Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 28th, 2014

'You oughtn't to yield to temptation.'
‘Well, somebody must, or the thing becomes absurd.’

Anthony Hope

South North
Neither ♠ 10 8 3
 K Q 3
♣ Q J 10 9 8 7
West East
♠ A K J 6 5 2
 8 6 2
 K 9 8 4
♣ —
♠ 7
 9 7 5 4
 Q 6 5
♣ K 5 4 3 2
♠ Q 9 4
 A J 10
 A J 7 3 2
♣ A 6
South West North East
1 NT 2♠ 3♣ Pass
3 NT All pass    


Here is a defensive problem for you this week, so you may choose to cover up the East and South hands before you read on, putting yourself fully in West's shoes.

In my view the opening lead against three no-trump is far from clear-cut. It is nearly certain that South holds the guarded spade queen, so leading a low spade may well give the ninth trick, while leading a top spade also risks severing communications between the two defensive hands. However, at most tables West did lead a top spade, and continued with a second top spade at trick two, East discarding a discouraging club. What now?

This deal occurred in the round-robin match from the 2008 Olympiad between the German and Dutch women’s teams. The play had started identically, but now the paths diverged. The Dutch West continued with a third spade. Declarer won, conceded a club, and was soon able to claim the remainder of the tricks.

This line of defense was surely an error by West, as there is no room for East to hold a club honor and the diamond ace, so you have no realistic chance both to set up spades and cash them.

At the other table, the German West (Daniela von Arnim) found the better defense of switching to a low diamond. Dummy’s 10 was covered by the queen and ace. Declarer played ace and another club, and when East won and continued diamonds, this set up enough diamond tricks to defeat the hand.

When in doubt, lead from a four-card major, not a four-card minor on blind auctions like this. So are you in doubt here? I think so. The diamonds are better, but by no means safe, so I'd lead a heart. However, switch the hearts and the clubs, and I might lead from my three-card suit and eschew both minors.


♠ Q 3
 J 6 4 2
 K J 9 6
♣ 8 5 2
South West North East
Pass 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


Bekir AzginAugust 11th, 2014 at 11:06 am

Dear Mr. Wolf,
What happens if South refuses to cover the Q of diamonds?
All the best,

bobby wolffAugust 11th, 2014 at 11:30 am

Hi Bekir,

First, welcome to

If South ducks the queen of diamonds and then leads one back, even if South then ducks that, West, after winning, should quickly switch to a heart and await what will be a sure set.

I guess it is possible for EW to go astray, but why then would East not have won his ace and then continued with the queen and another, if he held both of those diamond honors? Also when East played the queen he denied holding the jack as well.

However, thanks for injecting that possibility to remind all of the readers how important it is to keep up with the play and always be considering constant changing evidence as it is uncovered.

Both continual counting, matching up the cards played with the bidding, and bridge detective work (then determining who has what left in his hand) are the two great qualities of the best players, making our game supreme over any other.

Thanks and don’t be a stranger.

Wen TaoAugust 11th, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,
Has any West led a heart or diamond instead of spade at trick one? This may sound like Monday morning football; but I am just wondering. Thanks.
Wen Tao

bobby wolffAugust 11th, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hi Wen Tao,

Your different opening lead than a spade possibly is like Monday morning football, but it has my full endorsement. From West’s point of view declarer figures to certainly have the queen of spades and likely only the Qxx.

So when it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck and by following through it will drown, but only by not leading a spade, but if so, then the diamond switch at trick two is necessary to still get its man.

However, then the bad news is that we would have one less column hand. “It’s an ill wind that blows no good”.

David WarheitAugust 11th, 2014 at 6:20 pm

In your reply to Bekir you have S leading a D at trick 3 instead of E. Much more important, you say that when W wins the 2d D, W should shift to a H and await a sure set. Not so, S wins, knocks out the CK, and thanks to the lack of communication in S, makes the rest of the tricks and his contract. If W does win the 3d D, he must cash the SA and now partner’s CK will be the setting trick.

Bobby WolffAugust 11th, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Hi David,

Yes, what you said is true and shows much confusion on my part in both my wording and my defensive planning.

I obviously need to follow my own advice and keep up with the play

jim2August 11th, 2014 at 8:38 pm

David Warheit –

Did not all the variations begin after West cashed both top spades?

“… West did lead a top spade, and continued with a second top spade at trick two, East discarding a discouraging club. What now?

Thus, East is playing the QD on trick #3 and continuing with a D on trick #4. If declarer ducks that, then declarer has lost the first four tricks.

Bobby WolffAugust 11th, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for your help. I will now cancel my immediate reservation I made at the combination hospital/old folks home.

Of course, I cannot be proud of myself for my confused writing as to who was on lead, East, after the declarer ducked the first diamond allowing East to continue a diamond which was also ducked by declarer.

In truth, since through the years David has been so seldom wrong, he deserves a pass when he makes a statement, and so it goes.

Jim2, you may never, because of TOCM tm spend much time in the bridge winner’s circle, but you will win the Gene Hersholt newly created bridge humanitarian award for coming to the aid of the party.

Well in any event, tennis anyone?

David WarheitAugust 12th, 2014 at 1:42 am

Jim2: our host was ambiguous as to whether von Arnim switched to a D at trick 2 or at trick 3 (after cashing the SA). I assumed the former (note that I said E led a D at TRICK 3), and in fact didn’t see the ambiguity until you pointed it out. Of course, I’m sure you would have led a H at trick 1. Down 3!

jim2August 12th, 2014 at 11:30 am

David Warheit –

No, no!

I would have been declarer and West would have detached the AS only to have the 8H fall face-up onto the table first!

Our Host –

As for Jean Pierre Hersholt –

I have a g’daughter of the right age who looks a lot like Shirley Temple’s Heidi did but – alas! – that is my only qualification!