Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 17th, 2012

And that there is no flaw or vacuum in the amount of the truth — but that all is truth without exception.

Walt Whitman

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



Two of the biggest truisms in the game are that second hand should 'always' play low while third hand should 'always' play high. Particularly if you've been listening to lecturers telling you how to preserve your honors, then here, when the defenders lead a spade against three no-trump, you know not to waste the spade jack at trick one. Right? Not exactly.

If neither opponent had bid, putting up the spade jack would probably be a very poor play; that is because you can insure your side a spade trick by keeping your powder dry and preserving the spade jack and queen for the purposes they were intended, not throwing them away. Imagine West with A-9-7-6 of spades and you will see that rising with the jack might be the only way to go down in this hand!

But that is not so today; you do have opposition bidding, which tells you that West has most of the partnership’s high-cards and five or more spades. Here if you play low from dummy then when East inserts the nine you score your spade queen at trick one but West will have four spades ready to cash when in with the diamond ace.

Instead put up the spade jack and knock out the diamond ace. That way you preserve the spade honors in your hand and West cannot run the spades. Note that if East began with either a doubleton spade ace or king you are dead in the water, whatever you do.

Did you work out that the double was Lightner, suggesting a void somewhere and asking you for an unusual lead? Well done: but did you also work out not to lead your lowest spade in case partner ruffs and tries to underlead his club honors, hoping to find you with a high club honor? Lead the spade six and you will avoid that particular accident.


♠ K 10 7 6 4 3
 K 8
 Q 2
♣ 10 5 2
South West North East
1 4♣ 4
5♣ 5 Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieDecember 31st, 2012 at 10:49 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I think there is a possible exception here to today’s quote and to the analysis, although I suspect that the SJ is still most likely to be the winning play. Suppose that East has SK10 or K9 (or less probably A10 or A9). In the case of K10, then the blockage in the suit and the spade 8 combine to see South home regardless of his play. In the latter case, playing the SJ misfires as now West overtakes the S9 with the 10 at trick 2 and clears the suit. South now has only 8 tricks before West gets in.

The question is perhaps whether West with SAK10xx might have led a top honour for a look at dummy first, especially as keeping communication with partner is unlikely to be relevant; if West gets in at all, the contract is likely to be in trouble. It is fortunate that East rather than West has the S9, while South’s S8 is surprisingly important.

All the very best for 2013 to yourself, readers and fellow contributors; please keep up the great work and entertainment.


Iain Climie

bobbywolffDecember 31st, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Hi Iain,

Aye and a rousing, of course, for your comments.

But, after considering the bidding, it should feel that West is very likely, perhaps 90% or so (it cannot be accurately mathematically measured since an individual player’s judgment of whether or not East would keep the bidding open with a major spade honor being NV vs. V is impossible to be factored in and then judge), for West to have been dealt both the ace and king, or, if not, then both the 10 and the 9, and if so, the play of the jack from dummy will not be the losing play.

Also, granted that (in a vacuum) sometimes holding AK10xx the opening leader may first lead a high honor, but if he also holds a side ace (95% likely on this hand) his tendency, when partner cannot keep a 1 level opening bid going, should tend to lead low.

Thanks for your new year’s well wishes and I think I speak for all of our readers and fellow commentors, when I’ll add, especially to all you add to our bridge blogging site in the way of knowledge, excellent writing, thought enhancing, common sense and above all humor.

Judy joins me in wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2013.

Patrick CheuDecember 31st, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Hi Bobby and Iain, if West has AK109x,there is more of a case for leading Ace or king,given the bidding and holding the ace of diamonds.All the best for the New year to you both and fellow contributors and readers-Patrick.

Lurpoa BegijnJanuary 2nd, 2013 at 8:47 pm


why wouldn’t that unusual lead be a diamond ?
I think I understand.
But that was my first choice.
I would like to hear it from an Ace.
Many thanks.