Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 29th, 2014

Valiant in velvet, light in ragged luck,
Most vain, most generous, sternly critical,
Buffon and poet, lover and sensualist.

W. E. Henley

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


The saying "It is better to be lucky than good" was never better exemplified than on this hand from the very first of the qualifying rounds of the Marlboro Bermuda Bowl in Beijing.

Most tables that did not have a weak two in diamonds in their armory took advantage of the vulnerability to open the North hand with a three level preempt. The sensible Souths opted to put their partner into five diamonds, which made in some comfort. The foolish Souths tried to make three no-trumps, and were sunk on a heart lead.

But the strangest result came when Leon Boolkin for South Africa opened a weak two in diamonds. His partner asked for more information, and Boolkin thought by his rebid that he was showing a six card suit to two of the top three honors. However, his partner believed that he was facing a solid suit, hence the jump to slam.

West now decided that against a slam he should look for a passive lead, and determined that a club would be safest. Bernard Donde, having had his first reprieve, noted that he needed to find the club queen doubleton to have any chance of reaching the diamond suit in dummy, and therefore he had no real option in clubs. He played low from dummy at trick one, and a few seconds later the friendly lay-out of the minor suits allowed him to collect plus 990. Meanwhile, his team mates were collecting plus 50 from three no-trumps after a heart lead.

Even though you may be ruffing with trump tricks, you should lead your singleton club, since it also rates to set up winners for your side. More importantly, nothing else is very attractive – is it?


♠ Q 9 8 3
 J 8 3 2
 A 10 4 3
♣ 8
South West North East
Pass Pass 1♣ 1♠
Dbl. Pass 2♣ 2♠
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 ClimieJanuary 12th, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Hi Bobby,

west seems hard done by, but is this true? Assuming he/she asked about the 3N’s meaning, a wheel must have come off as the DA is sitting cheerily as counter evidence. South must have around 6 tricks in hand and 2 diamonds (if 3 he is probably home anyway) but not 7 non-diamond winners including 3 aces or he’s have bashed the grand. Hence there must be holes somewhere and a heart lead is unlikely to cost the 12 th trick. If north hols HK singleton, bang goes the entry and I think west talked him/herself into a hole. I’ve been there often enough, but a wheel is off somewhere – the trick is not to hand them the repair kit!

any thoughts?


bobby wolffJanuary 12th, 2015 at 7:38 pm

Hi Iain,

The relatively simple problem of what to lead vs. 6NT as opposed to 3NT sometimes grows in complexity.

While much (or at least enough) of what you suggest is on target, we all know while sitting isolated at the table, our hoped for active minds sometimes reek from contradiction.

Perhaps I am crying out chance rather than science, but relatively blind leads against high contracts require mostly luck rather than analytical skill.

Some may think that it is a weakness in bridge as opposed to chess, but that feature alone, allows big time upsets to occur while everything in view of a player in chess does not add excitement when catering to the blind nature of an opening lead in bridge.

There is only so much one can expect to achieve when becoming the victim of being the opening leader in bridge. If we do not learn to expect mixed results, we are not being realistic.

Iain ClimieJanuary 12th, 2015 at 7:49 pm

Hi Bobby,

My all time worst experience on leads struck when the auction started 1S on my left 2H on my right and the oppo bashed into 7H with LHO showing 3 aces after his partner had used blackwood. Instead of the book trump lead, I tried the C9 from K9x in the only unbid suit – running round to a concealed CAQJ10xx on my right. Dummy had a singleton C so declarer may make it anyway but teammates weren’t in the grand. The scars are still there, when I wake up sweating at 3.00 am!

I do therefore take your point.