Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart.

Edgar Allan Poe

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


One general tenet of defense is to lead low cards from honors and high cards from poor suits. Obviously this is a good general rule, but, as always, rules are no substitute for thought. Cover up the West and South hands on today's deal and plan the defense against three no-trump before reading on.

West leads the club five. You, East, win your ace, declarer dropping the queen. What is your best chance of defeating this game?

At the table, one East switched to the heart six. Declarer played low and West’s jack won the trick. West continued with another heart to the nine, queen and king. Note that even if East had been able to gain the lead to play a third round of the suit, declarer could simply duck East’s eight, preventing the defense from taking two more tricks in the suit. As it was, declarer won the heart king and played on clubs. West ducked twice, but declarer pressed on with clubs, guaranteeing his contract. In fact, he ended up with 10 tricks.

At the other table, East, realizing that he was likely to be on lead for the one and only time that hand, tried the effect of switching to the heart queen. This worked like a dream. Declarer covered with the king and West won his ace. He then continued with the heart jack and a third round of the suit, East’s eight forcing the 10. When West gained the lead with the club king, he could cash the heart seven for one down.

There is no reason to accept the invitation to game with an unsatisfactory club-holding and a weak spade stopper. If your partner's clubs were semisolid, he would surely have bid three no-trump at his last turn. However, your spade stopper is uncomfortably feeble, so let three clubs go. With the spade 10 in addition, you might consider looking for no-trump.


♠ Q 8 6 3
 Q 8 6
 J 6 5 4 2
♣ A
South West North East
Pass 1♣ 1♠
1 NT Pass 3♣ 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 12th, 2014 at 10:08 am

Hi Bobby,

My concern here is that the H10 and HJ are swapped and partner leads a small H not the 10 at trick 3! To be fair, declarer may still get home if the H10 is played, he wins, and the suit is blocked but which combinations of heart holdings work best for the different leads? If south has HA10xx for example, the queen fails but a small heart might work although the H8 (if pard reads it) may be better yet. Any thoughts?



jim2February 12th, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Iain –

On the “what if”s of swapping 10s for Js, look what happens if you do that in spades.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

Yes, card combinations, both as declarer and on defense, often make a major difference in the end result, especially when the trick involved is either the clincher for declarer or the setter for the defense.

If East in this subject hand had both the ace and king of clubs, but still got a club lead, then perhaps the eight as an unblocking play would have been the card of choice to lead through declarer originally, preparing for regaining the lead eventually in clubs to lead the heart through after partner had won the first heart and continued a second one to the queen and king.

In today’s hand the poor declarer would go down for the count at the death, because of his lowly 4 and 3.

I’ll leave it for the superior bridge technical experts to analyze all possible heart combinations with both South and West having 4 and East having 3.

Our intuition should tell us East should lead the queen originally when having no immediate entry (or sometimes almost), but lead a small one instead when having an entry (such as both the ace king of clubs) and also consider an unblock (the eight) when then leading a small card instead of the queen.

Not all players would consider this hard work as fun, but they do come up fairly frequently and defensive guidelines should be discussed. Of course, since other hands are hidden sometimes all the knowledge and proper execution are in vain, but winning at the high-level demands proper defense and no one is exempt from having to do the right thing at the crucial time.

Yes Jim2, that swap might give declarer options to make the hand, in spite of the defender’s best shot.

BryanFebruary 12th, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Does South have to go meekly to the slaughter? After the hearts. if he suspects West has both the heart and club, could he see playing in Diamonds and spades? For example lead to AD, 10D, spade to J, cash AS, top D, exit 5th D and the forced spade return brings it in. Easy to see double dummy, but as a player when my A plan for 3NT goes off track, what clues is there to make a switch?

jim2February 12th, 2014 at 6:02 pm

I saw that but East can hardly miss the endplay and can pitch the JD early. This gives declarer 2S+1H+5D=8 and South will have to lead a round card for West to take the last two tricks. That’s why I said the 10S and JS had to be switched. It works then.

That is:

– AD
– 10D
– AS

Now East has no recourse on the run of the diamonds.

jim2February 12th, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Actually, that may not be the right line. It’s been two weeks since I last looked at it. I just seem to recall that switching the two spades seemed to allow a winning line.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Hi Bryan,

Jim2 explained what he referred to earlier. It proves two things:

1. Where there is a will there are usually both relatives and in another sense, a great deal of accurate analysing to do.

2. We, here at, all have to get up very early in the morning (figuratively and literally) to out think Jim2.

Poor fellow, since he is afflicted with TOCM tm he has to play perfectly just to achieve average.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Hi everyone,

I was referring to the jettison of the jack of diamonds, which idea belongs to Jim2.

The jack and 10 of spades appears not to make a difference, although if the ace and king were transposed and the spade spots different, they might.

jim2February 12th, 2014 at 9:46 pm

I should start writing myself notes or something when I do “what if”s on the print version so that I can have them in front of me when they appear here two weeks later. Back then, I thought swapping the 10S and JS would work, but my head hurts now when I try to rediscover it!