Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 8th, 2013

Better be ignorant of a matter than half know it.

Publilius Syrus

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

*Three hearts

**Two of the five keycards (the four aces and the trump king)


Some deals present problems for the expert that would not occur to a beginner or an intermediate. So if you do not find the winning line in today’s deal, you can console yourself knowing that when an international player was presented with this slam, he went down like a stone. Thus you may be able to put yourself in good company – or if you succeed, you can claim your spot at the next world championship.

You must plan the play in six hearts after North’s support double has found an easy way for you to identify your fit and to reach the heart slam. West hits on the lead of the diamond queen.

Which hand will you win the trick in – and what will you do next? If West has jack-fourth of trumps, you would need to guess that from the start and in practice you will never do that. If East has J-x-x-x of trumps you can pick up the suit easily. But what if East has five trumps?

To preserve your entries, win your diamond king, play a heart to dummy’s king, and discover the hostile break. Next take a heart finesse, then lead a spade to the king and take another heart finesse. That allows you to draw trump and knock out the club ace while you still have a diamond entry to reach dummy’s clubs.

If you start trumps by leading the ace, you will be unable to pick up the suit.

A diamond looks to be slightly safer than a heart lead, but when the opponents have bid a suit, there is certainly a good case for looking elsewhere for your choice of opening lead. Yes, dummy could be 4-4 in the majors with three diamonds, but there are many more hands where a heart lead is necessary to set up your side's suit.


♠ Q 5
 J 10 5 2
 J 10 9 3
♣ 9 8 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠
Pass 2♠ Pass 4♠
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


David WarheitApril 22nd, 2013 at 9:14 am

Minor error: you state that west’s opening lead is a small spade, which seems odd, but OK, win the jack, king of hearts and heart finesse, ace of diamonds, heart finesse and finish trumps, discarding diamonds from dummy, and knock out the ace of clubs, with the spade king as entry. The ace of spades gets lost, but making six. Of course you could win the ace of spades at trick one (!) and then nothing is wasted.

Iain ClimieApril 22nd, 2013 at 9:46 am

Hi Bobby,

The quote is particularly accurate today – if the NS heart holdins were HKxxx opposite AQ109x then the ace or queen first is clearly right, but similar is not the identical. Even if South has HAQ1098 here, playing the ace first would still lose a trick to 5 hearts on the left while the pips shown would guarantee a trick if trumps are (improbably 0-5). I recall seeing this suit combo (OK Axx opposite KQl109x) in Love’s “Bridge Squeezes Complete” and the author’s glib comment of naturally playing the Ace first. All too easy to be on auto-pilot here.

Isn’t there a mix-up on the lead? The text description says DQ but the hand info says S6 – hence David’s comment.



Iain ClimieApril 22nd, 2013 at 9:53 am

I also accept that a post criticising a column misprint but which is itself full of typographic goofs does look rather silly!

bobbywolffApril 22nd, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Hi David,

Again, your eagle eye detected a major error in the diagram showing the six of spades was led.

True, the prose contradicted the diagram by specifically mentioning the Queen of Diamonds choice, but that is no excuse.

Thanks for letting us know and pointing out that the play would be essentially the same. Unfortunately, since these hands are now two weeks delayed nothing of correction can be effectively done.

bobbywolffApril 22nd, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Hi Iain,

Your point is very well taken both as to the substance (lead the dummy’s King first) and to the meaning of the quote, which of course directly implies, yes, do cater to 4-1 onside, but while you are at it, it costs almost nothing to also cater to 5-0 onside.

Also, like David, your wit also caught the error of two different leads suggested when only one was intended. I hope if we believe that “All’s well which ends well” my opening lead gaffe is history.

Typographical gaffes, what tpyohgaricl, gffea?

Iain ClimieApril 22nd, 2013 at 5:15 pm

They’re there in all their inept glory!

Less flippantly, I once coined the term “semi-think” (well before 1984, home of doublethink). If I just played cards by feel, things generally went well. If I thought things through thoroughly, I would hope to get things right. If I gave a bid or play some thought, but not enough or based on a dodgy assumption, then chaos and bad scores ensued. As one partner said between rounds on a bad day “Please stop thinking and start playing” – ouch!

Jane AApril 22nd, 2013 at 8:47 pm

A kinder comment from your partner would have been to say “trust your instincts and stop over thinking the hand”. Too many times I have ignored that little voice that tells me what to do, and that little voice is much more right than wrong. Must be the bridge angel sitting on my shoulder. Unfortunately she gets tired of me ignoring her because she has not made an appearance in a few weeks. Come back, come back!!!!!

Iain ClimieApril 22nd, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Hi Jane,

True, but I’m one of those odd people who responds better to a wind-up than encouragement. Best of luck finding your haloed friend.