Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 27th, 2014

Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but principally by catchwords.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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


West, a relative novice, had memorized the mantra "Cover an honor with an honor." And, in a more recent lesson he had learned the reasons for not covering the first of touching honors, and resolved to apply this too. But which of those pearls was he to apply when the lead came from the closed hand?

In spite of his being at the top end of his no-trump range, South, in three no-trump, could see little chance of coming to nine tricks. West led the diamond queen, and as no suit had been mentioned in the brief auction, declarer had no reason to believe this lead to be anything other than from a four-card or longer suit, so he wasn’t expecting an extra trick to materialize from diamonds. South would gladly have exchanged his spade jack for the heart nine and then would have played for split heart honors. But although he didn’t possess that luxury, it was to the heart suit that he turned as his only chance, legitimate or otherwise.

He won the diamond lead in hand, then immediately tabled the heart jack. West was in a quandary as to which of his mantras he should apply. Unfortunately for the defense, “Cover an honor with an honor” got his vote. Dummy’s ace captured the queen, and at the next trick declarer could play low toward his 10. East could make his king, but with hearts breaking 3-3, there were the extra two tricks that South sought.

The fact that the opponents have not bid to game suggests that your partner has something close to an opening bid, so that you should probably lead his suit. You might be more reluctant to make this lead if the opponents had bid to three no-trump. I can see the case for a top heart, a small diamond, or even an inspired spade eight here, but today I'll settle for the mundane top of my doubleton spade.


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


Iain ClimieFebruary 10th, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Hi Bobby,

Perhaps the key lesson here is not to overload learners with advice. Instead try “What is declarer angling for, and try to avoid it” might be vaguer but better. On the lead problem, I fear TOCM (TM) as the SQ will find declarer with SKJX opposite xx(x) while the spade 8 will ensure he has J10xx and pard has AK9xx(x).



jack bFebruary 10th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

how often does Bobby update this column

jack bFebruary 10th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

how often does Bobby update this website

jim2February 10th, 2014 at 3:22 pm

jack b –

Our Host responds to posts almost every day (indeed, multiple times a day), but the column hand is always two weeks behind the one printed in newspapers (due to contractual agreement, I suspect).

bobby wolffFebruary 10th, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Hi Iain,

Perhaps, but sometimes unrecognizable, we experienced players should step away from the daily bridge activities and realize the enigmas of the game itself.

What if South instead of J1072 in hearts held instead. KJx(x), and led the jack. Then West must cover or immediately lose a trick, because partner East had 1098(x) and as we can plainly see, not covering cost us.

However, with KJx(x) declarer would not have led the jack (assuming we, as West (or East) held our hand up) simply because that is the incorrect play with that combination. How do we learn such things and why? The answer is by much experience, possibly over 10 to 50 sessions of bridge playing, depending on our own numeracy quotient.

Is that a difficult part of the game? No, not really and can be explained by experience with declarer play itself, wherein we learn not to lead unsupported honors such as leading the queen from Qxx toward the Axx, but rather leading up to the ace and back to the queen hoping that the king is behind the ace and therefore in front of the queen.

Relative novices should not despair because playing bridge is like learning to ride a bicycle or, for that matter driving a car, once learned, never forgotten.

Much of bridge, especially in the play and defense, but also learning good judgment in the bidding (competitive kind) is determined by what one’s worthy opponents do or not do and thus is an important learning experience in life itself and will teach us important caveats in business and society.

Does anyone really doubt the advantage of teaching bridge in schools and if so, the above is a critical explainable reason? It, in many cases, teaches problem solving and logic in the all important category of dealing with the outside world (in this case, one’s opponents in bridge). What are we waiting for? Europe and Asia certainly are not!

bobby wolffFebruary 10th, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Hi Jack b,

I do not update my column on this site. The hands shown appeared two weeks ago and delivered to newspapers around the world in advance.

I merely join with my feeling and wonderful commentators on this site, answering questions and discussing hands, often delving deeper into them since space provided by the newspapers is obviously limited, not allowing much peripheral discussion on what can be, and often is, critical determinations, as to why.

Updating my site is not within my province as that is handled and I think quite well, by Ray Lee and his staff, at

bobby wolffFebruary 10th, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for filling in for me while I slept.

You might be targeted by TOCM, but you are of great help to friends.