Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

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

*Four-card spade fit and a nonminimum hand


Consider the play in four spades here, after an uninformative auction.

West starts by leading the heart jack to East’s ace, and a heart comes back. You win the trick in hand and presumably plan to draw as many rounds of trump as is appropriate, ending in hand. With three minor-suit losers looming if the cards are unfavorably located, can you see how to turn a good contract into an excellent one?

The answer is to lead the first trump to the jack, ruff dummy’s heart, then draw the second trump with the queen, (leaving a trump outstanding if it is West who has the length) and now lead a club to the eight, rather than to dummy’s jack.

Why? Well the answer is that when East takes the trick, he is guaranteed to be endplayed. He can only give you a ruff and discard (in which case you ruff in hand and pitch a diamond from dummy) or lead back a club or a diamond into dummy’s tenaces. Whichever minor he plays, you have the communication to be able to ensure that you lose only one more diamond trick, thus making your contract.

By contrast, if you had led a club to the jack as your first play in the suit, East would have won his queen and returned the suit. When clubs failed to break, you would have had to fall back on the diamond ace being onside. And when that chance also failed to come through for you, you would have been sunk.

Leading an unsupported ace is something you should try to avoid if there are viable alternatives, but today nothing else looks better. It may be that leading the heart ace will simply let you work out what you should have done, but there is no other choice that seems remotely attractive.


♠ Q 7 4
 A 10 5 2
 J 6
♣ Q 9 4 3
South West North East
1♣ 1 1♠
2 Pass Pass 2♠
3 3♠ 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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonJuly 22nd, 2013 at 6:19 pm

HBJ : hi there….I know the odds are long but is there any merit in going for a squeeze against East ? After 2 hearts, a heart ruff and 5 spades East, as the cards lie, might well come down to AJ and Q96 of clubs.
Now with two top clubs and a throw in to East with the queen of clubs, declarer will now make his king of diamonds.
If East keeps 3 clubs and two bare red Aces, then declarer on trick 9 can exit with a low diamond. East can enjoy his 2 red aces but must concede 3 club tricks.
Just a thought…..having the benefit of seeing all 4 hands.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonJuly 22nd, 2013 at 7:00 pm

HBJ : Correction to the above……I meant 2 red suit winners (with Eas)t.
If on taking the Ace of diamonds, East puts West in with a heart winner. West must either lead a diamond to dummy’s king or play clubs allowing declarer to succeed by sticking in the 8.

Bobby WolffJuly 22nd, 2013 at 7:21 pm


By all means, like a great explorer, you have discovered the fountain of magic and should stick your chest out for all medals anyone wants to pin.

However, you have brought your transparent cards with you, either that, or your X Ray vision can see right through them.

No doubt you will have made the game, but by doing as the column suggested, you will also succeed even though your eyesight is only 20/200 and with no known other Superman power, except an excellent knowledge of card combinations and the talent to create winning end situations.

However, do not, under any circumstances, throw your super powers away, since the next hand played, will, no doubt, require them to succeed.

Thank you for having such a vivid imagination to go along with a keen eye, which you always add to all your comments.

Bob HerremanJuly 23rd, 2013 at 10:42 am

On LwA

yep, I see a spade lead cannot be good, and diamond risks to set up the suit for opponents…

But please, what could be wrong with a club lead ? Or be worse than a Heart Ace lead ?

Thank you for some insight please.

Bobby WolffJuly 23rd, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Hi Bob,

No doubt, opening leads are only educated guesses, made so by being blind and, of course, before seeing dummy.

But remember, that West, not East was the opening leader because of the transfer bid to spades by dummy, which made South the declarer. Therefore West did have a solid sequence in hearts, (J109), usually a recommended choice.

Comparing bridge to a stage play, many times the action only begins after the opening scene is taken for granted to set the mood, since all experienced players soon learn that no one, no matter how good, will have what could be called, an unblemished record with his initial thrust.

I’m offering nothing anywhere near brilliance for advice, only bridge realism.

Bobby WolffJuly 23rd, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Hi Bob,

Upon rereading my advice, I have missed your intent, since you were referring to the LWTA, not the column hand.

Strangely some of my above comment does still apply about the blindness of the lead, and while talking about a club lead, LHO has bid the suit and when we lead it, we give the opponents the advantage since by either you or your partner being on lead allows the opponents to be able to play 2nd and 4th to a trick instead of 1st and 3rd.

That above advantage is perhaps the highest percentage edge either partnership ever gets, so when the opening lead sometimes offers great opportunity for being right, it also, sadly, also presents an almost equal choice to be as wrong as it can be. Here the heart ace lead only figures to be wrong if the declarer was dealt the king of hearts and that likelihood probably is anti-percentage.

Sorry for my gaffe and good luck with your opening lead choices.