Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 7th, 2014

Never say never, for if you live long enough, chances are you will not be able to abide by its restrictions.

Gloria Swanson

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


Let's look at how the play rates to go when West leads a heart against three no-trump, going to East's 10 and declarer's queen.

If declarer leads a diamond next, the defenders can afford to duck this, and that will not be enough to let declarer come to nine tricks.

It is a different story if declarer leads either a spade or a club at trick two. Let’s say declarer leads a club. I think it is somewhat more likely that West will duck, hoping his partner has the jack. When the club queen scores, declarer leads a spade to the jack and ace, wins the heart return in hand, leads a low diamond to the jack, comes back to hand with a spade and leads another low diamond toward dummy. West’s ace falls on empty air sooner or later, and declarer scores one club, two spades, and three tricks in each red suit.

Of course, if West flies up with his club ace at trick two and plays on hearts, declarer is dead in the water. Advantage to the defense? No, declarer has a resource, though a somewhat unlikely one, and it comes at trick one. He must duck the first trick — an apparently illogical play with three guards in the danger suit.

That leaves East on play. He will exit in spades, letting West win, and play a second heart. Declarer simply wins and knocks out the diamond ace, then the club ace, and has a painless nine tricks.

Don't be a point-counter, since not all 10-counts are created equal and this one ranks some way down the pecking order — in fact, almost at the bottom. When you are raising partner, a cue-bid shows a limit raise or better, a simple raise shows somewhat less than 10 HCP normally. But this hand is worth no more than a raise to two hearts, as some of your soft cards will surely prove to be irrelevant to partner.


♠ Q 7 4
 K 5 4
 Q J 8 7
♣ Q 10 2
South West North East
1♣ 1 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 21st, 2014 at 9:22 am

Hi Bobby,

Double dummy, west has a resource by leading the H J at trick 1, a crocodile coup. He’d have too pretend he mistook the H3 for the 10, though.


bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2014 at 11:38 am

Hi Iain,

As Henry Higgins said to Lisa Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” when she was converting to lose her Cockney accent by singing the “Rain in Spain stays mostly on the plain”, “By George you’ve got it”.

Except as a bridge writer, instead of the misread of having the 10 of hearts in hand, all we had to do was have North respond 1NT to the double and have South raise and North accept. Once the 10 of hearts would now be led, West could overtake and the race for establishment would then be won by the defense even if North would lead low diamonds twice from the dummy.

This simple hand should explain to the bright bridge beginner, the power of aces on defense and the sometimes need of leading partner’s original suit, even with a singleton (assuming North, rather than South, becomes declarer), when other leads do not look appealing.

It also contradicts the long accepted bromide of 2nd hand low on defense when West has to continually hop with aces as 2nd seat, in order to gain the right tempo to scuttle declarer’s effort to score up his nine tricks, that is, unless West, not East wins the first heart.

A beautiful bridge hand which points out in hearts (instead of the proverbial spades) the advantage of the defense controlling the tempo instead of the opposite.

Leading first from one’s longest and strongest wins the day if the hand is played by South, but how to explain it can only be justified by you, with the real reason for doing it, a croc of something, even if its next two syllables could be called “o dile”.

bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2014 at 11:47 am

OOPs, plain should be “plane”. Others, especially Rex Harrison (an unforgettable Henry Higgins), would never forgive me!

Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 21st, 2014 at 3:20 pm


You should have awakened me. You were right the first time!

Bill CubleyFebruary 21st, 2014 at 3:47 pm


It is not illogical to duck the ten of hearts. How can West open without all three aces? You can see 27 HCP in hand and in dummy. That only leaves 13 HCP. And I have not finished my first cup of coffee.

I was glad to read Bob Hamman only wanted to murder Zia and Sam Lev and not you as Sportsman of the Year.

David WarheitFebruary 22nd, 2014 at 2:55 am

Ordinarily, S’s duck at trick one would be very difficult, and possibly either not necessary or even wrong. But given the fact that W opened the bidding, and specifically bid 1H, he must have 5 hearts (nobody opens the bidding 1 of a major with J987) and he must almost certainly have the missing 3 aces. Why, it’s playin’ as the nose on (West’s) face! (Even if he’s not Spanish.)

Herreman RFebruary 22nd, 2014 at 1:11 pm

I must be missing something….
returning diamonds at trick 2, seems so much more efficient than any of the blacks.