Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 26th, 2014

I'll be with you in the squeezing of a lemon.

Oliver Goldsmith

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

*Invitational with five spades, unbalanced


When there is a long solid suit in dummy — or even one that looks as if it will set up easily — it often pays to grab whatever tricks might be available to the defense before they disappear.

Today’s deal cropped up in the European Champions Cup of 2007. Against four spades, West led his singleton club, won in dummy. Then declarer called for the trump two, to the three, jack and queen. Seeking to put his partner on lead for the club ruff, West continued with the diamond queen. Dummy played low, as did East. A second diamond went to the king and ace and was ruffed by South, who proceeded to knock out the trump ace. Now East’s club return was too late. West was fresh out of trump, and South’s third heart departed on dummy’s fifth club.

At the second table, the play to the first two tricks replicated those at the other table. But when West, Albert Faigenbaum, returned the diamond queen at trick three and declarer called for dummy’s six, Michel Bessis rose with the ace and delivered the club ruff that set the contract. He had noted the danger of dummy’s clubs and also took into consideration the lead itself. Surely a diamond lead, from a suit headed by the queen and jack would have been preferable, unless West’s club lead was a singleton.

Incidentally, should West have shifted to a low diamond at trick three to avoid this particular dilemma for East? I think so.

When you know that suits are not behaving for declarer, you should aim to make a passive lead. Here, trumps are breaking badly, and it is unlikely that declarer can set up dummy's diamonds. A spade is your best shot. My preference would be the seven if playing fourth-highest leads, and second from bad suits.


♠ 9 7 6 5
 Q J 10 6
 Q J 8 5
♣ 3
South West North East
Pass 2 Pass 2
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 ClimieJune 9th, 2014 at 11:09 am

Hi Bobby,

In terms of west’s later lead, should he lead the jack denying the queen and forcing east to get it right whether declarer plays the DK or a small one? If you lead a small diamond, east might get the idea that declarer has misguessed with Kx opposite. Jx and play a diamond back. If declarer plays the SK on the first trump of course he gets unfairly lucky.



Bobby WolffJune 9th, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Hi Iain,

Your “jack” of diamonds switch is truly an ingenious one and may only fail with a combination of unusual circumstances, South to have a doubleton small diamond holding and 5 spades, to the ace jack nine, and least likely with that particular holding deciding to duck the diamond jack in dummy, tempting East to rise with his ace, give the ruff, but lose the setting diamond trick in the process.

Stranger things have happened, but if they have in bridge, some bridge playing Robert Ripley has reported it in his “Believe it or Not” feature.

Delving deeper, it seems declarer, if suspecting a club singleton with West (and when East follows with the deuce) he should, since the possible 72 holding by West just vanished, rise with the spade king on the first round, in an effort to prevent losing 2 spade tricks, the diamond ace and a club ruff. However East had only one opportunity to legally signal West where his red suit ace was located and the deuce probably did that, (if his partner was watching), rather than either the 10 or the 8.

However, to add to the confusion, was the European’s Champion Cup (the event in which this hand appeared) a matchpoint or an IMP event, which certainly may have had an influence on the spade honor played by declarer and, of course, the location of the diamond ace.

Like Jim2 often has said, “My head starts hurting” and so does mine as would many readers when considering all the factors.

Shantanu RastogiJune 9th, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Dear Mr Wolff

If North is declarer via transfer , I’m not too sure if East can lead a club until unless NS announce their Club fit as well. Other major fanatics would most likely lead a heart making things all to simple for declarer. However, constructing a sequence for NS for North to reach 4 Spades without announcing club fit appears to be tough at the outset.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Bobby WolffJune 9th, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Obviously, when NS bid their hands, they would have no way of knowing (unless they made up the hands which might be thought to be rather unusual) just who had the singleton club, if either.

Therefore all we can do is report what happened with the actual layout which occurred in an important European tournament.

However that doesn’t mean there is not a learning experience worth considering.

Let us assume that East is on lead via a transfer sequence, but since West did not double 2 hearts (the transfer bid) East decided to choose a low club with his partner contributing his “lone” seven, driving out the king (whatever falsecard the declarer chose to win the first trick with).

Should East deduce that partner’s seven is a singleton? By George, YES, since 3rd seat play would demand partner to not “finesse” his opening leading partner and if holding the 76 doubleton should by rote play the lower one.

Since he did not, presto, magico West is marked with a singleton seven, but, in order to defeat the hand East might duck the low spade lead to dummy, but if partner wins the queen and then switches to the queen of diamonds (a possible play, but obviously a low diamond is better) and declarer follows low, then East should overtake with the ace and continue with another club allowing partner to ruff for the setting trick.

Good card reading by East, but to not do so would have been a “black” charge in the long ago value system used by the “Aces” in determining fault when the hands soon after a match were critiqued and, if someone would not have overtaken the queen of diamonds with the ace (singleton seen in the dummy) and given the club ruff, he would have been charged for his devastatingly poor play.

For what it is worth, it is practically impossible, once North opens 1NT for them to find their club fit, since with one, but not slam going values, it is better for that partnership to only consider a major suit or NT game.

The trick, of course, is for the opening leader to read what happened at trick one as partner beginning life on this hand with a club singleton.

Peter PengJune 9th, 2014 at 5:25 pm

hi Mr. Wolff

Last week I had 17 points in 5 spades and 5 diamonds, plus a H and 2C. When opps opened 1H, I did not bid Michaels because I thought that a double first and then if possible either bid and rebid both suits or cue bid hearts would show the stronger hand, but partner thought I should have bid Michaels first. Should I show strength first and distribution later or distribution first?
Thanks for your thoughts on this matter.

Bobby WolffJune 9th, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Hi Peter,

Even though you may be relatively new to bridge (I have no way of knowing) you need to have an adventurous spirit and at least once in a while, blaze your own way.

Although Michaels is often used with lesser hands (than 17 points) it is usually more important to at least imply 5-5 distribution, including the other major (when a major suit is opened by the opponents), therefore I opt to advise you to cue bid 2 hearts (using Michaels).

If partner bids in a minimum way, feel free to raise him (never with only around a minimum, about 10-13 points) one level, to let him know that you were stronger than he first anticipated.

To, instead choose a takeout double with 5-5 is much too awkward and therefore not my choice since partner will not realize that you are instead a 2 suiter with at least 5 in both suits.

Call it a lesser of evils choice, which, during your hoped for long bridge career, you will fall victim to often, simply because it is closest to the right percentage action.

Good luck, but I refuse to offer insurance to cover you when it doesn’t work.

Iain ClimieJune 9th, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the reply and also the worst case scenario where the DJ could misfire if tried. We’d probably be OK but TOCM could claim a well known victim if Jim2 found the play – or his partner would duck if he led the DQ. He deserves a break!


le_valet_de_piqueJune 17th, 2014 at 2:05 pm

I wonder whether at trick two, declarer should go up with the trump king, as more often preventing the subsequent club ruff.