Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil.

John Milton

South North
East-West ♠ 9 6 2
 A K Q J 6 4 3
♣ 10 5
West East
♠ J 5
 A Q J 10
 8 7
♣ A Q 8 7 6
♠ Q 7 3
 9 7 6
 10 9 5 2
♣ K 9 4
♠ A K 10 8 4
 K 5 4 3 2
♣ J 3 2
South West North East
1♠ 2♣ 4♠ All pass


In today's deal from the NEC tournament last year both Wests led their doubleton diamond against four spades. Both declarers pitched three club losers as West ruffed, then exited with the spade jack. Here the two lines of play diverged slightly.

In both rooms South won, and here the paths changed. One declarer led out the second top spade, and when the queen did not drop he played the heart king to try to arrange a heart ruff in dummy. The other declarer tried the more subtle approach of leading the spade eight from hand first, but East ducked, to deny declarer an entry to dummy with the spade nine. After that trick, declarer also played the heart king to arrange a ruff in dummy, but he too was unable to take more than nine tricks.

At a third table Sue Picus found the way to come to 10 tricks. She too won the diamond lead in dummy and continued with top diamonds, pitching her clubs, as West ruffed the third round and tried the club ace.

Picus ruffed and got out with a heart. West won the heart and continued clubs, so Picus ruffed again, and cashed the spade ace, deciding from the fall of the jack to play West for no more spades. She ruffed a heart, cashed the diamond jack, pitching a heart, then continued diamonds. East could ruff in whenever he wished, but Picus could overruff and ruff another heart in dummy for her 10th trick.

There are many bridge players who would propel themselves into a dicey 5-2 fit and bleat in apology "But I had 5-5 partner!". Don't be that guy; if your partner cared about your fifth heart he had many forcing actions available to him to find out about it. Pass three no-trumps and hope your partner is in good declaring form.


♠ A K 10 8 4
 K 5 4 3 2
♣ J 3 2
South West North East
1♠ Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 NT 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


Jane AFebruary 25th, 2015 at 1:48 pm

I don’t understand the lead of a diamond. The ace of clubs, then a club to partner, a heart back, another heart forcing declarer to ruff, and then a spade trick, sets the contract. Since west holds good hearts, he should figure out that north could hold diamonds and/or a distributional hand to jump to game. West has a difficult hand to lead from, but I have been taught in the past that a doubleton is not a good lead unless it is partner’s suit. No reason to think it is this time, is there? is it bad to lead the club ace, hope it holds to see the dummy? Won’t always work, but hope springs eternal.

Thanks in advance.

bobby wolffFebruary 25th, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Hi Jane A,

There is no question that either rounded suit ace, with the right continuation will get the job done and set the hand. Of course, the club ace will get a positive signal, enabling a relatively slam dunk follow-up, but with the heart ace will still take good judgment (a club switch) to succeed.

However, as we both know, the blind opening lead, while enabling an early attack, can also result in not so results as well.

Yes, I agree with you that weak doubletons all too often pass control to the enemy, never to be reclaimed (this hand is a good example).

However, any advice I could lend, though through the eyes of a fierce long time competitor, will not in good conscience be anything but results oriented, although I would surely prefer to think otherwise.

Sad, but admittedly realistic. The above problem merely suggests that there is often an advantage in not immediately relinquishing control, but how about comparing that choice with the oft heard sincere advice of “aces are made to take kings and not deuces and treys”, particularly the rounded suit kings.

As many of our top players agree, “Bridge is the master” and by accepting that, we can forgive ourselves first and others grudgingly later, for caving to wrong guesses, especially in blind situations such as opening leads.

In any event, I would choose you to be my opening lead specialist, since I tend to agree with you a very high percentage of the time.

And, after all, my confidence in both you and me will never change…waiver, perhaps, but never completely vanish.

Jane AFebruary 25th, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Oh sir, you flatter me, but I like it! Opening leads are such a challenge, and so important. When partner is unable to help with the decision, it becomes even harder. All part of the fun however. Thanks for the compliment, and the advice.