Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 17th, 2014

'If everybody minded their own business,' said the Duchess in a hoarse growl, 'the world would go round a deal faster than it does.'

Lewis Carroll

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


Today's deal offers an intriguing red herring, but if you focus on the essentials, you will not get it wrong.

As South you should jump to four spades over the opponents’ opening bid of one heart. Yes, you might buy short spades and long clubs opposite, but even if you do, your spades are almost self-supporting, and playing a minor takes you up a level. Additionally, you give far less information away with an auction of this sort than you do if you start with an action such as a Michaels Cue-bid.

Suppose you achieve your target — being doubled in four spades. Dummy may not offer quite as much as you had hoped for, but you ruff the opening lead and play the club 10 from hand, which West wins. That player continues with a second heart, and you ruff away East’s jack. Now what?

You must avoid the Greek gift of playing to ruff a club in dummy. If you do so, you will then have to shorten your trumps to get back to hand, and you will find that you will have to surrender trump control — and with it, the contract.

Better is to ignore the club ruff and simply to play the spade ace and jack. The defense will do best to win and shorten you again, but you can draw the last trump and then knock out the club ace, making your contract when that suits breaks 3-3 and spades are 3-2.

It looks clear to lead a club, but which one is best? In my book leading a small club rates to protect against more positions (such as those where partner has a doubleton honor) than leading a top club, which tends to gain only when declarer or dummy has a doubleton club jack and partner has the 10.


♠ Q 10 2
 J 4
 K 8 5
♣ K Q 9 4 3
South West North East
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


Shantanu RastogiMarch 31st, 2014 at 11:39 am

Dear Mr Wolff

I also like 4 spades bid as it has induced a double when 5 heart double is just two down 3 spades & a club losers. So one tends to gain 7 IMPs. But what if North holds 4 carder Club to Ace or King along with singleton spade. Then 6 Club is on. But my guess is that partner is anyway marked with Diamond length and possibly heart length also so club fit may not be there but if suppose west competes with 5 hearts in some different layout should you with these cards keep bidding 6 Clubs on the reasons I’ve already mentioned.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Shantanu RastogiMarch 31st, 2014 at 11:58 am

Pls read-

if suppose west competes with 5 hearts and north passes in some different layout ……

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffMarch 31st, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Your questions are very relevant and important to understand, even if by so doing, you still are left in some doubt.

There is no eliminating all risk or even much doubt, especially in competitive bidding, while playing bridge, against reasonably high-level competition. For example, once one bids 4 spades over 1 heart by an opponent and they then compete to the 5 level, it will not be a percentage action to branch off into clubs since partner’s reason for not competing may have little to do with his short or maybe not, spade length. He just may not have many high cards, perhaps only the isolated king of clubs which will work beautifully with your hand, but repeating spades will keep your contract one level lower, oft times a critical factor.

One learns fierce competition at the table and that experience is worth more than reading many bridge books on technical play.

Good luck with your up elevator on the way to loving bridge even more.

Iain ClimieMarch 31st, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the lead problem, to what extent are you influenced by the presence of outside potential entries? If the hand had no high cards except the CKQ9xx, would you be more or less likely to lead a small card – or no different?



Howard Bigot-JohnsonMarch 31st, 2014 at 5:38 pm

HBJ : Declarer can afford to lose 2 clubs and 1 spade for the contract, and therefore needs to get busy on clubs.
If at the first opportunity he plays the club 10 then surely most Wests will duck it letting partner in to take the trick with the with the Ace Queen or Jack ? ….Especially if East held 3 clubs to the queen ? Rising with the king could easily expose East to a finesse on clubs ?
If this happens then declarer now has a ruffing finesse position on clubs, which must give him an extra chance of bringing home the contract.
Sitting west , would you have risen with the King and why ?

Bill CubleyMarch 31st, 2014 at 5:52 pm


Suppose the ace of diamonds is led and ruffed, the club 10 is ducked to East who tries to cash a heart. Club ruff to dummy and the king of diamonds is ruffed by East. Which gets us back to your opening words to keep the final goal in sight.

bobby wolffMarch 31st, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Hi Iain,

Sure, many factors play tricks (or perhaps illusions) with the mind, which cause one choice or the other. Only perhaps, with no other sign of an entry, I would lead a small one in hopes partner has the ace, so that I may take a maximum number of clubs, but then if I was playing matchpoints and others could easily be facing the same trap, a difference of one trick, can be easily exhilarating or devastating.

The only sure answer I have to relate is that thinking a long time and then choosing usually does not increase the times one is correct in his final choice. I have nothing to hang one’s hat on, so decide quickly and either sleep in the streets or the penthouse, but at the very least, you will stop a good declarer from reading your long pause and allow him to make incorrect declarer assumptions more often.

Sorry to not be more definite, but it only shows how astute you are in sensing difficult decisions.

Good luck!

bobby wolffMarch 31st, 2014 at 7:31 pm


No, I am likely to duck the ten of clubs by declarer, if, for no other reason, is that I would not want to lead away from my king of spades in order to stop the declarer from ruffing the next club. Of course, I hope that declarer is not leading from AQJ10, but why he would choose to lead the 10 doesn’t ring clear, so I will discount that possibility.

Perhaps SJ Simon would have his beloved character, Mrs. Guggenheim, lead her 4th best club, mixing up her learned rules or perhaps Victor Mollo might instead use his famed Rabbit to cause serendipity, when his LHO obviously would duck. However, reality being what it is, yes I would duck.

bobby wolffMarch 31st, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Hi Bill,

Sometimes atrocious defense doesn’t even cost since the clubs will be established long before the small ones will be played.

Bridge will always continue to require and produce different type defenses with a constant theme of the better players figuring out better what to do.

Yes the goal in sight is always defeating a contract for the defense and the opposite of that for the declaring side, but, as always, only one will achieve it.

Thanks for writing.

David WarheitApril 1st, 2014 at 2:49 am

Shanatu: I believe that 5H is only down one. S leads CQ. E wins in dummy with the K & plays 4 rounds of H with the finesse. E then leads a S. S wins and leads another club. N discards & E wins the A. E now leads his D & ducks in dummy. N wins and cashes his HQ but now must lead a D, allowing E to discard his C & S losers. Same result if S, when in with the SA, leads a S to dummy’s K instead of a C.

Shantanu RastogiApril 2nd, 2014 at 1:35 pm


You are correct. But I referred to best defence of Ace of Spades & back. Now 5 Heart doubled is two down. Since partner has not joined Spades and has doubled 5 Heart he is likely to be short in Spades so Spade lead is not far fetched either.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Shantanu RastogiApril 2nd, 2014 at 1:47 pm


My mistake. On Spade ace lead also the contract is one down provided diamonds are played the way you’ve mentioned. Only thing is if after ruffing spade king North returns a heart and after winning in dummy doesnt play one or two clubs to strip North then perhaps contract can be taken two down.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi