Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

You should not honor men more than truth.


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


Generally speaking, when you have two or more touching honors in a suit, it is normal to lead one of them, while you tend to lead low when you have only a single honor. But, as always, using your brain rather than blindly following rules is a better idea.

When West decided to lead a spade, he did not expect to be on lead again, so he intelligently started with the jack. When this held the trick, he continued with a second spade to East’s king. East switched to a low heart, won, revealingly, with dummy’s queen.

Declarer next played a diamond to his queen, and could have succeeded now by cashing his hearts before continuing with diamonds. After taking his diamond and spade aces, East would have been endplayed to lead into dummy’s club tenace for the ninth trick. However, expecting that this line would set up too many winners for the defense, declarer decided to hope for a doubleton diamond ace. So he continued with a diamond to dummy’s king and then another diamond to East’s ace. East cashed the spade ace, but then had nothing left but clubs and hearts.

East could see that it was important now not to let declarer into his own hand. Covering all his bases, East shifted to the club king, and declarer had to go two down. Note that if he had instead played a low club, declarer would have won the trick with the jack, and he would have claimed the rest.

Your partner's call of two diamonds is the fourth suit, a forcing inquiry. It asks you to show support for your partner, rebid no-trump with a stopper in the fourth suit, or to show extra shape in either of your two long suits. Here, your diamond stopper is more than sufficient for a call of two no-trump. For the record, a bid of three no-trump would have shown 15-17.


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


jim2November 27th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

It would seem that declarer did not maximize his/her chances.

The QH winning was indeed revealing, but so was the KS. That is, cannot declarer be confident that the spade suit must be laid out as in the diagram? East played the 10S under the JS and would surely have allowed the 9S to also win if possible or, if the 8S was the second lead, would have overtaken with it with the 9S rather than squandering his majesty.

Let’s say declarer leads a third spade when in with the QH. East wins and plays what? I would guess a small red card. Let’s say it is a diamond (a heart is similar). The KD wins and a second diamond is now won in hand.

At this point, declarer cashes a second heart (if East had returned the diamond) and has won two hearts and two diamonds. There is a spade winner, a third heart, and the AC for seven tricks.

The diamonds would yield another two tricks, but this sequence has revealed them to be paste. A successful club finesse would produce only an eighth trick. Declarer’s only apparent chances are a fourth heart trick and the club finesse or an endplay of East after four heart tricks.

Thus, declarer would be forced into playing off the hearts, sucessfully.

In the four card ending, declarer would hold three diamonds and a club, while the board would have the 13th spade and AQx of clubs. Declarer could take the finesse and (if it won) cash the last spade and the AC for nine tricks. Or declarer could play a diamond and hope for the endplay.

The known hearts in the West would seem to make the endplay a slightly better line.

bobby wolffNovember 27th, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Hi Jim2,

Methinks your analysis is on target and likely the best judged, but, perhaps from experience, there was another vaguely possible combination not discussed.

The opening leader may have started life with the AJ98 of spades and since other leads were unattractive, (poor hearts with sparse entries) he chose the jack of spades (at least to me, a possible alternative since the length in spades figured to be in dummy. By declarer leading a 3rd spade would enable a club shift by West which would then lead to the setting trick if the king of clubs is where it is on this diagram.

Obviously this hand was chosen to feature the ending where East needed to lead the king of clubs rather than a low one to secure the set which in turn did demand the defense (East) “counting” declarer’s hand and doing so my making certain assumptions (declarer being 3-4-5-1 (the singleton jack).

While at the table, and especially playing against astute opponents, many hands unravel themselves like detective stories, with mostly facts as evidence (sure things) but usually at least one or more assumptions, based on the bidding and the play up to then.

All of this leads to what I would call the essence of the game, sometimes wrong, but more often right and often, even long after that hand has vanished into only memories, it can cause a talented and enthusiastic player emotional ups and downs which sometimes cruelly continues to haunt him and, believe it or not, lasting for many years.

This is particularly so when playing against a fellow competitive player, partnership or team who we take great delight in beating, but who in that case, came out the winner.

jim2November 27th, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Well, if West led the JS from that holding, then the line I suggested would instantly lose because the defense would have four spade tricks and the AD. I would note that a doubleton spade makes declarer’s fourth heart less likely to be a winner, but that is a small matter.

My larger point was that I believe declarer needed to begin the diamonds with the king. Thus, when the defense allows the second diamond to hold (as they must) declarer knows the diamond ace is NOT doubleton and must seek another line because there is no entry to the closed hand (w/o a defense miscue).

bobby wolffNovember 27th, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Hi Jim2,

West might be entryless (as the column verified) in order for the defense to take more than 2 spades, not either saying or implying that your line is inferior because of it.

However, no line that I can see, is superior to the one you suggest. Declarer’s play, right along with partnership defense, is based on evidence gleaned (not always conclusive) and certain assumptions which are usually necessary. Those players, whose judgment as to where the cards are and what the most likely distributions present based on the bidding, choice of opening lead, overall tempo and body actions (in practice, usually underestimated) and, at least, some knowledge of the various percentage tables printed, are all useful tools in making critical hand changing result decisions.

As I have said before, I believe the above is the most important single commodity in separating the very top players from each other in effectiveness.

jim2November 27th, 2013 at 9:19 pm

One last comment.

One recurring theme in bridge columns – including yours! – is the need to give some thought to the order of play within a suit. It seems “more natural” to lead towards an honor rather than lead off with one, but here that seems sub-optimum.

One classic example is looking for a 3-3 split with HHx facing Hxxx, where the natural play is to play the honor in the long holding on the third round, so as to be in the right hand to cash the long card. However, some column hands demonstrate that it might be vital to be in the other hand (the HHx one) after the third round, perhaps to take a finesse in another suit if the first suit fails to split.

I think this hand is another, though more subtle case. That is, declarer wants the KD unblocked and to be in the closed hand after the second round of diamonds so as to know the diamond suit situation at the crucial decision point. Thus, declarer should begin with the KD, instead of leading low towards the closed hand’s holding.

bobby wolffNovember 27th, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Hi Jim2,

To honor the great Greek, Plato’s famous quote, speaking and writing the truth is essential to credibility and you, Jim2 always do (at the very least, try).

Including this time when you discuss the playing of specific suit combinations and why. allowing me to agree as to the superiority of your line, and the likelihood of the spade suit being 3-3 originally, instead of my hypothetical and unlikely, 4-2.

And to acknowledge “Yacon syrup benefits” comment, he is so right in enabling bridge players to use their God given ability to think while playing our spectacular game, I again will say that your line appears to be the best one available, but leave it up to someone with superior analytical talent than me, to verify it.

Thanks to all who both play our game but also love it enough to think it through and contribute to others becoming better players.

Our commentators here on Bridgeblogging all appear to possess that quality, and at several different levels, and for that, I give a mighty and well deserved thank you.