Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 7th, 2014

If it weren't for greed, intolerance, hate, passion and murder, you would have no works of art, no great buildings, no medical science, no Mozart, no Van Gogh, no Muppets and no Louis Armstrong.

Jasper Fforde

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


Declarer was confronted with a problem here that might have defeated a better player than he. After an uninformative auction to three no-trump, West led from his long suit. South took no time at all to put up dummy's club 10 and win a cheap club trick, but with that play he had given up his best legitimate play for the contract.

The heart blockage meant declarer had just three tricks in both hearts and clubs, so needed to set up a second spade trick. When he ducked East’s spade jack at trick two, that player astutely shifted to a diamond, clearing the suit. When he got in with spades, he cashed the long diamond.

The solution is disarmingly simple — if you look at the problem correctly. The nine tricks declarer should try to take are four hearts, three clubs, and two aces. In order to create an entry to dummy’s hearts, play low from dummy at trick one, and win the trick in hand with a high club. By preserving your two low clubs, you can then play to unblock the heart honors from hand and lead a low club toward dummy to force an entry to the board.

Curiously, after his actual play, declarer can come close to making if he plays the spade ace at trick six. West must unblock his king, and now when declarer cashes the top clubs, East must reciprocate by discarding his spade queen to let West win the spade 10!

Although it might sound likely that partner has spade length and declarer club length here, dummy (or even declarer) could still have four spades, and nobody has really bid clubs in this auction yet, since East has probably just opened a convenient minor. Clubs are much more likely to develop the tricks for your side to beat their game so lead the club three.


♠ Q 8 3 2
 10 5
 9 5
♣ A Q 10 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 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


Iain ClimieJuly 21st, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the lead hand, I take your point about the club lead but, if the holding were slightly stronger (AQ109x) which card would you lead? If declarer were known to be the strong hand (e.g. Opening or rebidding 2N) I suspect there is a case for the Q despite TOCM giving dummy Jxx and declarer Kx(x) – or worse, xxx!



jim2July 21st, 2014 at 5:36 pm

On the lead hand, there sure are a lot of diamonds missing.

Iain ClimieJuly 21st, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Hi Jim2, Bobby,

There is a school of thought that says lead diamonds if they bid 1C 1H 1N (and play in NT at this or higher levels) and lead a heart if the auction starts 1D 1S 1N, assuming only opponents bid). Is there anything in this?


bobby wolffJuly 21st, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Hi Iain,

Your comment allows much room for discussion, but most likely, not ending with a firm agreement.

You, as usual, are on point with the few specific card combinations you cite, and the TOCM (theory of card migration) which could sabotage even the best intentions.

In addition, when holding suits including the 98 (usually for clarity including the 7, eg Q987 or from any major honor, except the 10) being able to sometimes encircle the 10 in dummy (for maximum trick taking) makes leading the 9 the better choice, with the downside of sometimes fooling partner about not holding any card above the 9 (sometimes a really important bit of knowledge to rely on), which such a card often would indicate.

The above subject would never be complete without the discussion of the surrounding play when, usually from a defensive standpoint (but obviously also sometimes as declarer), with, for example the 10xx being on one’s right, usually (again for clarity) and holding either the AJ9 or the KJ9 that player needs to lead the jack, in case the declarer (or, as the case might be) the defender has the queen and partner the other high card (K or A).

Card combination strategy at all levels of bridge contributes mightily to winning and losing, making knowledge all important, but with it, comes the necessity for also being adept at figuring out scientifically from the evidence gleaned, who is likely to hold which specific cards.

To attempt to get deeper into this challenging subject will only discourage those who have miles to go before they sleep, but at this point we all should begin to understand the mental wonders associated with this superior card game.

Thanks for your always to the point and often provocative, contributions.

bobby wolffJuly 21st, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

There is a full chapter in the late and great Helen Sobel’s long ago (perhaps 65+ years) book “All The Tricks” entitled “What has happened to diamonds)? It sang a sad song about the suit not being bid as much as the others and why.

However, at least I think, that being a paltry minor suit, the money has flowed to both majors and, of course, the grand daddy, NT, causing diamonds to be downplayed, if not totally ignored.

That, of course applies mostly to the bidding, so in some ways as a defender, even when diamonds or not bid, keeping in mind that usually 13 of them are present somewhere, they often turn up uninvited in either dummy’s or declarer’s hand without ever an indication.

Should we beware the pair who does not bid diamonds or should we bear respect to what others have advised? Only the Shadow knows and Lamont, himself, has ceased to explain.