Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.

William Shakespeare

North North
Neither ♠ J 8 2
 8 7
 A Q 6
♣ A J 10 7 5
West East
♠ A K 7 3
 10 6 3 2
 J 7 4
♣ 8 4
♠ 4
 Q J 9 5
 K 10 9 5 2
♣ Q 9 2
♠ Q 10 9 6 5
 A K 4
 8 3
♣ K 6 3
South West North East
1♣ 1
1♠ 2 Dbl.* Pass
4♠ All pass    

*Three-card support


This deal, from a major pairs event, worked well for those playing a weak no-trump because they arranged for the spade game to be declared by North. As long as declarer managed to guess clubs, the game was unbeatable.

However, most of the field ended up in four spades by South, often on a diamond lead after East had overcalled in diamonds. How would you play four spades after West has led a low diamond? At several tables declarer went up with dummy’s ace and arranged to ruff a heart in dummy. A spade was played next, but West won and continued diamonds, forcing declarer to ruff. When declarer played a second spade, West again won and played a fourth round of hearts. Now even a correct club guess could do nothing to save declarer.

Can you see how South could, and should, have avoided this? If he ducks the opening diamond lead in dummy, all East can do is win and shift to a heart, but declarer takes the heart ruff and plays on spades. Now when West wins and plays another diamond, declarer is a tempo ahead. He wins with the ace and plays a second trump. West will win and force declarer, who can ruff and draw the rest of the trump. He is reduced to a three-card ending with three clubs in each hand, and should know enough by then to play East for club length, finessing him for the queen.

This is one of the rare positions in standard bidding where it is not only acceptable but standard practice to rebid a three-card suit, without misleading your partner. After the negative double, you can jump to two spades with four spades and anything other than a dead minimum, so the one-spade call is quite consistent with three trumps and a hand unsuitable for a one-no-trump bid.


♠ J 8 2
 8 7
 A Q 6
♣ A J 10 7 5
South West North East
1♣ 1 Dbl. 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 ClimieJuly 18th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Hi Bobby,

In terms of the eventual club guess, a further indication is that East hasn’t got much of an overcall without the CQ, not that it’s exactly huge with it. There is also a lesson from the past.

Back in the 30s, the general approach was to lead top of partner’s suit. Although this often misfires, this is a case where it would work a treat; in similar manner, a player with KJxx (say) in partner’s suit and a fairly weak hand might lead the K after a very competitive auction to retain the lead and decide what to switch to next. I wonder how often such cases occur, and can you give any guidelines for spotting them?



Bobby WolffJuly 18th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Hi Iain,

Your comment and general enthusiasm for our game will eventually get around to discussing most of the important small differences and ingenuity which sometimes makes a decided difference in the overall result. This especially matters when relatively equal teams play, even a long match, since the law of averages tends to even out the luck allowing some small additional winning care to come up big in determining who wins and who doesn’t.

Yes, on today’s hand the lead of the jack of diamonds will get the job done, but most of us consider the jack as worth leading low from, but from the nine on down (with the ten being on the cusp), especially after supporting, it figures to be more revealing to partner to lead the highest. Sometimes, as luck would have it, (in this case leading the jack) will enable the leader to stay on lead, then issuing a mortal blow to the declarer, by being able to continue the suit, if declarer would unlikely decide to duck.

The problem though, is not so simple because sometimes the defense is better off with the original overcaller on lead at trick two and he would then not be able to overtake partner’s jack (as he might have with the nine or lower led).

In conclusion, sometimes the plans of both mice and men are determined by filthy luck rather than hoped for purpose, e.g. (leading the king from king jack fourth on opening lead) making us feel good when the result is brilliant, but devastated when the opposite occurs.

Thanks for presenting this subject, but be prepared (especially when playing a great deal of competitive bridge) for both good and not so, happening.

The late and great Edgar Kaplan used to write that the difference between daring and foolhardy is determined by the result and we, who are long in the tooth, have seen many examples of this, both ways, come to life.

Iain ClimieJuly 18th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Thanks for this and I like the Kaplan comment. An old friend had a variant – when he did well, it demonstrated how much bridge was a game of skill. When he did badly, he wondered why he spent his time on a game where (bad) luck struck so often.