Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 29th, 2012

It gets late early out there.

Yogi Berra

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


It happens more often than it should that declarer falls at the first hurdle – by miscalculating whether to duck or win the trick. Today, when West leads the spade six against three no-trump, East covers the 10 with the jack. How do you plan to make nine tricks?

If you let the spade jack hold, East will shift to the heart queen very smartly and, as he has two entries to his heart suit, you will lose a spade, three hearts, a diamond and a club for down two.

So you must win the first trick and then decide which minor suit to play next. I hope you will see that you should play on diamonds next, because tackling clubs first would see you lose the contract whenever West began with five spades, as well as the diamond ace, and East started with the club king.

So you should lead the diamond king next. East wins his diamond ace and exits with a spade. Only now do you duck the spade, severing the link in spades between the defenders’ hands.

You will win the next trick in hand and take the club finesse by running the club nine. East will win the king and will have no spade to play. So you will make two tricks in each of spades, hearts and diamonds, plus three in clubs.

Note that even if East did have a spade to play, you would still take nine tricks as long as spades were originally 4-4.

Dummy is going to put down a Yarborough with long spades, while declarer has at least six diamonds and about a 19-count. Your target should be to look for the most passive option. My guess would be to lead a spade since I expect declarer to have no more than a singleton. Thus leading the suit cannot cost a trick.


♠ K 9 8 2
 10 8 6 3
 K 5
♣ J 8 4
South West North East
1♣ Dbl.
1 Pass 1 NT 2
Pass 2♠ Pass 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


Patrick CheuNovember 12th, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Hi Bobby, If 6s is from 862 and ace of diamond (west), East has five spades and Kc ,we have done the wrong thing. Guess it is percentage to play with the odds that lead of 6s is genuine, unless it comes from you or Zia, and therefore start on diamonds as oppose to clubs.:)Best Regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Hi Patrick,

If one is interested in sure things, either fix races or cheat at bridge, but as a well known American poet by the name of Damon Runyon, who was also very interested in gambling once said, “The race may not always be won by the swift, nor the victory in battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet”.

If someone would lead a spade from 862 and, of course, depending on the bidding and the rest of his hand, with the ace of diamonds with west and the king of clubs with east I’d first check with myself and with partner as to how we were holding our cards and if nothing unusual appeared, I would then ask the opening leader where I could, like he has, found the hand records before the event.

Jeff SNovember 13th, 2012 at 12:08 am

And if West had used his one and only lead to venture the 8H, the contract would have gone down – and West would have had some serious explaining to do!

Then again, if he “borrows” a small heart from both North and South doling out a small spade to each, the bidding might go the same and he might just get to the killer heart lead on the theory that North didn’t explore the majors.

Yes, through the Looking Glass and just for fun. The actual hand was a very useful lesson in when to take and when to duck.

Bobby WolffNovember 13th, 2012 at 3:10 am

Hi Jeff S,

If West had decided to lead the 8 of hearts, especially with that entry less hand, no serious ‘splaining (as Desi Arnaz used to tell his wife Lucille Ball in the TV comedy “I Love Lucy) needs to be done.

It may be worthwhile to quote John Brown (a noted English bridge writer way back 60+ years ago) in his classic book titled “Winning Defence”, “If an only average bridge player always led the most effective opening lead he would win every world bridge championship”.

I agree, but to do so, is not even within the realm of possibility, but his comment merely emphasized the overall importance of the initial opening thrust. Yes, like Alice, we all need to play the game, gain the experience necessary, and work hard to keep up with others who also do, even if our judgment benefited by having a looking glass to look through.

Patrick CheuNovember 13th, 2012 at 7:29 am

Hi Bobby, there is a book by Fred L. Karpin 1964, which explains all about strategy at trick one, called Winning Play In Contract Bridge,great read for any aspiring bridge players. Thanks again for your amusing insight. Best Regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffNovember 13th, 2012 at 9:25 am

Hi Patrick,

Thanks for your recommendation of Winning Play in Contract Bridge by Fred Karpin,

While I have not read that well known book, I did know Fred quite well, a long time ago. He would show up at important bridge tournaments (usually Nationals) and always with pen and portfolio in hand. He was obviously a big-time bridge lover who contributed greatly to its improvement, although rarely interested in playing, only reporting.

Whenever I think of dedication to the game I am reminded of Fred. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane.