Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 8th, 2015

The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Groucho Marx

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


For today’s rather subtle deal put yourself in the East seat. After reading through the full analysis of the deal, you may feel like the problem is one that you might have expected to solve. First of all, though, let’s see what actually happened at the table.

West led the spade 10 against three no-trump. Declarer played low from dummy and East won his king and exited in spades. Declarer won the ace in dummy and advanced the club king. After some thought, East allowed the king to hold, then won the second club and got off play with a heart. Declarer won this in hand and drove out the club queen, and claimed 10 tricks.

After winning the spade king East could and maybe should have defeated the game by shifting to the diamond jack, giving up his ‘natural’ tricks in diamonds in exchange for establishing the third and fourth round of the suit.

Declarer might still be able to overcome this by cashing all his heart and spade winners, then leading ace and another diamond. East would be in, and forced to lead away from the club ace at trick 12. But if declarer follows the more logical approach of taking an early club finesse, then East will set up five winners for the defense before declarer comes to nine tricks.

And finally, declarer might consider rising with the spade ace at trick one to play on clubs and gain a critical tempo. But this could have been fatal on a different day.

The choice seems to be between a top club and a low heart. I can see the arguments for both sides, but with my spades and diamonds apparently lying well for declarer, I will go for the more aggressive choice of a heart rather than a club. I’m hoping to set up hearts before the opponents establish a black suit for a discard.


♠ Q 8 3
 Q 10 6 3
 A 10
♣ 9 8 6 4
South West North East
    Pass 1
Pass 1 ♠ Pass 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1June 22nd, 2015 at 11:20 am

Hi Bobby,

Should double of 3NT in an uncontested auction always be treated as Lightner (asking for a lead in dummy’s first bid suit)?

bobby wolffJune 22nd, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Hi Mircea,

First of all, if East would have doubled 3NT after the actual bidding sequence it would have called for a diamond lead, dummy’s first bid suit.

Although that often called “Lightner double” named after Theodore Lightner of NYC, an old timer who contributed much to bridge, has changed a bit and now basically suggests to partner to lead something intelligent, mightily based on the specific bidding and the knowledge of attempting to give the defensive partnership a better chance of defeating that contract, rather than another meaning of just increasing the “going set” bonus.

In the absence of a more compelling reason and, of course with the total Yarborough your partner knows you hold, it becomes certain that partner wanted you to lead the first (and only) suit bid by dummy.

Sometimes an imaginative 3rd seat defender may only have a side KQJ10 with the AQ doubleton of the original suit bid by dummy, wherein he would seemingly prefer to lead through the hoped for king in dummy (Jim2 alone must beware, an inside joke), allowing the doubler to now switch to his strong holding in the hopes of having a better chance to develop his 5 defensive tricks before the worthy declarer can score up nine.

Through the years, high-level bridge has become more cerebral, with brilliant guys, similar to Groucho Marx, compared to other comedians, leading the charge to creating a better product.

Is not calling current top level bridge a “thinking man’s game” a bitter mistake?

At least I think so, but it also may take great sacrifices for those few who belong to that category to make use of it, while it is still being created.

jim2June 22nd, 2015 at 3:15 pm

It looks like East would have to defend very well to avoid a doubled overtrick on the column hand layout after a diamond lead if declarer plays small from the Board.

Oh, and 🙂

bobby wolffJune 22nd, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, of course as everyone can not only suspect, but be sure that a spade lead by partner, your shortest suit might be necessary to give East a chance to make a column producing play of leading into the AQ (yes conceding a trick) for the greater goal of eventually setting the contract.

Our beautiful game will always cater to surprise credits and debits indigenous to relatively few competitions.

Regarding your smug smiley, have you ever been called before a Conduct & Ethics committee for knowing where a card is located before the hand itself by your own contamination of knowing where a “key” card must be in order for the declarer (opponent) to make whatever he bids or thwart whatever others may do in order to at least sometimes be successful.

That appearance before the C&E committee may be the final straw.

jim2June 22nd, 2015 at 5:07 pm

There’s an old then-vulgar joke about a man charged with exposure being acquitted due to insufficient evidence.

If the C & E committee so charged me, I would surely gain a similarly quick acquittal merely by showing them my scores ….

Michael BeyroutiJune 22nd, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Actually, for East to be able to execute this brilliant defense, he needed to hold the diamond four with the three and two in dummy. From East’s point of view, the missing diamond spots are the 5,6,7,8, and 9 and they must split 3-2 between West and South. If any of those cards had been in dummy East wouldn’t have been able to pull his coup.
Nonetheless, it was a brilliant column worthy move by East. Great lesson. I wish I could see as far into the future as he did. Usually, I hold on to my KJ10x of diamonds to prevent declarer from making more than one trick in the suit.

jim2June 22nd, 2015 at 9:01 pm

I thought this hand looked familiar! Just did a search on the Mud Cup Archive Site. Omar Slush faced that precise defense in his famous 1964 run to his third Cup.

According to the kibitzers, once East (the infamous Papa Mudpullos) doubled, won the KS, and shifted to a diamond honor, Omar turned to Papa and said,” I am going to believe you.”

Papa made a face, but remained silent.

Omar reeled off his six major suit tricks, then cashed the AD and exited with a diamond.

Reportedly, Papa said not a word, but did make another face.