Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Anyone who uses the phrase 'As easy as taking candy from a baby' has never tried taking candy from a baby.


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


Today's contract of four hearts from the 2008 Yeh Tournament proved troublesome everywhere. Eric Kokish received a spade lead to the ace and a club shift. Kokish decided it was not yet Christmas. He rose with the ace and impressed his partner with the result. When trumps were 3-3, he had 620 and a 14-IMP gain when in the other room North-South overreached to five hearts and went down 300.

By contrast, when Eddy Manoppo played four hearts, he received a spade lead and spade continuation. He discarded a diamond, and Doron Yadlin won and played a third spade. With the lead in dummy, Eddy was not prepared to look this particular gift horse in the mouth. He finessed in clubs and finished up, if not wiser, at least better informed. That same successful defense was found by Prabhakar-Tendari against John Carroll.

Curiously, had the defenders shifted to diamonds at trick three, declarer would have put in the jack and ruffed away the ace, then played three rounds of trump. Now the defenders would legitimately have had to give dummy an entry, and South would have had no reason to be suspicious.

The happiest declarer at the end of the deal was undoubtedly Hiroki Yokoi. As South, he ended up in three no trump doubled after Geir Helgemo as East had opened one club. The defenders cleared spades, leaving declarer with only one possible winning club position, the singleton king offside. Today was his lucky day!

My philosophy on blind leads against no-trump is to lead from length of more than five cards, but only lead from four-card suits if they look safe – or nothing else is attractive. Here a heart lead is plausible (I’d lead the seven rather than the three or five), but I might lead from Q-10-7-2 if that were a major rather than a minor.


♠ Q 4 2
 7 5 3
 Q 10 7 2
♣ K 10 4
South West North East
1 NT
Pass 3 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 ClimieMay 6th, 2013 at 10:16 am

Hi Bobby,

Given that South is very likely to be 1-5-1-6 on the lead and bidding, should East cash the DA before playing a spade back? On the other hand, this could suggest that West has the CK after three rounds of hearts expose the position.

Perhaps DA at trick 2 and then a low club back puts the most pressure on declarer – Kokish’s play worked well but East could be trying something with CKx.

One curious point about the hand, given South’s extreme shape, is that the hearts need to be 3-3 (or perhaps HQJ doubleton might be manageable in some cases) and do break like that. With manual dealing I’d expect the likelihood of a 3-3 break to be less than usual given shape round the rest of the table, but does this still apply with computer dealt hands.

Finally, on LWTA, is a spade worth considering? Give partner KJxxx or K10xxx in a major and an outside K or Ace and the heart lead may not set up much but a spade lead is a bonanza if he holds that suit. The opponent’s failure to use Stayman suggests a major suit is worth a try, although there is always the sickening feeling when partner has SJxxx, SK9xx or similar, passive defence would have worked and I’ve just given declarer his 9th trick. Against that, the 3N bidder may have slight extras when attack may be necessary. Any thoughts here, especially given that the more I think about leads, the worse they tend to be?



bobbywolffMay 6th, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Hi Iain,

Your comments are a veritable treasure trove of questions and answers. many of which your parenthetical writing solved, but possibly not to everyone’s satisfaction.

Yes, there is probably a little something to the notion that computer dealt hands are more true to the percentage table than are people dealt hands. But to even consider that the percentage difference is a factor is to believe in the supernatural, not the law of averages, which, over a lifetime (or what sometimes seems to feel as such) is as constant as the sun coming up in the morning.

Hiroki Yokoi gave himself the only anywhere near possible holding (on the bidding) to bask in the sun and, because of it, won the lottery. He deserves all the credit, although it was, of course, about 50+ to 1 against happening, but at least he had the smarts to go for it.

While your possible spade lead vs. 3NT is about as good as almost anything else (at least a heart or a diamond) but nevertheless probably a small minus, either at IMPs or matchpoints, simply because it is going against the field choice (the bidding may be the same at most tables) and that means a likely different result which, since you & partner are no doubt, almost always one of the best (or at least better) pairs in your field, making a minority choice widens the risk for a poor result, which if trying for the 60% game necessary to be in contention to win, or the 51% required to win an IMP contest seems then to be against accomplishing what you started out to do.

Going against the “herd” is never taboo, but blind opening leads are probably not the venue to choose doing that.

You are realistic by nature, and always honest with yourself, two important qualities. Finally your last retort about the frustration of thinking about leads in general and particular blind ones, is that bridge does not lend itself to reinventing the wheel when it comes to leading against uninformative bidding sequences. After all these years of the worldwide playing of competitive tournament bridge (about 85+) no one, either by simulation or just plain experience would dare say which lead stands out on the above example hand making its choice the same as its always been, a random opportunity. However do not lead a club, since you hold only 3, a minor suit, and being the K10x just doesn’t appear to be anyone’s choice.