Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 29th, 2013

God is in the details.

Gustave Flaubert

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


You'd expect today's contract of three no-trump to be reached at most tables. North's diamond suit offers enough prospects for development that he should raise the two-no-trump opening to game, relying on there to be a decent chance that declarer has some length in diamonds.

West has a choice of attractive opening leads, a major and a minor. West should opt without question for the solid sequence. You should only settle for a major in the case of a tie, not true here.

After East overtakes the club lead, South wins the first club (to avoid a heart switch) and imagines that he will be able to cash out the diamonds. The 4-1 break is a rude shock, but declarer will still be able to come to nine tricks so long as he can take four spade winners. Can you see any possible snag?

If South runs dummy’s spade jack, which spade will he play from hand? If he drops the 10, then East can cover the spade nine on the second round and build a trick for his eight. If South does not unblock his 10, then he must win the second spade in hand and can no longer remain in dummy to play spades.

The solution is painless, though. Simply run the spade nine on the first round of the suit, then lead the jack and underplay it with the 10, retaining the lead in North for the third spade play from dummy.

Your partner’s double is doubtless based on a club stack, and declarer surely has the missing spade honors. I’d lead a heart rather than the singleton club – the clubs can surely wait. My choice would be the six — second highest from four small is acceptable against no-trump, though rarely elsewhere.


♠ K J 9 5 4
 8 6 4 2
 K 9 6
♣ 7
South West North East
1♠ 2♣ 2♠ 2 NT
Pass 3 Pass 3 NT
Pass Pass 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2May 13th, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I must confess that leading anything other than the club would never have occurred to me.

For me, the longer term partnership consequences of 3N making on this auction with my heart lead when the double-requested club would have produced a set would simply not be worth any slight improvement in the chances to set 3N on this hand.

jim2May 13th, 2013 at 12:03 pm

(The above was on the LWTA, not the column hand)

bobby wolffMay 13th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Hi Jim2,

I must also confess that I agree with you, although not necessarily for the main reason you gave.

However, this hand (of course, concentrating on the lead and why partner doubled) is worthy of further consideration.

Eventually, if not sooner, aspiring partnerships rise and fall on partnership bridge logic which works, not merely well meaning attempts, which do not.

According to much written bridge literature which, at least in the past, more or less demanded the lead of the partnership suit if doubled (here spades, since that suit was the only one bid and the opening leader would not be confused whether that suit was mine or his), however that caveat has fallen by the wayside with high-level bridge practice.

Obviously, partner’s double is being used to increase our chances of a set, not just to increase the penalty, and I agree with you that the more likely chance is that partner has a great club holding (KQJ9x or better with a red suit entry). Yes, it does sound (and feel) that declarer has the AQ of spades, so we not only save a trick in spades on lead, but also contribute to set up the necessary defensive tricks to capitalize.

A heart may be OK, but my main reason to which I agree with your assessment is that a club lead looks best here, not just to please partner. Please do not misunderstand what I am implying, which is intended to say that partnership harmony does play a large part in determining success, but being right is far more important (and much longer lasting) than trying to do what the opening leader THINKS is being suggested, since if he is wrong, regardless of the reason, hard feelings in the form of distrust, which may immediately result in hopelessness.

Finally, and in conclusion, a would be great (or at least very good) partnership should have its foundation not necessarily on the exact bidding system chosen, nor the particular nuances, but rather the philosophy of dealing with the very tricky hard nosed game of bridge which sometimes shows absolutely no mercy to partnership defense nor to whatever bidding system chosen, since all available and forever more, have many weaknesses just waiting to happen.

Iain ClimieMay 13th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’ve seen “the devil is in the detail” but never Flaubert’s version. It’s from Madame Bovary, I presume, but the outrage caused by that novel suggests that GF could play with ideas in many ways.