Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

He travels the fastest who travels alone.

Rudyard Kipling

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


This is something of a recurring theme perhaps, but in today's deal we can see how all too often the critical moment comes before declarer has taken the full measure of his problem.

Against four spades, reached after North’s raise to three spades had shown respectable trump support and at least scattered values, West led the club jack. When declarer covered with dummy’s queen, East took the ace and smartly switched to the heart 10. Declarer rose with the king, but West played the ace and returned a second heart. With an inescapable diamond loser, that led to one down.

See the difference if dummy’s club eight is played at trick one instead of an honor. On a club continuation, declarer ruffs away East’s ace, then draws trump, ensuring that a trump entry remains in dummy. Next comes the diamond ace and king, and when diamonds prove to break 3-2, dummy is entered with a trump for a heart discard on the winning club. Finally, one more round of diamonds sets up that suit. Should diamonds break 4-1 or worse, then you can cross to dummy with a trump for a diamond discard on the club queen. Now comes a heart, and if the ace is with East, the game makes.

Note also that if at trick one East overtakes the club jack with the ace and fires a heart through, dummy’s club king and queen will provide parking places for South’s two small diamonds.

Your partner's twospade call in competition guarantees four-card trump support and suggests, if not extras, at least something better than a minimum in terms of shape or high-cards. You can assume a singleton diamond opposite, and with something better than a minimum yourself, it seems reasonable to compete to three spades.


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

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


John G ibsonAugust 19th, 2014 at 11:11 am

HBJ here
Yet again another fine illustration of how one must never rush in instinctively at trick one to play the seemingly obvious card from dummy . East is the threat and needs to be kept off lead for a killing heart switch.
I love the way the simple duck secures the contract no matter what action East decides to take. The beauty of bridge is how good players see the really obvious play, which eludes the all those guilty of rash or narrow thinking.
The outcome of so many hands often reflects making the right FIRST bid and making the right FIRST play at trick one. Making a mistake at the start often means there is never any chance of recovery.

Jane AAugust 19th, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Perhaps I am missing something here, but if a spade is led at trick one, it seems like declarer has little chance to make this contract. With strong bidding, why not lead a trump? It is unlikely partner will be finessed out of a trump trick. Let declarer figure out the hand.

Glad you are back. Really frustrating when we lose our electronic tools.

bobby wolffAugust 19th, 2014 at 6:22 pm


You are truly a cheerleader nonpareil for the game we all adore.

No one can feature our game with such love and devotion as can you and furthermore describe it in such an irresistible manner.

And for extras, you always go to the lesson of the day, care before playing to trick one, a common thread almost always present at least on one or more hands in every bridge session.

Does Bridge Ambassador of the group imply what you bring to our table? Whatever the name, you unanimously qualify for the position.

Thank you!

bobby wolffAugust 19th, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Hi Jane,

While you produce a very strong reason for selecting a trump lead as against leading from a J109 combination of an unbid suit, that on the surface winning choice can be countered.

The answer is, after declarer wins the opening lead in hand, he (or she), rather than the opening leader should lead his singleton club toward dummy and when West then inserts the nine, merely duck that trick to create the same winning line which the column represents one trick earlier.

The logic necessary is that if West held the ace of clubs, it would take iron nerves to duck what figures to be a singleton (leading it immediately), inserting the nine while holding the ace. Sure it could be done, but if so, my guess is that West’s real name is Clark Kent (also known as Superman who possessed X-Ray eyes).

However, your advice on opening lead choices is both noted and agreed as logical, but since bridge is the master where there is a will, (there are of course relatives) but sometimes in addition there is what is commonly called “wiggle room” to still come out victorious in the quest for scoring up the contract.

Judy and I enjoyed seeing you in Henderson last Sunday at the Proctor Hawkins Memorial game held and thanks for your compassion about losing our Internet tools.

Jane AAugust 19th, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Yep, I see how this would work. Would be interesting if west does not put in the nine however. Now, declarer really needs those X ray eyes, or you sitting on their shoulder as their bridge “angel”. And, may I also add, some luck, but luck be a lady, as they say here in the land of luck. Add Jim’s card migration issues, and it becomes an interesting decision. If I tried that, I know what would happen. East holds the ten and the ace. But then the contract can not be made anyway.

Thanks for keeping us aware of the endless possibilities of this great game. It was nice to see you both come out to Henderson. I know this is on the other side of the world for you, and I did not know you were acquainted with Proctor. I guess most of the bridge world was.

bobby wolffAugust 19th, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Hi Jane,

No doubt you got off to a better lead than did the West in our example and brilliant leads deserve at the very least, above average results. No doubt the column declarer only needed to see what was in front of him to come up with his expert play of ducking, while against your trump lead, the declarer would have had to get very lucky, once West followed suit in clubs.

No doubt he might have risen with a high club and down one would be the result.

Yes, Judy and I enjoyed the happy nature of celebrating Proctor’s life. I knew him for many years, way back when he lived in Memphis (or close to it) and he was always a gentleman, dong constructive things for himself and his friends.

Thanks for your always upbeat attitude. The bridge world needs many more like you.