Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 18th, 2013

My soul, do not seek immortal life, but exhaust the realm of the possible.


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


As South you open one heart, and when your partner raises to two hearts (the hand is not close to a limit raise, though North should plan to compete to three hearts if necessary), you resist the temptation to go directly to game but advance with two no-trump, promising 17-18 points. That is enough for your partner to jump to four hearts, against which West leads the spade queen.

If you win the first spade, draw trump and, trying to avoid a lead through the diamond king, take a losing club finesse, West will win and play a spade to East’s king. Then a diamond cooks your goose.

Is there any reason for you to guess clubs right — other than the old wives’ tale that the queen lies over (or under) the jack? No, there isn’t, but if you make the right preparations, you can follow a line where you will succeed regardless of the location of the club queen.

The trick is to duck the opening lead. You win the next spade, draw trump, and take the losing club finesse. Now West has no entry to his partner’s hand. His best chance is to exit passively with a club, hoping you have four clubs and thus no discard coming on the clubs, since the auction has told West that you must hold the diamond king. But that does not work; you can discard a diamond on the clubs, give up a diamond, and ruff a spade in dummy for the 10th trick.

Assuming West is a competent player, he has shown 16-17 and an unbalanced or semibalanced hand, so he must have club length. The choice is a passive spade lead or an active club lead, and since the clubs do not appear to be lying well for the opponents and they have no values to spare, I'd lead the spade seven.


♠ 7 6 5
 A 8 5
 10 6
♣ Q 9 6 4 2
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1
Pass 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 4th, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

If East held SK10xx here, he could play the SK at T1 to force a later entry for a diamond lead so that, with the DA offside, declarer has to guess the clubs correctly, possibly after trying for DA onside.

Although East runs the risk that South has the S10, if he plays the SK at T1 how should South now proceed? Ducking a spade may still be best in case East plays another (he shouldn’t) but, if South takes T1, what next on a single dummy basis?



bobby wolffMarch 4th, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt East would play the king of spades at trick one since it would (should) be clear to him that a diamond shift is correct, except it would be a suggestion that East did indeed, possess the 10. Since he didn’t have it (not even the 9, which would do, assuming partner had the 10 along with his known jack) it would be subtly misleading.

The above illustrates assumed bridge logic between high-level players which is not necessary to even discuss, however once East secures the lead, not possible on this hand against a wise declarer, a diamond shift becomes as automatic as automatic can be.

High-level bridge, especially among players with vast experience becomes much easier for up and coming players once they become blessed with a partner who is rising in ability and becomes successful at grasping what it takes to improve.

Iain ClimieMarch 4th, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Hi Again,

Thanks for this and, after squirming, I think if East does play the SK I’m winning and playing a spade straight back. I’m then fine if West h
as the spade holding shown or fails to duck the spade to East’s 10. I’m ok if the DA is right and I’ve still got a two-way club guess.

Nonetheless, East would have given me a bad time for at least a while, turning a near certain contract into one with some scope to fail.