Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 6th, 2015

It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

John Wooden

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


In today's deal the route to 12 tricks required some very careful manipulation of the trump spots to manage the entry position to best effect.

Against six hearts, reached after a somewhat optimistic final call by South, West led the spade king to South’s ace. Declarer realized he would need to try to establish dummy’s diamonds to get close to his slam. So he cashed the diamond ace then led a careful heart eight to dummy’s jack, gaining a bonus when the nine dropped, as now there was a firm third entry to dummy even if trumps failed to break 2-2. Next came the diamond queen. The idea was, that so long as the missing diamond honors were split between the defenders, or East held both the king and jack, South would be able to jettison his black suit losers. When East played low, South’s losing spade departed. West won and returned a spade, more in hope than expectation.

Declarer ruffed the spade return with a top trump, then returned to dummy by overtaking the trump seven with the 10. Now South called for the diamond 10, on which he discarded a club. The diamond nine, covered with the jack, was once again ruffed high. Finally, the heart four was overtaken with the six and the diamond eight provided a parking spot for South’s second club loser.

And for all you double-dummy analysts, a trump lead would beat the slam; maybe West might have considered it?

Your minor-suit values aren't likely to be pulling their full weight, but your partner has shown a really strong hand and your additional shape entitles you to bid game here – with one important caveat. The better your partner, the more likely he is to have what he has shown. With a weak player, I might pass and apologize later.


♠ 10 8 6 5 3
 J 7 6 5
♣ Q J 6
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. Pass
1♠ 2♣ 3♠ 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 20th, 2015 at 10:04 am

Hi Bobby,

I’m not convinced by a trump lead, at least single dummy. Partner looks to have very little so imagine the reaction if declarer has (say) DAJ(x) opposite that dummy and shorter but possibly stronger clubs the spade King is essential. This would be the case almost whenever dummy has a suit which needs to be set up at the cost of a trick – except here when declarer has a singleton diamond ace.

A passive lead could be right, but would anyone really not lead the SK at the table?



slarFebruary 20th, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Perhaps you should have given East the DK instead of a small one. If I was at the table, I would have managed the trump entries correctly but I would have gotten lucky when the DK dropped on the third round. (The ruffing finesse was not on my radar.) This would have earned a top in matchpoints but could have been terribly disappointing at IMPs.

bobby wolffFebruary 20th, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Hi Iain,

You’ve hit upon a theoretical obsession in bridge and sometimes even among the elite, which centers around how often a trump should be led.

With no actual substantive facts readily available, this discussion almost always becomes totally subjective, not without much emotion, but, in reality leading nowhere.

Either one believes in leading trump or he doesn’t. Once committed, almost never changing and always looking for hands which prove his leaning.

The one taught (or at least often mentioned) to students is “When in doubt lead trumps” with that lesson almost completely opposite from the truth. When leading a trump, there needs to be a specific reason to do so, from the bidding, other lively or not so choices such as what both you and/or your partner has contributed in the bidding, the specific trumps the opening leader holds, and, if possible, all the knowledge gleaned from studying and then analyzing the partnership who is declaring.

The result of the above usually winds up closer to chaotic than informative, but in whatever case, through the years, nothing has changed for me. When I was eighteen years old I didn’t often lead trump, and now 500- years later, I even do it even less than then.

Am I right? Not for me to say, but I do still enjoy winning and none of my regular partners ever liked leading them either, so I was never under any pressure to change, not that I would have willingly done so anyway.

Sorry for the non-lesson, but it is a sometimes hidden subject in these present days of discussing heretofore taboo mores.

BTW, of course I would lead the losing king of spades.

bobby wolffFebruary 20th, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Hi Slar,

In the absence of discussing beforehand, the reader should always assume that the game is either rubber bridge or possibly IMPs but not specifically matchpoints. In America where there are perhaps 8 million estimated bridge players and only 160,000 tournament players a huge ratio of 1 to .02% it then becomes practical to emphasize making one’s contract instead of ever taking a risk, playing for an overtrick.

Also, by reaching this slam, even at matchpoints and then scoring it up will, IMO still be a very good board if only 12 tricks are made.

However your comment is well worth being said and, of course is an alternative to the suggested line but not the percentage line. (also consider West starting with KJx in diamonds) shudder!

Iain ClimieFebruary 20th, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Thanks Bobby and, as a fellow non-trump leader most of the time, it is nice to know I’ve got good company.

slarFebruary 20th, 2015 at 9:36 pm

Good point on scoring system. Besides 4H is a sign-off bid and south would have looked pretty silly if the north/west heart holdings were reversed. In matchpoints 4H is a normal contract and unless you’re Joe Overberry giving yourself the best chance at +680 is probably best anyway.

I appreciate the trump lead discussion as well. At the table I know I wouldn’t have led a trump, not with that juicy sequence. But in retrospect I’m not so sure. What hand could South possibly have? He just blasted into slam without asking about anything so he must have good trumps and controls. I have two well-placed kings. The only way those kings are vulnerable is if declarer can get to the board and the only likely entries are in trump. Why not knock them out early?

bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2015 at 12:24 am

Hi Slar,

Yes, a jump to 4 in partner’s suit after he has opened a strong 2 bid, in the distant past any, but in the last number of years following a 2 club artificial strong opening and then over a weak response means the same of no 1st or 2nd round controls, usually 4 trumps and nothing extra. On this hand the responder did it with only 3 trumps, all being necessary entries to the eventual diamond tricks.

Unusual to say the least, and difficult to impossible to foresee. Kudos, on this hand to all who lead one, but to disdain a KQJ combination of an unbid suit to do it is bravery beyond belief.

Bridge does provide excitement in many different ways but it usually is not wise to try to outguess Dame Fortune. If so, be prepared to get cider in your eye instead of a normal result, but one never can be sure.