Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 10th, 2014

I court others in verse: but I love thee in prose:
And they have my whimsies, but thou hast my heart.

Matthew Prior

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


The most straightforward hands sometimes offer a chance for whimsy. In this deal from last year's trials for the national squad to go to Bali, most North-South pairs ended up in three no-trump, here after a strong no-trump by South. If a diamond is led, the defense will surely take the first five tricks, but on any other lead, the contract rolls home.

However, declarer has a curious resource if the diamond seven and eight are interchanged between the South and East hands to produce the diagram as shown. (In real life those cards were switched). Now, when West leads the diamond five to East’s queen — a much better play than the ace at the first trick if partner has jack-third in diamonds — South follows with the deuce. East returns the diamond six and South imaginatively follows with the JACK!

West wins the king perforce, and returns his remaining diamond, the nine. If West started with an original K-9-8-5, East must duck now to avoid blocking the suit and taking only four tricks. On the other hand, if West started with K-9-5, East must take his queen to avoid taking only three tricks in the suit.

There is no scientific way around this problem. If you sacrifice potentially useful spot cards on opening lead to avoid blockages, you will cost yourself tricks in other more normal layouts of the cards. The simple solution is to hope that you do not come up against declarers who are as ingenious as today’s.

When the opponents intervene over Stayman, double from both sides of the table should be penalty, and this is no exception. You don't have to get overly involved here; pass and await developments — and expect them to be gory.


♠ A 2
 J 8 7 6
 10 4
♣ A 9 7 5 3
South West North East
1 NT Pass
2♣ 2 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Herreman RJanuary 24th, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Bridge is beautyful !

bobby wolffJanuary 24th, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Hi R,

My yes, and thanks for recognizing it.

Any declarer who produces a play, such as the diamond jack, on the 2nd lead is truly nothing less than a bridge genius and likely had not seen that significant possible card block before, but was only attempting to muddy the waters, and succeeded in “spades” or to be exact in “diamonds”.

Of course, most declarers, certainly including me, would be expecting diamonds to be 4-4 between the defensive hands, therefore providing only a small glitch on the way to NS making their game.

All of a sudden reality would set in, the opponents would err (if one could be so harsh as to call it that) and all the bridge writers would go bananas recognizing the hero.

Then someone would wake up from the wonderful dream he was experiencing, and think to himself, “What might have been?”

Such is what bridge columns sometimes consist, when imagination inspires originality. but never underestimate the potential for our wonderful pastime to be unique.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonJanuary 24th, 2014 at 6:24 pm

HBJ : Just an observation, but if holding K95 and being of a mind to lead the suit, then I would lead the 9 ! For leading the 5 might suggest a four card holding ?
When East finds his queen winning the trick , he should continue the suit , and then there’s no problem for the defence to cash out 4 more winners.
East must know that West holds the King or the jack because otherwise South with K/J would have taken the queen with absolute glee.

bobby wolffJanuary 25th, 2014 at 2:59 am


Right you are, providec partner does not think you are leading from no honor with the 9 the top card in diamonds from your hand.

Many play that way, in order to then let partner to know what to expect. However, if EW have an understanding that a middle type card can be from three to an honor, then partner at least will have a good clue as to what to do, although he won’t be able to be sure, but on this hand it would work out just fine.

Sometimes foresight and hindsight both lead to the same result, but when they don’t, it is usually both parties who
think the other one is wrong.

Thanks for your insight!

“McGully is dead and McGinny don’t know it, MiGinny is dead and McGully don’t know it, they are both in the bed, the very same bed, and neither one knows that the other is dead.”