Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 15th, 2012

It is commonly said, and more particularly by Lord Shaftesbury, that ridicule is the best test of truth.

Lord Chesterfield

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


While a fair percentage of the North-South field reached four spades on this deal from a major pairs game, with mixed success, two spades was a sensible partscore.

The club six was often the lead from West, and declarer usually put up dummy’s king to muddy the waters. When East took the ace, he had the problem of whether to play for a ruff or to cash the hearts. It looked reasonable to return a club, and now declarer was in with a shout to make his game.

However, when he takes the club jack, he has to decide what to do next. Obviously, he has two potential winners in dummy for his heart losers. And indeed if diamonds are 3-3, he might emerge with 11 tricks, but if he plays for the diamond break, he might finish with only nine winners. For example, if he tests diamonds after cashing the top spades and the suit breaks 4-2, he might not get the club discard in time.

The best play is to enlist the opposition’s help by leading the diamond queen before cashing the spade ace-king. Both defenders can be expected to give honest count, perhaps each assuming their partner has the diamond ace. Now when the suit seems to be 3-3, declarer can cash the top spades, unblock the diamonds, and follow up with the club queen. When the same hand is long in both black suits, declarer can next play the 13th diamond and get both his hearts away for an additional, and valuable, overtrick.

This is a simple choice between the majors. Is a spade lead more likely to give declarer something he cannot do for himself, given that partner rates to be 5-5 or 5-4 in the majors (and unsuitable for a reopening double)? I lean toward a heart if only because this might go some way to insuring a ruff or overruff for our side.


♠ 10 4 3
 8 6
 K 7 5 2
♣ Q 9 4 3
South West North East
1♠ 2♣
Pass Pass 2 Pass
2♠ 3♣ 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 29th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

In BWTA, I confess surprise that South did not venture 2S at first opportunity.

bobby wolffOctober 29th, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Hi Jim2,

While I agree with bidding an immediate 2 spades, though that is a question of style, but if done, 3 clubs is then ventured by West (and there is no reason to suspect that it wouldn’t) what would then be led? Perhaps, of course, if we would have bid 2 spades immediately, partner would still have competed over 3 clubs, but all of that is unimportant supposition (at least on this hand). With the above stated sequence the prospect of a heart lead is the main theme, and other bridge questions take a back seat to that choice.

Sometimes and in constructing lead problems, too often attention is turned to only the lead, leaving inconsistent bidding actions in its wake.

Possibly the most important caveat to be learned is the significant change in bidding habits, wherein years ago, free bids (defined as not having to bid in order to give partner another chance, since bidding is kept alive by the opponents) tended to require slightly better than borderline passes in the past, but that went out like the morning milk deliveries which were done many years ago, but have since phased out.

More distressing to me is the discussion in the column as to what route to take for possible overtricks upon a possible club back at trick two. The only way diamonds can be right is if the jack is singleton or, more likely, doubleton by the non three spade defensive holder. As it turns out 5 will be made easily since the third spade is held by the defender with the club length and that choice of play is as clear as any bridge play can be.