Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 6th, 2015

No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.

John Stuart Mill

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


It is always irritating (or worse) to go down in a voluntarily bid contract of five of a major. How would you apportion the blame on this outing? South was playing a simple style where his jump to three spades did no more than set up a game force while showing extras. Thereafter everybody cuebid until North applied the brakes, and the auction came to a grinding halt.

When West was dealt a heart sequence to lead, South tempted fate on the sight of dummy by commenting that he had been in worse slams. After winning the lead in hand, he cashed the spade queen and ace to discover the bad break. A third top trump was followed by a losing club finesse, and East thoughtfully returned a diamond to the seven, king and ace. Attempting to obtain a discard for his losing diamond, South played on clubs, but West ruffed the third round and the defenders had a diamond winner to cash for the setting trick.

How should South have dealt with the hand? He should win the lead in hand and take one top club. Then after the three top spades have left the defenders with a master trump, he would have been far better advised to play off the club king and a third club.

Unless West has started with only a singleton club, dummy’s eight is established and South’s losing diamond goes away, while West is ruffing with his sure trump trick. And if West could ruff in prematurely, the club loser would go away.

I’m torn between leading a low spade and starting with the heart king. My choice depends partly on my knowledge if any of the style of my partner and my RHO. The sounder my partner is (or the friskier my RHO might be) the more attractive a heart becomes. Leading a heart has the big plus that it keeps my partner happy — so I’ll go along with that, despite my obvious misgivings.


♠ Q 10 5 4
 K 5
 10 7 3
♣ Q 8 6 2
South West North East
  1 1 1 NT
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


AviJuly 20th, 2015 at 10:13 am

Bobby hi.

What difference does it make if W started off with a singleton club?
unless I am missing something (which is often the case), since you draw 3 rounds of trump, you are always in hand to lead clubs towards dummy, so west can’t ruff out your winner anyway.

Bobby WolffJuly 20th, 2015 at 10:43 am

Hi Avi,

The column implies what could happen if the second club honor is led from dummy instead of up to dummy.

If led from dummy West could ruff and then after a diamond shift (with the club eight yet not established), the defense has now won the tempo war and upon winning the 3rd round club queen, the opponents can now take the setting trick in diamonds, before declarer can make use of the good club.

By leading a second club toward dummy (and, of course West having only a singleton club) if West ruffs prematurely, he will not prevent declarer from making full use of the high club trick left in dummy.

Certainly symbolizes a common bridge theme of timing a hand to best advantage and basically safety playing a suit in order to, in this case, save the contract.

Bobby WolffJuly 20th, 2015 at 10:52 am

Hi again Avi,

I neglected to emphasize the necessity for declarer to lead a club first from hand to the ace, before drawing three rounds of trump. If he doesn’t, but rather leads trump immediately he will then lead the first club toward dummy and then be in the wrong hand to lead a second club.

No great big deal, but only suggesting good technical play instead of having to come back to hand with another heart. I realize East might have a void in clubs to go with a singleton spade but pigs could also be able to fly.

Iain ClimieJuly 20th, 2015 at 9:33 pm

Hi Bobby,

On LWTA, the HK could still work OK if pard had J109xx and declarer AQx. It may look embarrassing but the line of defence is not that different to leading the HQ from Qx and finding declarer with AKx. Also, will it really be possible to put partner in for a heart through which declarer will cautiously ace, get him in again for another heart covered by the queen and king, then find his 3rd entry to cash the suit.

Neither black suit is great (QJ10x) might be different but Andrew Robson’s comment surely applies, especially at pairs. If you overcall, or double for a lead, don’t act surprised when that suit hits the table. Cynically, if I lead the H and it is wrong, I can give partner a hard stare and he buys the beer afterwards. If I don’t lead it and it would have worked….



Bobby WolffJuly 20th, 2015 at 10:30 pm

Hi Iain,

Oft times, even with four first class players manning their battle stations, all of the above you mention really does happen.

We can talk and do, others dance to different tunes, but at the death, the better and even more important, more experienced pairs, will get the money and so they should.

At least to me, a bridge winner, has enough knowledge, is not afraid of looking bad, tries to keep his partner happy (obviously high on the list with you), never totally relaxes, tends to always give his best, and accepts whatever happens.

The above traits need to be present with anyone aspiring to play competitive bridge as a young player, so that when experience settles in later, and card reading talent arrives, all of us will definitely welcome a force to be reckoned with.

Perfection should never be expected in bridge, and to even talk about it is an overbid, but dogged determination will surely get the job done.

Thanks for your sound advice. BTW my vote for the best British player ever and right at the top also with his ethics, would likely be Andy Robson, and I’ve known him since he graduated from the English Junior ranks, too many years ago to count.