Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 21st, 2013

Shadow by shadow, stripped for fight,
The lean black cruisers search the sea.
Night-long their level shafts of light
Revolve, and find no enemy.

Alfred Noyes

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


Against four spades West begins with the diamond king, then shifts to the heart five. Is there any chance of making 10 tricks?

The first question that you should ask is “Why didn’t West shift to a trump at trick two?” and the obvious answer is that he doesn’t have one. You have to suppose the full deal is similar to the diagramed one.

You should win the heart ace and lead the diamond 10. If East plays low, throw your remaining heart in an attempt to cut the defenders’ communications. West will win the trick and, with no trump to lead, can do no better than play the heart queen. After ruffing this, you will play off the club ace and crossruff the hand. The best that East can do is to overruff the fourth round of clubs at trick 10 and return a trump, which you will win for your eighth trick. You will then make the last two tricks on a high crossruff to give you your contract.

If at trick three East covers the diamond 10 with the queen, you will ruff this, then cash the club ace and ruff a club, so that you can lead the diamond nine from the board. When East follows with the eight, you will discard your heart nine. The play then develops along the same lines as described above, and you will make the same 10 tricks.

Just because East promises four spades doesn't mean you should be afraid of introducing a suit of this quality. Your plan will be to bid your clubs over a call of one no-trump (whoever bids it!) or to raise hearts at your next turn. This may be a slight overbid, but if they have a fit, your side does too.


♠ K J 9 8 7
 9 3
♣ A 10 9 7 3
South West North East
1 1 Dbl.

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


Shantanu RastogiJuly 4th, 2013 at 11:18 am

Hello Mr Wolff

Double dummy heart lead beats the contract. Underleading Diamond Ace is out of question but surely on given bidding east should be holding good hearts and north surely has a void or has a singleton (he didnt act the first round of bidding) to jump to 4 Spades. So should heart lead be tried or is it just academic as everyone would lead Diamond honour ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Iain ClimieJuly 4th, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Hi Bobby, Shantanu,

A small diamond to the Queen and Ace x of spades has the same effect but is even less likely.

Also Happy July 4th even though we Brits still can’t understand why the colonists (all those years ago) shied away from compulsory cricket and tea drinking, not to mention the stunning qualities of our politicians and administrators; we’ll pass quietly over the king at the time who was interesting, shall we say.

No taxation without representation is the valid answer of course, although it may depend on the quality of those representatives. Have a look at the BBC sitcom “Yes Minister” for a view of our politicians and senior civil servants, while Charles Dickens “Little Dorritt” describes an infamous (mythical)department of circumlocution which is a fine satire on bad admin everywhere. You’ve had 337 years of avoiding their antics – or are your lot just the same?

Have a good day,


Iain ClimieJuly 4th, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Make it 237 years! First the 5315 diamond distribution and now this.

jim2July 4th, 2013 at 2:57 pm

It is a bit amusing that simply leading partner’s suit is the only way to beat the contract.

In West’s defense, though, I might add that in many partnerships a double like East’s requests partner not to make the normal lead. In this case, it would be not to lead the suit East bid.

Jeff SJuly 4th, 2013 at 3:21 pm

It seems that it is mostly academic – but it looks like West chose just about the only lead that doesn’t defeat the contract (not all that surprising given the point totals, I suppose).

The heart and low diamond leads have been pointed out, but doesn’t a club lead work as well? As long as West does not win the first diamond lead, East will get the lead early enough to spoil the fun.

jim2July 4th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Jeff S –

A club lead gives declarer the extra tempo to set up the 7C with the help of ruffing finesses.

That is:

– win AC
– 10C is covered and ruffed (Board’s first trump)
– small diamond won by East
– AS (Board’s second trump)
– 3S – declarer wins in hand (Board’s third trump)
– 9C is covered and ruffed, but declarer’s 7C is now high (Board’s fourth trump)
– diamond ruffed (declarer’s third trump)
– 3C ruffed (Board’s fifth trump and East cannot over ruff)
– diamond ruffed (declarer’s fourth trump)
– Trump drawn (Declarer’s fifth trump)
– 7C is high
– Board’s AH

(Defense should be able to avoid being squeezed for an overtrick)

Declarer wins 5 clubs by ruff or being high, four trump, and the AH for 10 tricks.

Iain ClimieJuly 4th, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

Does west cover the clubs? Can’t he just duck one or more of them round to east’s queen?


Iain ClimieJuly 4th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Aaargh – club lead. Brain needs to be in gear before submitting comment. Sorry.

Shantanu RastogiJuly 4th, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Hi Jim 2

I think the partnerships where double means not to lead hearts would not be doubling the final contract. Logically Diamond Honour is the normal safe lead form West but when East doubles showing some trick taking capacity against two bids by west heart lead can be made. EW combined have 26 HCP and yet they dont make anything so double here shouldnt be restricting any lead of east’s bid suit as it is for maximising the penalty.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Bobby WolffJuly 4th, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Hi Shantanu, Iain, Jim2 and Jeff S,

Between the four of you, there is analysis (mostly thanks to Jim2 for his very hard and laborious work), anecdotes, personal (non-medicinal) bromides featuring, at least, partially successful revolutions, not to mention result playing, subtle humor, and unnecessary apologies.

With such professional grade entertainment, I am only left with the pleasant task of enjoying it, with nothing left to disagree.

Carp with different opening leads all one wants, but that discussion would only suggest that John Brown, a great English bridge author (hail to the mother country) wrote in his epic, Winning Defence, probably written in the war years of late 1930’s or early 1940’s, something like, “If an average bridge player would get off to the right opening lead every time he was defending, he would win every world bridge championship” really knew what he was talking about.

Even taking time to discuss any lead but a high diamond is just too unrealistic to consider, but, hey, bridge is still a young game and maybe, probably unlikely before the year 2500, will that choice not be made, even though (by at least a small stretch), the choice of a heart or (UGH!) a low diamond, might have some merit (especially on this hand).

Thanks for all the fun and games. Without which, what would little boy (also girl) bridge players do? With apologies to Maurice Chevalier.

Jeff SJuly 4th, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Hi Jim,

Well, I could say that I pictured West starting with a small club and then being able to duck as South would not know where the KC is, but the truth is I didn’t even think that far. I got as far as six ruffs, a trump trick, and two aces and figured one down.

The nice thing is I still have lots of room for improvement and with all the fantastic commentary from our host along with you and you everyone else, it is easy and fun to get better.

Happy Fourth, everyone!