Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 31st, 2014

'The game,' he said, 'is never lost till it's won.'

George Crabbe

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

*Game-forcing spade raise


North-South have a big spade fit and a decent number of high-cards, but with matching red-suit shapes and wasted values in spades, game is a fairly delicate spot.

When West leads the club five against four spades, declarer has to finesse at once, with prospects extremely slim if it fails. However, when dummy’s queen wins the trick, he is in good shape to bring home the game if he is careful. Before you read on, have a look at the full deal and consider what your best plan is.

At the table declarer drew trump, then relied on the diamonds to behave, and was disappointed at the result. In essence South was following a 50 percent line. Instead, after drawing trump, play the club ace and ruff a club, eliminating that suit altogether, and then play ace and another heart.

The defenders can take their two heart winners, but will then have to break the diamonds or give a ruff and discard. As the cards lie, the best the defenders can do is to have East win the third heart and play a low diamond, but declarer will put in the 10 and cannot misguess on the next round. Without seeing all four hands, West would probably win the third heart and lead a low diamond, playing his partner for the A-10. Either way, declarer comes home with his game, remembering that it is always better to have the opponents lead a critical suit than to have to broach it yourself.

The lead of the spade ace may not cost, but it does not feel right to go after such a broken suit. (Declarer's spade losers will go away only if declarer can run clubs for discards.) A trump feels no safer, so I guess I'm forced to lead a low club, though I can't say I like it.


♠ A J 9 6 3
 J 7
 A J 8
♣ Q 5 3
South West North East
1♠ Dbl. 2♠ 3
Pass 4 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 ClimieApril 14th, 2014 at 9:45 am

Hi Bobby,

On the lead problem, would you lead a trump rather than a club with (say) Hxx or, more likely, Hxxx and a club less?



bobby wolffApril 14th, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Hi Iain,

Like Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady”, I would exclaim “You (instead of she) got it, by George she got it (while Lisa was losing her Cockney accent singing the “Rain in Spain lies (stays) mostly on the plain”) the reason why I would shy away from leading either the Jack or from in the trump suit, since my (and likely many others) who have lived to regret losing a trump trick, or at least a possible difficult guess for a “fortunate” declarer who received a gift from his opening leader.

As you know every bit as well as I, that a defense which, while aggressive many times on opening lead, tries mightily to not wreak havoc with the defense on opening lead, although the majesty of bridge, sometimes opening leads, virtually demand it. Leading the jack of trumps or away from it often loses if one’s partner possesses either the ace, king or queen causing us to tiptoe away from so doing and choose other (what, at least, appears to be from my eye, a low club, away from the queen) less dangerous choice.

Often, the so-called advantage of the (blind) opening lead going to the defense, is, indeed instead, a terminal disadvantage.

Thank you for allowing a discussion (which you so often do) of this underrated vital subject.