obviously you could simply play a spade to the king at some point after drawing trumps, then rely on your table presence to find the diamond jack — a line that is perhaps just a bit better than 75 percent. But you do have an even better chance once trumps turn out to be 2-2.

You should play the heart king at trick two, then ruff out the clubs by playing three rounds of the suit, and next play a diamond to the queen. When it holds, you run the diamond 10. Even if the defenders have two diamonds to cash, West will be endplayed after taking his winners. If the diamond queen loses to the ace, you can still succeed if East has either the diamond jack or the spade ace.

This line succeeds unless all three critical cards are badly placed. In other words, you come home seven times out of eight. The fact that the spade ace was onside all along does not spoil the elegance of this line.

The attractions of a diamond lead are that it is unexpected; the opponents sound as if they are prepared for a club lead. As against that, clubs offer a far better chance of setting up immediately, plus you have a fast entry to them on the side. So put me down for a small club lead. My thinking is also that since I didn't promise real clubs, they might not need such a great club stopper to bid no-trump.


♠ K 10
 9 6
 A J 7 5
♣ K Q 7 4 2
South West North East
1♣ 1 Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 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 15th, 2012 at 1:08 pm

In BWTA, it sure sounds like partner has five or six spades, one or two clubs, and four or five HCP on the given auction. The opponents also seem not to have solid hearts, putting some of pard’s points in that suit behind the heart overcaller.

To beat this contract, the defense needs six tricks and so will probably need long tricks in a black suit. In which black suit should I try to find a fitting soft honor or two? The one where pard is short and the opponents have heard me bid and then both bid notrump? Or, the one which both opponents have by their silence denied length?

Without the Theory of Card Migration (TOCM), I might well table the KS at rubber bridge or IMPs. My hope would be to establish the suit early for pard to use his/her predicted heart card for the necessary entry.

With TOCM, esp at MPs, I would probably lead a small club, hoping to stay with the field. My fear would be to see a raft of -120s on the recap sheet with my KS lead having left us alone with our -150 (or -180).

bobby wolffOctober 15th, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Hi Jim2,

You have seemed to cover all the bases which should become constructive information for all those readers who are concerned with making better opening leads.

Our only small difference is that I do not quite share your optimism for chances of success with the King of Spades choice. My RHO has a good chance of having 4 spades and I’ll have to be very lucky that the spade intermediates of partner will stand up to being good enough to offset the 1st and 3rd plays at trick one which the opening leader becomes bound by.

Also, if I am fortunate enough to not find partner with a low singleton club, we still may have the ability to keep East from scoring up 8 tricks to our 5. It is always guesswork and luck on these sort of random opening leads
and you could well be right as can be.

jim2October 15th, 2012 at 1:37 pm

TOCM always gets me, but the 10S seemed to be calling me in Darvas’ voice.

bobby wolffOctober 15th, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

I bet he is saying “Please save me, I’m being made a part of a delicious Hungarian goulash and he has sent out a request for the 9 and the 8 as well as the queen”.